Afraid.Easter2B.2012

Easter2B, 2012
John 20:19-23


A Liturgy is also available

AFRAID OF DEATH OR TERRIFIED OF LIFE

It is the evening of the first day of the week, and the doors are closed.
Locked.

The anxious and fearful disciples are shut tightly inside.
The suspicious world is shut tightly outside.

Then, all of a sudden, defying locked doors,
locked hearts,
locked vision...
A dead faith is re-created.  A dead hope is born again.

oo0oo

Fear is a very powerful thing in our lives.
It prompts us to seek protection in times of very real danger.
It motivates us into needed changes and surprising adventures.
It serves as a constant reminder that we are fragile, limited, human.

On the other side of these impulses,
we know fear also prompts us to ‘close the doors of our lives’
from the mystery and wonder of the unknown
and run into places of isolated hiding.

Very few emotions are stronger than fear.

Remember the collection of traditional Easter stories...
Empty tomb.  Grave clothes.  A voice in the garden.  Doors closed for fear.

I can’t help wondering whether Jesus’ followers, then,
were afraid of death
or terrified of life!

oo0oo

Leonardo Boff, a liberation theologian from Brazil, helps me understand
why resurrection life is the wonderful and terrifying thing that it is.

In one of his articles he says:
‘Wherever, in mortal life, goodness triumphs over the instincts of hatred, wherever one heart opens to another, wherever a righteous attitude is built and room is created for God, there the Resurrection has begun’.

And Melbourne Uniting Church minister, Dr Francis Macnab, offers this Easter prayer:
“God, on this Easter morning, help us to say
Yes to life,
Yes to a new beginning,
Yes to the presence that gives us courage
for whatever is ahead of us” (Macnab 1996: 75).

And as if responding to Macnab’s prayer, English philosopher
and founder of Sea of Faith, Don Cupitt, writes:
“We should say ‘Yes’ to life in all its contingency because it is the accidentalness of life that makes happy accidents possible, and that makes innovation and creativity possible.  We wouldn’t wish the self-replication of DNA always to proceed with precise accuracy, because without all the slippage and the accidents there would not have occurred the favourable mutations on which evolution depends – and so it is also in the realm of… personal life” (Cupitt 2003: 16-17).

Yet I also can’t help wondering sometimes whether Jesus’ followers, now,
are afraid of death
or terrified of life!

Resurrection begins when we accept the call to open closed doors
and leave our places of hiding.

oo0oo

Some time ago I told the story of the boy who found the body of a dead man
washed up on the edge of a seaside Brazilian village.
Let me tell it again...

In that village it was the custom for the women to prepare the dead for burial,
so the women began to clean the body in preparation for the funeral.

As they did, the women began to talk and ponder about the dead stranger.
He was tall... and would have had to duck his head to enter their houses.
His voice... was it like a whisper or like thunder.
His hands... they were big.  Did they play with children
or sail the seas or know how to caress and embrace a woman's body.

The women laughed
"and were surprised as they realised that the funeral had become resurrection: a moment in their flesh, dreams, long believed to be dead, returning... their bodies alive again" (Alves 1990: 23).

The husbands, waiting outside, and watching what was happening,
became jealous of the drowned man as they realised
he had power which they did not have.

And they thought about the dreams they had never had...

Resurrection begins when we accept the call to open closed doors
and leave our places of hiding.

oo0oo

Which, I guess, brings us back to what I reckon is
the central focus of all of John’s writings: 
Life!
Hopeful life!
Abundant life!

John's celebration of the Easter message points to life as its message.
Before and after Easter it is still life.

Indeed, in John's story, Easter it seems, coincides with Pentecost.
The post-Easter Jesus appears, breathes,
sends and commissions - all in one burst of ‘holy energy’.

The change is, now there are new bearers of that life.

The Spirit given without measure to Jesus (to use traditional language),
now operates without measure among the disciples
and makes Jesus' presence real to them.

So they came to reaffirm their own commitment
to the values and vision stamped into his life
by his words and deeds.

The good news of Easter according to storyteller John, is not
just the final scene as it is in fairy tales that say everyone
‘lives happily ever after’.

Easter is the beginning of an open-ended future.
Or as Michael Benedikt says in another of his meditations:
“God is practiced, like dance, like music,
like kindness, like love…
theopraxy” (Benedikt 2007:4).

For resurrection begins when we accept the call to open closed doors
and leave our places of hiding.

Notes:
Alves, R. 1990. The Poet, the Warrior, the Prophet. London. SCM Press/Trinity Press.
Benedikt, M. 2007. God is the Good We Do. Theology of Theopraxy. New York. Bottino Books.
Cupitt, D. 2003. Life, Life. Santa Rosa. Polebridge Press.
Macnab, F. 1996. Hope: The Deeper Longings of the Mind and Heart. Richmond. Spectrum Publications

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