I don’t know whether you watch Kevin McLeod’s, Grand Designs. For those of you who don’t, it is a programme where people are documented by Kevin McLeod, an architect, building their home either from scratch or renovating some historical ruin.
Although I am always impressed about the creative architecture that people envision and their willingness to save ruins for further decay, there are a few things that always cause me discomfort. The first is, apart from one build of a very basic home, even with vast council covenantal requirements, they are never completed on budget – they always go over budget putting enormous pressure on the family to find the funds to complete the build and then pay it off. A second thing that bothers me is that these sometimes enormous houses, and very expensive ones, may only have two bedrooms, enough for a family of two adults and one or two children. The third aspect is the cost of the creative architecture.
Just recently, however, during the last week, was the building of an hexagonal house, made from straw, recycled materials, reused materials and the labour of friends. It was a relatively cheap build compared to the multi-hundreds of thousand pound builds of other monstrosities. This build was also designed to be sustainable, not completely self-sufficient, but able to not be dependent upon the utilities and services that we are dependent upon.
A little earlier was a short programme series of Kevin McLeod building a shack on his block of the land that was, as the jargon now calls it, completely off the grid. A small get-away built completely from resources available on site, from re-utilised resources, or materials that would otherwise be thrown away, that produced its own gas for cooking and lighting. There was absolutely no relationship with the any utilities or resources at all.
I have always found myself drawn to a more sustainable lifestyle, and both these ventures appealed to me greatly. However, the general events of recent years, such as the collapse of free-market capitalism, free trade opposed to fair trade, perhaps even the recent events that have taken place within the Australian political scene, have led me to feel more and more like dropping out of society; getting off grid. I am beginning to understand what the hippies in the past felt as they set up their communes.
Jesus came into the world as one proclaiming the kingdom of God. Basically, things need to be different – drawing people back to loving your neighbour, acting toward your neighbour as you would like people to act toward you, to not forget the place of God in your life, for that is where we understand the fullness of who we are. That’s how Jesus summarised all the Jewish law and the prophets.
The prophets before Jesus were calling the people of Israel to the same thing, no less Isaiah, as we heard in the reading this morning, ‘For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth.’ (Isaiah 65:17) He goes on to describe what life will be like:
20 No more shall there be in it
an infant that lives but a few days,
or an old person who does not live out a lifetime;
for one who dies at a hundred years
will be considered a youth,
and one who falls short of a hundred
will be considered accursed.
21 They shall build houses and inhabit them;
they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
22 They shall not build and another inhabit;
they shall not plant and another eat;
for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be,
and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
23 They shall not labour in vain,
or bear children for calamity;
for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord—
and their descendants as well.
This prophetic message was a message for Isaiah’s time. When there was high infant mortality rates and others were not able to live to a ripe old age. When the houses of Israelites were being taken and lived in by the wealthy, and the family lands were being confiscated in payment for food, leaving them as nothing more than slaves to their own people. There ought to be an earth where all shall live in security and supply.
While a very small portion of the world’s population suffer from obesity while other parts of the world are starving to death, despite this planet growing 3 times the calories for every person in the world, and 50% of the food produced is discarded as land fill by that same small number. While the infant mortality rate for our indigenous children is far higher than Anglo and European settlers. While the life expectance of aboriginal adults is lower than the life expectancy of others in this country. We still haven’t realised the promise of the death and resurrection Jesus.
God has acted outrageously. Taking on human flesh he came amongst us creation in the person of Jesus Christ, showing us what it meant to be fully human and divine, calling us back to God and to live lives for others as we would like to live.
Even them we did not listen. So much so, we crucified the one who brought us the message. So outrageous is God’s action, that Islam cannot accept God could have allowed Jesus to be put to death on the cross, even as a prophet, let alone our claim that he was God himself.
Then, even more outrageously, Jesus was raised from the dead, a living example of the promise of something new. Easter is a story of outrageous events to bring about outrageous outcomes.
For those of us who have participated in the retelling of these events over the last week, from Jesus entry into Jerusalem on what we now call Palm Sunday, the sharing of the meal and institution of the sacrament where he prayed for this new reality, on what we now call Maundy Thursday, in the horrors of our participation of the crucifixion of Jesus, on what we call Good Friday and today, on this day we celebrate, despite all that has happened, God overcomes our stubborn persistence to get in the way of his kingdom, a kingdom where people will live full lives, in the security of their own homes, eating the produce of their land, begs us to ask the question: What have we done with this message of the cross and resurrection?
God wants for us a world of justice and peace. As God has acted, perhaps we need to act outrageously for outrageous outcomes.