Sunday, April 24, 2011

Leverstock Green Resurrection

A few weeks ago, a 6 year old girl was asked by her class teacher to write a letter with the following question “To God, How did you get invented?” Her father emailed the letter to various churches hoping for an answer, but got none. For good measure, he also sent it to “the head of theology of the Anglican Communion, based at Lambeth Palace” – and this was the response:

Dear Lulu,
Your dad has sent on your letter and asked if I have any answers. It’s a difficult one! But I think God might reply a bit like this –
‘Dear Lulu – Nobody invented me – but lots of people discovered me and were quite surprised. They discovered me when they looked round at the world and thought it was really beautiful or really mysterious and wondered where it came from. They discovered me when they were very very quiet on their own and felt a sort of peace and love they hadn’t expected.
Then they invented ideas about me – some of them sensible and some of them not very sensible. From time to time I sent them some hints – specially in the life of Jesus – to help them get closer to what I’m really like.
But there was nothing and nobody around before me to invent me. Rather like somebody who writes a story in a book, I started making up the story of the world and eventually invented human beings like you who could ask me awkward questions!’
And then he’d send you lots of love and sign off.
I know he doesn’t usually write letters, so I have to do the best I can on his behalf. Lots of love from me too.

+Archbishop Rowan
That tells me much more about Archbishop Rowan’s faith, in words I can understand than any lecture or synod address. It also reveals the tender love of a man who is writing an answer to a complex question - revealing all that needs to be known.

The same Rowan Williams put it well when he says that when we celebrate Easter;“we are standing in the Middle of a second ‘Big Bang,’ a tumultuous surge of divine energy as fiery and intense as the very beginning of the universe.”

What we are celebrating is on a level with the very beginning of time. And yet whilst both ‘Big Bang’ and ‘Resurrection’ are in many ways beyond the scopes of our imagination, together they do so much to define our understanding of the world. The former brings the world into being and the latter is through which a loving God renews all things in His love and transforms how we see the world and ourselves.

And yet both come without expectation. One of the strongest evidences for the Resurrection of Jesus is that his followers did not expect it. Their world had caved in. The hopes and dreams that had been theirs, now lay totally and absolutely devastated. Their world was shrouded in complete darkness. All that remained was to visit the tomb - those painful visits that we all make in times of loss.

In that darkness, Mary Magdelene and another Mary came to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus. Matthew tells us of an earthquake and an angel sat in the tomb, with Roman guards outside frozen in a state of petrification. The angel tells the news that Jesus is risen and tells the women to let the disciples know for Jesus is heading for Galilee where it had all began. And then as the women who are by now a combination of joy and fear, hurry away to take the good news to the disciples, they are met by the Risen Christ. And they did not expect it.

Every year we tell these Gospel stories of the appearances of the Risen Christ and none of those closest to Christ expected the resurrection. Why? Because the Resurrection of Jesus was outside of their world vision. For the Resurrection of Jesus cannot but change how we see God, the world and
ourselves. Yes, like ‘Big Bang,’ it is a defining moment as it proves that all that Jesus said about God and himself must be true. I proves that death itself is defeated and it proves that what Jesus experienced is on offer to all of us! And yet so often we live like it resurrection is an every day event, or that it simply doesn’t matter.

I heard of someone who had a dream, and in the dream he dies and went to heaven, St Peter was there opening the gates to welcome him. As he is waiting to go in he noticed that some of his friends were there outside the gates unable to go in, some of them atheists, some of them buddhists, he said Peter what about my friends? St Peter said ah but you know the rules... So he thought, well what about my reference point - Jesus the outsider, Jesus the friend of tax collectors and sinners, Jesus the one who would always stay with those who were oppressed... And he said, you know what? I’ll just stay outside with them. St Peter breaking into a smile says - at last, at last you understand.

God so loved this world that he forsook heaven. That’s why Mother Thersea said, If I am ever to become a saint, I shall be a saint of darkness. For I shall not be found in heaven, but I shall be found outside as a light guiding the way.

Today we celebrate and event that took place some 2000 years ago that changed the universe forever. We beautify our church, we sing wonderful hymns. We go home with a warm fuzzy glow. And yet did it happen? How has it impacted our lives? How does it change the here and now on the streets of London, Libya or Afghanistan?

And is it true? Is it true? Is the resurrection of Jesus a tale to tell in child-like language? Is the resurrection of Jesus only a dream?  No. friends. If the resurrection had not happened why did the Marys and Jesus’ other disciples go and spread the news that continues to challenge and change our world? If it had not happened how was it that thousands of people in the Bible are recorded as seeing, talking to and eating with him. If the resurrection had not happened, where is the body? The tomb? The ongoing evidence to the contrary? If the resurrection had not happened, why did the church begin and millions of our people today talk about having known the Risen Jesus for themselves today? If it is true then what Jesus said about himself and God’s love for us is true. If it happened, then what Jesus experiences in new risen life is on offer to us - today, now. Our universe is transformed and all rules and norms are challenged because of the extent of God’s love for us.

Friends we deny the reality of the resurrection every time we walk away from people who are poor. We deny the truth of the resurrection every time we participate in unjust practises and unjust systems. The resurrection of Jesus did not happen for us to his love for others entombed in our hearts with a stone rolled in front... But we affirm the truth of Jesus’ resurrection every time we stand up for those who are on their knees. We affirm Jesus’ resurrection every time we speak out for those who have been silenced, when weep for those people who have no more tears left to cry and who long for hope and life.

The risen Jesus sent the women back transformed to Gallilee where the story all begins, in the midst of normal life. The risen Jesus stands among us today  us today. He sends us from here with news of love that will transform despair into hope, fear into love, darkness into light - expressed and lived in our lives here. Amen

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