Resurrection season again, in today’s gospel Jesus is recognised, either with the sudden abundance of fish or just because he is. It occurs at the end of an unsuccessful night long fishing trip and early morning cook up on the beach.
Other stories have Jesus recognised in a greeting, walking with, at table, in eating of food, in being named, in the breaking of bread, in the blood and flesh of wounds. As Helen said there are many and varied ways of resurrection knowing and doubting and disbelieving, all are part of resurrection. And each happens in the middle of the ordinary.
After Jesus death, after these resurrection encounters what did the disciples do? Confused, fearful, disbelieving, first of all nothing, from what we’re told, at least that was largely the male response. Then, it seems some went back fishing. What else do you do when your world’s upended? What you know.
Resurrection sermons reflect a certain circularity of argument. Resurrection is core to Christianity, necessary, crucial to this lineage. Without it Jesus isn’t the Christ, death isn’t overcome, our faith’s a sham. If there’s one thing you’ve got to uphold it’s this, if only we knew incontrovertibly what it was!!
So sermons might argue to prove plausible explanation for what happened. Or point out you can’t, logically, with the things of this world. But it’s OK, in fact the point, because it’s a matter of faith. And sufficient faith to believe this makes you a true believer, and that means you’re saved – risky to argue with if one with authority declares it. And poking around questioning the literality of bodily resurrection is still a little dicey.
But let’s take a step back. Talk of resurrection only happens in church, which isn’t to diminish it. But the persuasive rhetoric, the examining, the arguing to convince, or confuse, who is it for, what does it do?
What if we just let the story stand? Jesus died by crucifixion. Those who knew Jesus had experience of a continuing sense of him after his death - in different ways. They describe physicality to this after death experience. They were told, “don’t hold on, I send you, go from, believe, don’t look for the living among the dead, trust, receive the Holy Spirit.” This is what we know from the stories we’ve received. A miracle? Well something happened.
It brought to mind advice once given me, from a priest and friend. “It’s not the miraculous, the mystical, the spiritual experience you have that matters so much. For you might then spend the rest of your life trying to emulate it, to recreate the experience. It’s what you do with the gift of it, that’s what’s important. That’s what matters.”
What did the disciples do in response? Eventually they went and told the story of what had happened. Of Jesus – his impact on them, on their living. Jesus himself didn’t actually deliver a body of teaching, rather he taught in story and parable. Look around, see, the kingdom of God is near, is at hand. Look, see, hear, taste, touch, open yourself to encounter a deeper way of knowing what’s already here. Jesus’ companions experienced something in him. They came to name it God presence. It changed them. It changed the way everything was. They saw into the world, behind the veil, discerned the ‘real’. Paul’s experience that knocked him off his perch later impelled him also to tell of a world transformed through his Jesus encounter.
Jesus taught in parable and story. The disciples told the story of Jesus and their experience. The stories we tell, tell our story. The stories we tell story our world, make our world real, tell us and the world, what’s possible, what’s important. It makes all the difference which ones we tell and how we tell them.
In this place we tell the story of Jesus – his birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension. Has it become like a miracle story? One to which we’re ever beholden. Has telling the story, doing just this become what it means to be faithful? If so, we’ll stay where we are, as we are, always looking back, remembering. Our yearning spirits diverted, our attention focused on new ways to do these same things in order to feel more, in order to be relevant for today.
How are we telling this story? This year let’s not ask what or whether the resurrection happened. This year let’s ask what our response is.
The resurrection directives are “Don’t hold on, I send you, go from, believe, don’t look for the living among the dead, trust, receive the Holy Spirit.” Resurrection impels us from and to the world to re-member God bodyness on earth.
Not for our sake but so the story of the way the world is, is told differently – other-wise. Impelled to live beyond ourselves with all the uncertainty this entails. Hand in hand with not knowing, with the not yet known, part ways with certainty. Isn’t this what resurrection shows us? We don’t know and live with the discomfort. We don’t know and still tell the story.
We do know we live in a world of entrenched injustice and oppression. The structures and systems of our society depend on it. Surely it’s an impossible, impassable embedded system. Sustained by the intransigence of a few with power and money and influence what on earth could we do?
Surely it’s unrealistic to imagine a viable alternative to this prevailing world system. Surely it’s unreasonable to insist we can be part of making real a system of equitable balance that restores dignity, flourishing, stature, to each and all? Before our scoffing inner cynic kicks in – let’s ask Mahatma Gandhi, let’s enquire of Nelson Mandela.
Since the shooting in the mosques in Christchurch there’s been an increase in overt racism, violence, religiously motivated attacks and abuse. Not only overseas but also in NZ. Just last Sunday in Palmerston North All Saints' Church, and the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit parishioners found crudely written anti-Muslim propagandapamphlets left on their windscreens after Sunday services. Both churches held solidarity events with the Manawatū Muslim Association after the Christchurch shootings. They believe the events were directly connected. City councillor Lorna Johnson said overall Palmerston North’s an inclusive and diverse community, but there are a few individuals who’ve become emboldened since the Christchurch shootings.
There’s a confidence now for people holding extreme hate views to express them in word and act. I suspect they’ve always been here but their virulence repressed, subdued by a society that disallowed, permitted no space for its expression. The ascendancy of Trump and his supporters have led the charge in making such speech and action permissible in the public square.
The gloves are now off. Neo fascism, white supremacy, right wing extremism is on the rise and now gets airtime.
It is not inevitable.
Our world’s in dire need of people who see through the appearance of things. In dire need of a people who insist for the life for all creation – not just the chosen ones. It’s time to activate overtly, quietly, insistently and with integrity ways of justice and peace.
St Matthew’s inherits a mantle of leadership for peace and justice and inclusion. A place with people who insist and uphold causes for peace and for justice. A place for all we say.A place and people willing to name injustice, racism, oppression, religious prejudice for what it is, should it come to expression in our society. And to act – to align with those disempowered, oppressed, abused. We are at such a time in our society.
This resurrection season what is our response?
Will we join those standing outside the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch insisting Jesus is God and NZ is a Christian country in our black clad intimidating regalia?
Or will we be a place and a people to catalyse the gathering and activating of the many people who want to tell a different story than one of violence, intolerance, injustice and oppression. A place where the many who struggle to find voice – who want to speak to and with one another to learn how, can confidently come. A place for us all to learn how to act, together, for a different way, so a way of living well together is expressed. Not just to react against overt violence, hate and discord. Motivation against tempts us also to resort to methods and means of manipulation, violence and misuse of power to dominate.
Rather to choose to live for a world of equitable balance, that restores dignity, flourishing, stature, to each and all. Risk telling theunveiling Jesus story – this actually is the way things are, if we’ve ears to hear, eyes to see, hands and hearts to make real. Will we re-member God bodyness this way this resurrection season, this year?