I think we need a little magic this Easter. I love starting a communion service with the words hocus pocus to get people thinking.
Harry Houdini is perhaps the most famous magician of all time. In his biography, he suggests that the term hocus pocus is drawn from communion. The people understood that the priest said something which transformed the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. The phrase they heard in Latin was ‘hoc est corpus meum’ meaning this is my body which became ‘hocus pocus’ to the distant listeners. In time magicians began to use the phrase for the moment when something miraculous or magical happened.
Easter is the moment when the Passover meal becomes communion, an incredible meal that unites Christians around the world. In the Old Testament we read about King Hezekiah re-instituting the Passover festival after a long period when the people had failed to properly observe it. The King calls everyone to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover together and 1 Chronicles 3:20 tells us that the Lord heard Hezekiah’s prayers and healed the people.
While we pray for our political leaders at this time, this Easter we, like Hezekiah call people back to a relationship with God and pray that His healing will break out over our land.
We are 19 years on from the Good Friday Agreement here in Northern Ireland. There was much talk then of reconciliation, justice, truth, terrorists going free and the price paid by those who had suffered most. But the original Good Friday was the moment of true reconciliation between God and humanity. Justice was done, truth was revealed, a terrorist named Barabbas was set free and an innocent man was crucified.
Jesus declared, “It is finished” on the Friday – enough had been done for us to be forgiven. The cross is not a celebration of violence but the moment when Jesus absorbed the violence of this world and took it out of circulation – God’s love and wrath were satisfied, justice was done, and we were forgiven. Resurrection Sunday enables and empowers us to forgive others – to be hope-carriers.
Millions of Christians around the world will remember that ultimate act of sacrifice as we celebrate communion this Easter Sunday. At a time of local and global political instability, our hope is in the death and resurrection of Jesus. We need transformation in our land, you might even say a little magic. What better way to do that, than for people to come together and remember the most transformative act in history and share communion. A meal that treats everyone equally, facilitates forgiveness and that really does lead to a fresh start.