Those of us with a passion for order, for closure, should be disturbed once again by this Resurrection Gospel. Because we read them in the light of Church history and Christian tradition we often overlook the peculiarity that the gospels , if we read them more closely, offer little if any ‘closure’. They end with accounts of the Resurrection experiences of the disciples – a mixture of rumours and isolated experiences. That this open-ended ending actually led to the Christian faith and the community we call the Church of God might even be said to be a ‘proof’ (for those who seek it) of the Resurrection itself.
In the end, I suppose, it is about faith. It was faith that led the disciples to be convinced that they were not individually or collectively hallucinating. It was faith that the one they called Lord was truly among them despite his execution at the hands of the Romans and political-religious establishment that led them to proclaim his message and his presence to an ever-widening circle of people, a circle that in time would encompass the world. It was faith that sustained them through misunderstandings, disagreements among themselves, hostility and persecution from authorities. It was faith in the Risen Christ that continued and continues to sustain us to make the message and values of the Kingdom part of our world.
It is Faith.
It is also faith, in Christ for many and in democracy for all, that sustained South Africans in their struggle to build a free, more just society out of the unfree and unjust country that we were. Just as in the Church, so in South Africa, we had thousands who suffered and died for freedom. Democracy had its martyrs, had countless more witnesses and prophets. Jesus proclaimed the kingdom of God and we ended up with the Church; South Africans strove for freedom and we ended up with the democratic state we have, with its many imperfections. Like the Church, a democratic South Africa is an open-ended project.
1994 was for South Africa a kind of resurrection. Out of the suffering and death of the past, new life was born. Because as believers we see in it the hand of God, the presence of a God who accompanied us every step of the way to freedom, we can talk of a ‘kind of’ resurrection. But just as the Resurrection itself was not an end but a beginning, we can also see in it an incomplete project, a project that we must participate in as witnesses and prophets. History did not end in 1994 (just as it did not end in 33 AD). Like the reign of God, it is not something we can complete in our lifetime, indeed in any lifetime.
Just as we await and work with God for the Kingdom of God, so we must continue to build democracy in South Africa. South Africa remains a profoundly unequal society – some say that racial Apartheid has been replaced by class Apartheid, an increasingly non-racial separation of rich and poor. Crime and violence continues in a variety of forms physical and psychological: violence against women, children and migrants; the violence of socio-economic inequality; the violence of corruption and the mentality of entitlement; and the violence (often produced by corruption and mismanagement of resources) of human potential unfulfilled.
One of the small things we can do – we must do – to engage with the challenges of our society today is: Vote. Elections are one means by which we choose leaders who serve us and work with us to make changes for the better. We may have different views about what changes are needed and who are fit to make them. That’s why there are a variety of parties contesting the election. We are different. Different is good. That’s what democracy is about.