building a bridge of resurrection moments

I find it hugely ironic that the church over the centuries has dominated its teaching with men. Yet, here at the centre of events, (Matthew 28) whilst all the other disciples have scattered in fear, it is the women who are faithful, making their way to the tomb early on the first day of the week.  On that, at least, our gospel accounts agree.  Would the resurrection be dubbed as Fake News or  Alternative Facts these days?  A man was pronounced dead and buried one day, then mysteriously begins to appear to his friends in the following weeks.  It is a troubling account at the very least! And I’m glad it was the women who were tasked with carrying on the message, I’m afraid we men all too often get distracted.  I could say a thing or two about the church being distracted over the years with issue after issue…  But instead, I have to ask, what we are celebrating today, merely a conjuring trick with bones? – The late and controversial Bishop David Jenkins who died this past September has been misquoted ever since the interview in which he actually stated that the resurrection was ‘not just a conjuring trick with bones.’ A rather different statement.  However.  If this is what Christianity comes down to, and it appears to be so at the hands of some, then show me the door.  For we would be, in effect, saying, forget the 33 years of Jesus own life and the last three years spent transforming the lives of others, all we needed was the last three hours.  But it is such a small view of God, as if God required the death of Jesus in order to offer forgiveness.  He of whom we say created all this world suddenly needs a man to die in order to offer the gift of forgiveness.  Is that what Christianity comes down to?  It makes no sense.  Jesus didn’t have to die.  He chose it.  However, for me the resurrection of the Christ, is not a single moment in time but a continuous process.  There are still sublime moments of that same resurrection.  And it is of course all too easy to miss.  When people say they are waiting for Jesus to come again, I’d like to say, but he never left.  He’s on the number 19 bus, did you miss him?  You did?  Then look over there, in the face of each of the children, and in the face of the lady chatting on the street corner.  We just stopped seeing.  Moments of resurrection come in all different guises.

Some of us watched I, Daniel Blake this past week.  For me it is a film full of resurrection moments.  Yes, it is possible to cast the characters from the events in Jesus life.  Who behaves like the scribes and pharisees and who is like Mary Magdalene, the poor Jesus tried to spend his life helping, and the crowds at Palm Sunday.  But really it is a film for me full of moments of kindness despite the darkness and it ends up not really being a film about the benefits system, for these attitudes are found everywhere, but it ends up being about life and about human connectedness.  Here is portrayed a man who took pride in his own life.  Who knew who he was, and knew what he could do.  He delights in human contact and is not afraid to speak to any and all whatever age, colour, class.  He puts himself into harms way for others and is willing to try the authorities patience by demanding they treat him as an equal to others.  For me the whole film is a moment of resurrection because it cries out to us not to miss what might be passing us by in small moments which creep up on us unawares.

Our religion has for the most part became a worthiness contest.  About whether we were doing it right or saying it right.  And we end up being portrayed as those in the film who stick to the rules regardless of those who are in front of them, regardless of their needs.  I’m not concerned whether we’re doing it right, whatever that means, I’m concerned about the relationship we have and whether that is good and wholesome and life giving.  If Easter is about light overcoming darkness and good overcoming evil, then the character of Daniel Blake teaches us that we find these things in the faces of those around us. In the connections we make and in the life that we share.

The song Bridge over Troubled Water by Simon and Garfunkel has been said to be about drug taking.  Well, it may well be.  But I think it is about something else too.  The first two verses at least are about a little more than that for they were based upon a hymn.  When we are at our lowest ebb, where do we turn?  When there are no friends left, to whom do we go?  You might say, turn to Jesus.  I would reply, and how exactly are we to do that, and how will it help?  It won’t unless you take a little leaf out of Daniel Blake and look for the smile in the stranger.  The quiet word which gives us the energy to go on.  The encouragement to walk the next step.  And unless we go out with that smile, ready to offer it to others as well, its going to come to us ever so slowly.  The Beauty of the film I, Daniel Blake is not that it rages against a machine, but that it revels in humanity and all its differences.

So take that light this Easter, and share it with a smile as you go out this day and it may just bring about a resurrection of the kindnesses of Jesus.

