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.

Jesus, the Stubborn Loaf: Still rising

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe’re going to get to the end of the story of the Devil wears Prada, or at least the point at which the film ends, but first I think an explanation or two might be required:
Perhaps it was a typo, he meant to write risen, but missed and got rising instead.  No.  Rising is correct.  We like to say ‘He is Risen’ on Easter morning as if it has all come to an end somehow, as if this was what we were waiting for. (Oh sorry, it’s the chocolate that we have been waiting for, i’m so sorry Mr Cadbury have we knocked off your copyright?)  It is finished, it is finally over, we can stop fasting and go back to normal.  Phew, thank goodness for that!  Normal service will resume shortly.  But those words ‘it is finished’ don’t belong on Easter morning, they belong on Good Friday when Jesus was still on the cross dying.  So if ‘it finished’ on Good Friday, why do we then wait until Easter Sunday?  Because although the task is accomplished, the journey is not complete, and neither is it complete today.  Therefore – Jesus is still rising.  Bread doesn’t always rise the same way, sometimes it is stubborn, depends on the time of the day and a whole number of other things. Don’t get me started on bread rising!  Easter is not a day or a point in history.  It is a state of mind, much like glass half full or half empty.  Are we people for whom Christ is rising or are we people for whom the journey is now over?  The resurrection of Jesus, who was in human form the Christ, the chosen one of God: didn’t happen at a given point in time.  That part of the story we are still all caught up in.  There are echoes of this throughout the gospel stories and in the book of the Acts of the Apostles.  And throughout our history after that death on the cross, there are moments of resurrection when we see the Christ rising.

And the story of the Devil wears Prada is also one of death and resurrection.  Andrea took a job working for a fashion magazine.  A job she neither particularly wanted, nor cared about, but one which hundreds of other might have wanted.  She gets drawn into the whole world of fashion, embroiled in its seductive charms.  As her career takes off her personal life falls apart.  Andrea’s relationships with her boyfriend and other friends melt away as the job and career takes her off to Paris for fashion week.  And this is where we left her, making the choice of which road to follow.  She follows the fashion parade to Paris and indulges in all of its delights.  She dies to one life and is resurrected into another, and yet it is not quite what she expected.  She is adored by a thousand camera lenses and yet there is nothing here that can really tempt her any more.  As Andrea and Miranda ‘the boss from hell’ drive to yet another glamorous gathering, Miranda suggests that this life is what everyone wants – that everyone wants to be probably quite literally – in their shoes.  Andrea realises suddenly that she does not want this at all.  She realises the world into which she has been drawn and the life which she turned away from.  So she throws her phone into a fountain and walks away.  Once again she has died and is rising to a new life.  Andrea was able to choose, to see the oppressive situation she was in and to turn away.  It took her some time to see the truth, but then doesn’t it always?  So it is with the Christ and so it can be with us.  Like a stubborn loaf on a cold day the rising continues waiting for the conditions to be right.  The times we see the Christ rising most often is when people come together to overcome oppression or to stand against domination be it physical, emotional or financial.  To stand together in solidarity against such systems that abuse power is to stand in a moment of the Rising Christ.  ‘It is finished’ cried Jesus form the cross, and at that very moment began the next chapter of the story, the one which involves us bringing in the kingdom of Christ Rising to new life.