Monday, March 29, 2010

With Thomas and Bono in the embrace of life

So, here's the piece I wrote for our church magazine which has just come out. I thought I'd share it in this format as probably as many members of my church will see it this way than in the print form. It's a generational thing...

We head into Easter with the world still reeling from two major earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, armed conflict in 38 countries and an economic recession that is blighting the lives of millions across the planet. Against such a global backdrop, our troubles can seem trivial. Except, they are our troubles and we feel their weight each day – whether it’s ill health, uncertainties at work, family and relationship pressures or just a feeling that life is hard work.

Easter is an explosion of life and joy after the fast of lent and the dark agony of Good Friday. But so often we feel stuck on Saturday. The battle is over, the tomb is sealed, everyone’s gone home and that’s it. Sometimes we feel too tired to realise that Easter has dawned, the sun’s up, the Son has risen. We need some one to remind us.

So many of us are like Thomas, sincere, well-meaning, loyal and shattered. We’ve had enough, as he had had enough. For him the cross was the end of the dream. He might have been the Eeyore of the disciple band, but he wasn’t alone in feeling that the world ended on Good Friday.

And he wasn’t going to be taken in the wishful thinking of a group of friends who wanted to keep the spirit of their movement alive. So when Peter and the others excitedly told him that they’d seen Jesus, he didn’t believe them. He wanted to see the evidence. Like any of the heroes of CSI he wanted to get up and close and personal with whoever his friends had seen to assure himself that they weren’t being deluded. Handling the wounds was the only proof that would persuade him.

John tells us that Thomas got his chance. Jesus invited Thomas into the embrace of life. Yes, the man before him was wounded from the cross but he was gloriously, triumphantly, luminously alive. No wonder all Thomas could say was ‘My lord and my God.’ Thomas knew what it meant that the battered and beaten Jesus was standing in front of him. By some great mystery that was beyond his ability to compute what had happened on Good Friday had created a new world and Jesus was at the heart of it. So whoever he was, he must at least be God.

Jesus is the one who brings God into focus. But more than that, he is the one who, having triumphed over all the forces ranged against us, invites us into his new world of love and life, justice and joy, the adventure of being caught up in his mission to put everything right. What this means for us, as Jesus says, is that as we believe, so we get to see who he is and what he’s doing. And he invites us to join him so we can see him more clearly.

As so often, it takes a great popular theologian to spell out what this means for us. So here’s Bono, sometime singer, sometime campaigner, a scribbling, wine-drinking, bible-reading band man.

'True religion will not let us fall asleep in the comfort of our freedom,' he says. 'Love your neighbour is not a piece of advice, it's a command. That means in the global village we're going to have to love a whole lot more people - that's what that means.' He adds: ‘if you’re going to enjoy having your sneakers and your jeans made by developing communities, you are already involved with these people. You cannot therefore just ignore some of the problems they’re negotiating. They’re living on your street. There was an old definition of generosity, which is that at the very least the rich man looks after the poor man on his street. Guess what? Now that street goes round the globe.’

And he reminds us that 'the poor are where God lives...God is with the poor and he is with us if we are with them. This is not a burden, it's an adventure.'

The words have a liturgical as well as rhetorical rhythm. I love that last sentence. Our lives with God in mission among the poor, in sharing what we have, in pooling resources and energy, insights and hard labour is an adventure not a burden.

And it’s an adventure because it’s led by Jesus. He invites us to travel through Good Friday to Easter morning, through the cross to the new world of resurrection, through suffering with a world in pain to the daw of a new creation with pain or tears.

We are Easter people because we follow a suffering servant who broke the tomb and spreads life in his wake everywhere he goes. Are we up for the adventure?

1 comment:

Craig Gardiner said...

that's many more words than I get in my church magazine but good words worth the reading ... maybe even worth plagarising next Easter!