One EASTER Day

onedayposterDuring Lent I’ve been reflecting each week on the film One Day.  It is a story about love, life, death and resurrection.  It doesn’t describes specifically the events of our Easter story at all – however, it does give us a window into the ebb and flow of two ordinary lives lived in and out of relationship with each other.  And through those lives portrayed we, perhaps, can see through to something else.  The film has taken us on a journey with two friends, Emma and Dexter, whose lives we visit once each year on St. Swithin’s day.  15th July.  This is much how our Gospels are written, dipping in and out of the events and lives of Jesus and his companions.  In One Day we move from terrible London flats smelling of onions to awful post university jobs in restaurants and television.  From meetings in France to returning to the family home.  From difficult conversations with parents to distant answer phone messages.  Missed calls and missed opportunities.  From new jobs, to new boyfriends.  From bad jobs to car crash employment.  Terrible live television to all star school plays.  Rows in restaurants to dead end relationships.  Break downs and making up to put downs and pick me ups.  By the end we are left with two people who we know so very well and who ought to be so very right for one another.  They are comfortable with each other, though not always comforting.  Our patience with their painfully slow coming together is rewarded with a romantic liaison in Paris, the wedding, plans for children of their own.  The dream is unfolding, and then, we ought to expect it as in many romantic stories but we don’t, it is cut short suddenly by violence.  Where there was a comforting voice there is now silence.  Where there was a companion there is now an empty chair.  Where there was a loving caress there is nothing.  And our Gospels have taken us on a whirlwind snapshot tour from a backstreet birth, refugees travelling the road, baptisms, weddings, funerals, confrontations, healings and reconciliations and the action slows somewhat to dwell on the events of the last weeks with friends’ hospitality, costly gifts and borrowed transport to the sudden reality of a trial that was only going to go one way.  So many of our reflections at Easter focus on triumph of good over evil, light banishing darkness, pain giving way to healing as if this is the end of the story – and a happy ever after.  The End.  And yet this does not reflect our lives, and it certainly does not reflect the stories contained in the Gospel accounts of Easter.  If we look closely, and, reflecting on the end of the film One Day, we notice a similarity.  Grief is raw.  Emma is gone.  Dexter feels that he is alone.  It takes him years to recover from the curse of 15th July.  But eventually he picks himself up, and like the disciples goes back to work.  He listens to both his father.  ‘Live as if she were still here,’ he tells Dexter, ‘what do you think I’ve been doing for the past ten years?’  And he listens to the voice of Emma.  ‘Wake up, wake up’.  A voice from a time almost forgotten.  ‘Whatever happens tomorrow, we’ve had today’. Says Emma,  One Day.
The first Easter was not a time of joyful excitement, or exuberant parties it was difficult, a time of fear and tears.  The words used in our Gospel reading today reflect this.  We are told they were  ‘perplexed’  ‘terrified’ it was ‘an idle tale’ and they did ‘not believe’ it and then they were just ‘amazed’.  As we munch on chocolate eggs thankful that forty days of abstinence is now over, things have not changed much.  We are often left perplexed and terrified by the events of our world.  Easter is not a single moment in time, but a series of One Day at a time.  Living each of them as if Jesus were still with us, amongst us, commanding us to continue to love one another might well be a place to begin.

A New Dawn for the Jesus Divergent

BGEaster2015Today we celebrate the rising to new life of the Christ.  The revelation of God’s continual work in the world.  It is a new dawn.  A new beginning.  You might have been surprised at the choice of Divergent for a film this Lent and Easter.  But it has plenty to say to us – despite it’s very teenage appearance and apparent thrilling action adventure genre.  Underneath the gloss coating from the film company of running, jumping, killing, climbing trees, repeat ad infinitum; is an astute look at culture and about who we are as humans and about how we treat others and about a journey towards self discovery realising that we are not just individuals, but connected.  Realising who we are is not just one thing, but many interconnected complex parts.  In the wilderness world of Divergent where we began in the first week of Lent we see the characters coming to terms with who they were in their world, trying to find their way and find their place – their faction.  Worrying they won’t fit in or that they might end up as outcasts or ignored as unimportant.  In Divergent these who don’t fit are named as faction-less.  In our society they have many names, but they are always the ones who are blamed for the ills of the world.  Jesus spent his time on earth with these rather than the elite or the theologically educated.  The ones who were outcast or who were scapegoated.  Those whose faces didn’t fit the picture that the authorities wanted to paint.
To be whole, healed requires first an understanding that we are broken and that we need healing.

In divergent we hear “I Don’t want to be just one thing” – I want to be Selfless and Brave and Clever and Honest and Kind.

Human nature is blamed as the problem. The solution – get rid of what we don’t understand rather than trying to see from another perspective.

So can we look beyond what we see?  Can we see the true stories behind each person we encounter – at each meeting?

Can we look beyond the outward appearance of the film Divergent and see the world it is portraying behind it?  Easter gives us a new way of seeing, reveals to us a truth about the world.  When we see a homeless person on the street, what do we think?  When we encounter someone on benefits what is our reaction?  What about someone with a mental health illness?  Or with issues with drugs, alcohol, money, food, people from a different race to us or a different religion.  In fact anything that stigmatises or has a stereotype attached to it.  Looking through the cross of Jesus we can see differently.  Damascus is a name we know from the bible, but we might not know that this is right now yet another place of violence and terror, where Palestinians once again stand against an armed and violent regime.  Much as they did in the time of Jesus who was of course a Palestinian Jewish man.  Redemptive violence never wins it only leaves more people broken. Can we look beyond the headlines to see the real stories.  We can if we use the cross and the life of Jesus as our guide.

To quote a line from Trevor Dennis Easter is fresh from God being in the world.  It is like a sunny day after a rain storm, a new fresh crisp spring dawn.  The air is clear. It is the new creation it is time to begin to see differently.  We can begin to look beyond the stereotype the world gives us to the real stories behind them, stories of ordinary folk like us.  This is the new dawn.  Jesus reveals God’s whole self on the cross.

Divergent tells another story, a hidden one, if only we have the eyes to see it, the eyes of Jesus.  Seeing through the crucifixion, we are able to glimpse the realm of God on earth where everything is different.  Everything is seen in terms of compassion – suffering together.  Who are we willing to suffer with?  Easter is the new dawn, don’t let it go.  Capture the moment and allow it to fill us with God’s freshness and crucified love for the world.