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.