theunfamiliarname

Homily for Easter 2C

In Uncategorized on April 12, 2010 at 8:51 am

The biggest movie of the last year – by some huge distance –
has been Avatar.
Unkindly dubbed “Dances with Smurfs”
in reference to its familiar plotline and blue aliens,
whatever else it might be
it’s astounding for its creation of an entirely artificial world.
A whole planet and an alien civilisation has been plausibly manufactured
by clever people working at powerful computers.
Gripping, yet entirely made up.

During my studies in Fiji,
I made a good friend from Kiribati, a series of tiny atolls in Micronesia.
He was out of his country – as was I – for the first time,
and for the first time he was confronted with television and film,
and the question I remember him asking me often,
during the tv news as much as anything,
was “is it real?”

“Is it real?”

Here we are, a week after the early morning discovery of the empty tomb,
with part two of John’s gospel account that we began last week,
and that’s the question Thomas forces us to grapple with:
“is it real?”

Not just are we different because of the Easter story
– although heaven knows
that’s not a bad question to be pondering one week on –
but Thomas wants to know if tangibly, absolutely, honestly,
he can believe
what others think they have experienced.
And ultimately, isn’t that what it comes down to?
For all the evangelism in the world,
faith, the Easter faith we Christians are supposed to be about,
is not really about embracing someone else’s ideas or worldview,
because it appeals at some intellectual or aesthetic level.
Easter faith is literally embraced when we are touched in our experience
by the Risen Christ.

Scholars have asked all sorts of questions about the Resurrection,
“is it real?” being right up there.
But we know that something happened
…something was experienced by those disciples,
something real and tangible and more than just an idea
or some waffly making sense of Jesus somehow living on in them…
Easter, the reality,
was in their experience of Christ risen:
Something more than an idea
has fed people of faith for twenty centuries of Easters.
Easter is in the experience.  Theirs and ours.

One of my favourite movies is Shadowlands,
based loosely on the life of C.S. Lewis,
and his relationship with the poet, Joy Gresham,
who dies during the film of cancer.

Lewis, it always seemed to me,
had come to faith by way of logic and the intellect.
When confronted with the love and pain of losing someone dear,
the intellect was not itself enough.
It was through the hard experience of loving even to death
that his faith and he himself became truly alive.
In the pain and the joyous love of the Easter story,
in the wounds of love which the body of the Risen Christ still carries:
hands, feet, side,
Jesus who stands among the frightened disciples and breathes peace…
in our experience of love and pain and fear and peace,
our dying and coming alive
… is our touching God, our finding faith, our claiming life.

As we travel together this Easter journey,
as we are reminded that we are called to be an Easter people,
how do we respond to the little Thomas, naïve or cynical, within us all
who asks us “is it real?”

Where is the Easter story true for us,
and where is it waiting to be told?

See the disciples locked away, entombed by their own fear and grief…
Where within ourselves
are we waiting for the Risen Christ to appear
and breathe peace and forgiveness?

Can we open ourselves to that experience,
that healing touch,
where pain and death and disbelief
are transfigured?

Where we, in our encounter,
“may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God,
and that through believing [we] may have life in his name.”

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