s023e02 Lockleys Easter Day 31/3/2002
"seek the things É where Christ is É" Col 3:1
Christ is risen, Alleluia!
If we are to do as St Paul says and look for Christ, our readings today could send us in two different directions. The angel (and Jesus repeats the angel's words) tells the women to tell the disciples to look for the risen Jesus in Galilee. This seems at odds with St Paul's directions to not seek things "on earth".
Bishop John Spong tells the story of a scientist who made the statement that if Jesus was ascended physically, vertically from the Mount of Olives, travelling at the speed of light into heaven, he would still not have left our galaxy.É Light originating from stars further away, long before Jesus lived and died is only now reaching our eyes. Or speaking in other terms the atoms at the end of my nose are as old as the universe itself, somewhat rearranged, of course!
If Jesus was raised, then the disciples did need to know where to find him. Conceivably he could have appeared anywhere &endash; in the Temple, Herod or Pilate's palace, back in his home at Capernaum, on the streets in Jerusalem É Even with the direction to go to Galilee, Jesus still appeared in Jerusalem in the upper room, on the way to Emmaus, and by the lake. Luke records that Jesus bid them wait in Jerusalem until the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out &endash; but clearly they weren't to stay there permanently.
The disciples had to move. They could not stay stationary. If they were going to see Jesus they would have to get off their butts and do something. And I suspect that the same remains true for us. As soon as we have met Jesus when we've arrived, we find him gone elsewhere. But this is not perhaps as "fay" as it sounds, because we do find Jesus. It is a delight to find Jesus and it is a delight to find that Jesus can be found not just there, but elsewhere as well. The journey is not one of repeated near misses, an eternal "wild goose chase" - no one could consider such a pilgrimage "good news". No, the good news is that this is a journey of repeated encounters, as Jesus shows us that he can be found throughout the length and breadth and height of the whole of Galilee.
So if this is true, then perhaps this picture informs us about St Paul's conception of heaven. If he is clear that Christ is in heaven, then heaven is found in Galilee, and God is found in Galilee. The Creed, echoing Paul's words tell us that Jesus is sitting at God's right hand. This actually means that Jesus is God's "right hand man" - Jesus is the person who is "out and about" doing the will of God in the world. So, far from giving us a passive picture of Jesus sitting on God's right hand, giving God "pins and needles" for all of eternity, the picture is of Jesus the CEO, out and about doing the will of God - on earth. I suspect that God can arrange the heavenly affairs without the Son's intervention. So we do not look upwards to find the risen Jesus - but all around us in the world.
And what are we to do when we see Jesus, again and again? Every experience of the risen Jesus will inevitably lead us to rejoice. That is, in fact, all we are bidden to do - to witness to the fact that Jesus is not just at work in our lives but also in the lives of others. We witness to the fact that we have met the risen Jesus, but that the risen Jesus we know is found elsewhere too.
The "penny" that finally dropped for Peter &endash; that, in the words of our first reading for today, God shows no partiality &endash; came at the end of a long and involved series of revelations, to Peter as well as to Cornelius. Peter, for all that he had walked and talked with Jesus, still was astonished to find that God spoke to people other than Jews. He had thought that he was a particularly privileged person who had to tell others about his own experiences of Jesus. He was led to see that God worked through other people too. We too are bidden to be joyously surprised as we too find that God works through people other than ourselves, other than Anglicans, people other than Christians, people other than those who have faith.
It is a joy, because it no longer depends on us. It no longer depends on my skill as a preacher (?!?) - it no longer depends on our skill at providing "relevant" acts of worship, or skill at running successful "evangelical" programs. It depends mostly on our preparedness to "see" God at work in others. If we refuse to see God at work elsewhere, we won't, and no amount of persuasion will change us, or anyone else for that matter. But if we are prepared to see God at work in others as well as ourselves, we will certainly not be disappointed and others will have a real cause for rejoicing.
If I may personally witness, it is just so easy to become distressed and downcast as one listens to the news on the media. To be able to see Christ in ordinary people is the most joyous of experiences which banishes that distress and gloom completely. Christ becomes our life. This is the glory that is revealed, and we are a part of it.
So where is this Galilee where we will find the risen Jesus? Galilee for the religious authorities of Jesus' day was where the heretics, the religious outcasts lived. Those who live in Galilee are the outsiders for whom Jesus died, the ordinary people like you and I. We live in Galilee when we see the risen Jesus in others. We remove ourselves from Galilee when others have to live up to our expectations before they are acceptable. Indeed we remove ourselves from Galilee as we find we ourselves unable to live up to the expectations we put on others. The measure ye meet out ...
Recently I was at the installation of the new Ministry Development Staff at St Barnabas' College and one of the verses of the hymns they sung "Enemy of Apathy" by the Iona Community finished with the line: "Nor can she be captured, silenced or restrained". As soon as the Holy Spirit is captured, so that she belongs to us and denied to others, is to mean that our possession is a grandiloquent pretence.
So the Church only has the Holy Spirit as it is as wide as Galilee itself, Catholic, embracing all. This is to anticipate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, liturgically some time yet. Yet the reality of Easter is that the efforts of the religious authorities to stop Jesus being out and about being seen in others and blessing them was doomed to failure. Christ is risen, he can never be killed, entrapped or contained. The Holy Spirit will enable us to follow Jesus beyond ourselves.
And it is good news for ourselves as well as for others, because being our own worst enemy, we also do not have to live up to our own expectations before we are accepted. Christ has died for all, and the efforts of the religious authorities to stop Jesus associating with people other than themselves was and is ever doomed to failure.
But it is even more good news for ourselves, because this also means that, as we travel and seek we will continue to find the risen Jesus, in our own lives. There is an endlessness to this journey and this joy. We continue to learn more about God's love for us, as well as others.
So I suppose that if we are not to seek things that are on the earth, we are to seek the risen Jesus among the living, not among the dead. Among the living souls God puts around us all.
Christ is risen, Alleluia, and this means that the glimpses of goodness in our own lives, and in the lives of others are real - they are glimpses of the risen Christ himself.
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