Signs of Resurrection
Second Sunday of Easter - Year A
March 30, 2008
Second Sunday of Easter - Year A
March 30, 2008
Let us pray: O God, open our eyes to experience the Christ risen among us. Open our ears to hear the resurrection story with new insights. Open our hearts to reveal your presence in our lives. Guide these words that they may be ones which help us in all these desires. Amen.
††† Without resurrection there would not be any Christian faith and yet resurrection is one of the great mysteries of the Christian faith. Many books have been written about it, many opinions have been expressed about it. Some people are absolutely certain of a bodily, earthly resurrection, while others will cast the resurrection in symbolic, and metaphorical terms. I place myself in the latter group - Iím too much of a scientist to believe that the laws of nature can be manipulated in such a way as to completely reverse the processes we know and understand and which we believe to be God given. Even God would have a difficult time reversing something that was put in motion at the beginning of time, is altered by the passage of time and for which there exists no scientific method or proof† to reverse. I have no problem marrying science, the laws of nature and the existence of God as creator. I believe in God who made the universe and those very same laws of nature all at the same time. In fact, I think the current evolution/intelligent design debate that is raging, more forcefully south of the 49th parallel is laughable, except for the dire consequences it is extracting from the lives of some people. In case there is any doubt about which side I support, let me tell you that my honours thesis at seminary was a study of Galileo Galilei, Isaac Newton, Blaise Pascal and Charles Darwin - their particular faith story and the story of their scientific discoveries and the conflict that often raged in the faith-science debate. There is enough mystery in the universe and its workings to occupy us forever without having to accept law busting stories as the literal truth. For me, the idea of a Creator who put in place the wonderful process of evolution is not hard to accept at all.
††† Well, sorry for that bit of a strident aside. Itís just that the current evolution/intelligent design seems to have so many parallels to the story of Galileo, which I learned about in the research for my thesis. Galileo was tried by the church and placed under house arrest - thatís how wrong his views were seen to be at the time. It was only some 350 years after his death that the Roman Catholic Church apologized for the way in which he was treated and all because he stated what he saw with his own telescope aided eyes even though it appeared contrary to the truth the church was teaching as it interpreted scripture literaly.
††† So with a clear position that mostly falls on the side of science in the faith-science debate, yet also firmly claiming to be a person of faith, there is nothing else for me to do than to come down on the side of science when it comes to resurrection. Symbolic and metaphorical is my stance, and I can look to the stories of scripture and find support. I think in particular of three post resurrection incidents from the various gospels that tell me at least, that the resurrection was something of a mystery and not easily explained. The first incident is the story of Mary in the garden where Jesus was buried. She is surprised by someone she mistakenly thinks is the gardener. Now Iím sure she might have had her eyes clouded by the tears of grief. And believe me, there are times when Iíve mistaken someone for someone else - and it happens ever more frequently the older I get, but I think that someone as familiar as Jesus was to Mary might well have been recognised by her, despite the fact that she had been there at pretty much every step along the way. At the very least, we might have heard her exclaim that an identical twin of Jesus had suddenly arrived in the form of a gardener. But that doesnít happen - someone she does not recognise and assumes that is a gardener turns out to be the risen Lord. So, maybe the resurrection is something a bit different than it might first appear to be...
††† The second incident involves a walk along the road to Emmaus. Two disciples are walking and talking - reliving and probably grieving the events of the previous few days. It had all gone so badly, ending as it did with the death of their friend and hero. Not only had it ended badly, but their actions had not been particularly praiseworthy. There was the betrayal of Judas, the denial of Peter and the fact that they had all fallen asleep at what now seemed to be a particularly crucial moment in the drama when Jesus most needed their support and encouragement. Again, when another traveller joins them and walks with them, we might expect that if they recognised this traveller as the same Jesus whose life and death they were talking about on their journey to Emmaus, they should have said something about it. But it wasnít until he broke bread with them that the risen Lord was made visible to them. Once again, there was something about this resurrection that changed the appearance of Jesus, or that changed how Jesus appeared to them.
††† Finally, we have the incident described by John in todayís reading. Here they all recognise him, although Thomas wants more proof.† But this apparent bodily resurrection is not what it appears to be. Jesus appears through the wall - not by opening the door and walking through, but by moving through the wall. That doesnít sound like a physical resurrection to me. Bodies walk through doors. Spirits walk through walls. Weíve all felt the presence of spirit within us - ours and the Holy Spirit. We know that spirits can reside within us without taking up space, but still clearly there.
††† And so, the mystery remains. Just exactly what was this resurrection all about?
††† I think we miss the point when we argue or hold on to certain beliefs about what happened and avoid talking about the real message of these stories. The point is the significance of Jesus was so great upon these his followers that he lived on among them - whether it was in body, in spirit or in vivid memory - the impact he made upon their lives was so great that it did not die with his physical death. Not only that, but the resurrection stories invite us to reflect upon and tell our own stories of resurrection. While we may not understand the spirit or the science of what happened with the resurrection we certainly can understand what it is like to experience new life. Spring is such a perfect season for a resurrection story† - for there are signs of it around - especially in the warmer parts of our country, but we will soon see it too. I often wonder what it must be like to celebrate Easter in the fall of the year where everything is dying or going into hibernation, as it is in Australia, New Zealand other places south of the equator. It would be much more of a struggle I think to talk about resurrection in that kind of context.
††† So, the resurrection stories are invitations for us to think about our relationships with each other, with the earth, with God and see and experience the ways in which new life, new energy, new perspectives can be found. In this way, we connect ourselves with the resurrection story by finding and celebrating our own signs of resurrection. Amen.