Perhaps Easter carries meaning for the well-being of urban dwellers.
We often hear that the Christian tradition and faith communities gather this time of the year to part-take in reflections on the significance and meaning of Lent and Easter.
The faith communities invite believers to set time apart to pause and to take note of Jesus’ earthly life leading up to the crucifixion and thereby reflect on the meaning of Grace in their lives.
This is a rich moment, as the invitation – to gather, pause, and deeply reflect – on this strange encounter of God with people through the events of the cross carries far-reaching significance for us. After the Covid pandemic, one is acutely aware that this invitation to unite as a community of believers is not a mere given.
Many have countless stories of how the pandemic has significantly touched their understanding and experience of being a community. The experiences of isolation and the inability to gather have deeply shown many – that human beings are people of communion’ and that gatherings are meaningful when taking place in physical spaces and, thus, in an embodied manner.
It is as if the pandemic showed us that we are human beings precisely because we live ‘in relation to’ one another. And what we have missed out on during lockdown periods is that this ‘in relation with one another’ asks for embodied experiences in the here and now.
During the pandemic, we also became acutely aware of how technological developments have enhanced our ability to continue to come together by having the opportunity to meet in virtual spaces. In a way, this possibility of virtual meetings safeguarded, that gatherings could remain possible, at least for some.
These virtual gatherings allowed for meetings to transcend physicality and thereby opened the possibility of having voices from various places meeting one another at once.
The way virtual gatherings took place challenged many scholars to reflect on the meaning of ‘being in community with one another’ and how to connect (communion) in the virtual space. Perhaps, how we understand this connection with one another in the virtual space will continue to affect the quality of relationships and the well-being of people, both in a helpful and harmful way.
Pausing at the narrative of Easter, it confronts us with the reality that God enters our worlds to enable communion with Him and one another. This God who ‘became flesh’ and, as an embodied being, embraces our contexts, spaces, and physical realities to foster communion with us.
This fostering of communion takes place through the events of Lent and Easter and reminds us that we are met through Jesus Christ in the vulnerabilities of our existence. This meeting of God, who is with and for us, enabled our communion with Him and with and for one another. He has placed us in union with Himself and in ‘life-in-communion’ with one another.
It is in this union with God and ‘life-in-communion’ with one another that human beings, with their vulnerabilities, are enabled to connect. Easter reminds us that we have been met in the dust of our contexts by an embracing God, who gifted us with the ability to respond to the invitation to have communion with Him and others.
It is even more drastic, as after Easter, the understanding that people are ‘irreconcilable’ has been nullified and thus leaves us with an open invitation to gather, to communicate, to connect, to grow in our understanding of one another, and foster ‘communion’ and fellowship amongst one another, including with the strangers amongst us.
God transcended our way of life so that we can move from isolation and alienation from one another to a ‘life in communion’ where we are living, through the Spirit, as interrelated and reciprocal human beings.
The current South African contexts have seen over many years how communities have been distorted, how fellowship amongst people has been racialized and politized, and how systemic divides and injustices have scarred our abilities to relate to one another. Our fellowship with one another continues to carry these scars of deep distrust and disregard for one another. The growing signs of anger amongst us indicate that ‘life in communion’ is deeply complex.
At the same time, we also have the accounts of many communities who have shown that in and through their shared experiences and openness towards one another, unique bonds are shared, and their life in communion is strengthened. These forms of fellowship carry the marks of trust, respect, and a willingness to keep on listening to one another. This fellowship shows the courage to safeguard ‘life in communion’ and engage with one another despite differences and different experiences, thereby fostering quality relations.
During Easter, one is basically ‘called to connect’ as the embracing love of God opens the pathways of love, care, listening, dialogue, responding, and restoration of ‘life in communion.’ This fellowship forms the very fibre of life, of which (remember the Covid experience) we cannot live.
The very fibre of these forms of communion carries the vulnerabilities of human beings and is, therefore, fragile. The fellowship can be harmed, distorted, manipulated, and even employed to bring the worst out of people. And it is precisely the coming of Christ and the event of the cross that enable us to transcend these forms of fellowship and instead connect to understand, love, dialogue, care, and search together for ways forward.
Life in urban contexts has ample opportunities to connect and meaningfully engage with each other to foster an ethos of life in communion that leads away from isolation, alienation, misunderstandings, and injustices, with little insight into the life of the other. Perhaps this Easter, we will see how communities are renewed with the will to live together in a more just and caring way because they are connected to God and are thus willing to communicate in contextual realities as fragile human beings. Yes, as fragile humans who can keep connecting for their urban contexts’ well-being. Perhaps?