Easter 2 3 April 2005
In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
The readings that we had following Easter are the same. So unlike the rest of the Lectionary which goes in a three year cycle, it’s if after Easter the stories are so clear that we can just hear them over and over again. And we’re just literally a week away. You can tell that something is different. If you walk into Coles, it’s hard to find hot cross buns. Where there were once of delightful, stunning chocolates, they’ve gone back to mundane things like rice cookers, shaving cream. Something moved immediately following Easter Sunday. It required lots of people to gather together to work together to make it happen. Otherwise if you walked into Coles there would have been a few hot cross buns. It was a gathering of people; it was a coordinated effort and something changed and something different was presented to the world.
I guess for us as we experience Easter, there’s a part of us that is drawn to the experience of the early church. There’s an energy I think that you can really feel about those first Christians. And you can see that they were ordinary people. When they met, their doors were always shut, as if there was a fear, a sense of hiding. It’s as if they no longer were looking out into the wider world. Perhaps they were experiencing their low Sunday in a space whereby what they had expected had maybe come undone. And yet somehow, from that catalyst that we read about, those few meeting in rooms with closed doors, we’ve got to where we are today, for good or for bad.
The church in all its many shapes and forms, wonderful building we’re getting news coverage at the moment with endless footage of Rome and the beautiful buildings there, people standing in front of wonderful edifices, to the glory of God. That whole journey began by a few behind closed doors. I guess the question we can ask of ourselves this Sunday after Easter is where will we go with what we’ve experienced? What if we took a blank piece of paper and shut the doors and said, Where do we go with this? What does it mean to me and to me as part of the whole? What is the word the Easter gives to the world? What could be created from this moment?
One of the dangers is that, in a slightly slower fashion, we’ll do what Coles did. We’ll put the Easter bits away, we’ll go back to a weekly routine until there’s another opportunity to promote this product called Jesus. Come Advent, we’ll then start getting the Jesus bits out again, making up a wonderful display and, just like Coles, attracting a few extra customers along. It’s a danger because it happens and it’s a happening within as well as without. So I guess the place to address it is within ourselves. What difference might Easter as I’ve just experienced it make?
As we were discussing over the Easter period, it might be too hard if we look for changes of state. So to come into Easter and to walk out looking completely different is perhaps too much of an expectation. But if we can only look at the threads that Easter has given us and follow some of those to see where they lead, be attentive to where this in the week that has just gone past, where has the whole experience of Easter made a difference? Where has it called to me to attend to it? Did I let it go and have now reconnected with it because it’s Sunday? In which case become aware the threads I have are Sunday threads. And if there Sunday threads, is that what I want to work with? Do I want to work on two tapestries in my life? The tapestry of Sunday threads, which I will thread together Sunday by Sunday, and the tapestry of my other thread? Or do I somehow want to work on one tapestry where all of those are drawn together?
We have the image of Thomas which gives us permission to doubt. We’ve got that dialogue with Thomas which results in us being known as blessed. The ones who haven’t seen are blessed. And, when you look back on the narrative and what’s been experienced, I don’t know if it was any easier to believe if you saw all the events than it is if you don’t see the events and can imagine the events and can look beyond the events. Because it’s not until later on that the church really gets to grips with what Christ was about. We were not visited by someone special back in history. Rather, we have been given a revelation of God that points to where life is. If we look around the world, it is very easy to see glimpses or life and also huge tragedies where life is almost denied. We can see the part we play in being life denying to others. There’s no doubt that in the way we live, we deny others life. There is equally no doubt that in the way we live we bring life to others.
I don’t think it’s about a balance and saying, OK, if I can bring one life then it doesn’t matter if I lost one here. That was the deal we had a few months ago where if you put money into the tsunami appeal it was actually OK to continue the invasion of another country. It’s not about balance at all. It’s about drawing together, drawing those threads together and saying, No, I wish to make one out of all of this. Easter, I think, points us, draws us, asks of us to come out of the dark into the light. To leave death behind and step into life. If we can begin to even find the direction of life within, then each step we take must surely bring life to others.
So perhaps we will relook at the Gospel reading today. Become aware of face of Thomas in it. Where Thomas doubts, allow ourselves to doubt. Question that which has already been given to you. Question the teaching of that you’ve already received. Doubt it. It is second hand after all. Some of it, I wouldn’t I think it’s strangely, almost unbelievably not true, if we look at the teaching of the church. It put a lot of energy into denying that the earth was round. It puts a lot of energy into denying the fact that women can’t be bishops. It puts a lot of energy into saying there’s something fundamentally wrong with homosexuals. It puts a lot of energy into justifying certain wars. If Thomas were here he’d ask to be like him. Doubt that, doubt the church, don’t believe it. It’s not the church we were asked to believe in. And if one of the steps that we can make, one of the shifts that we can make is “I believe in the experience of Easter,” and that takes me away from the church, it’s a step towards life. Now there’s a better step towards life and that is if I can believe in the experience of Easter, doubt what the church says and then realize that what the experience of Easter asks of me to create the church. Not to go to it, not to listen to it, not to join it, but to actually create it. It’s that early gathering, with those behind locked doors and with the doubter in their midst that created church. The became it. That’s what’s asked of us. And I think if it isn’t yet, then let’s get our erasers out and make sure we start with a clean slate. Let’s not carry the burdens of the past but rather say, Here, let us look for what is right and what it true, what is good and what gives life. What is created of life for all and build on that.
The Lord be with you.