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.

One Day won’t last forever

anointedbeforestormPassion Sunday for me is about being uncomfortable in a comfortable place.  A bolt hole, a place of refuge, a place to go before a difficult encounter.  A favourite cafe.  A bench on a hill.  A place with friends where one can be natural, uninhibited, perhaps.  A place to relax and let the hair down.  A place of calm before the storm.  A place to go running.  A favourite film perhaps that takes us away from reality for a while.  Something to watch and indulge in before returning to important tasks. During Lent I’ve been reflecting each week on the film One Day.  The film has taken us on a journey with two friends whose lives we visit once each year on St. Swithin’s day.  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 to each other.  Comfortable like an old sofa which has learnt our body shape.  By the end it is being in the sort of place that you might think ought never to come to an end.  Like a favourite book which we put down just before the final chapter because we would rather not finish it off.  But come to an end the story must.  Passion Sunday.  The moment before the final moment.  The calm before the storm.  Gathered with friends in a house sharing a meal together.  We are told that at least Mary, Martha, Lazarus, Judas and Jesus were there.  The comfortable moment is broken as Mary anoints Jesus with nard and Judas complains about the cost of it.  One Day only gives us a day a year, but it is enough to become close.  At the end it leaves us wondering about the missed moments and that we really need to make the most of each moment that we do see.  The Gospel readings are the same in that we only hear a little of the story.  Six days before the passover, we see them gathered together.  A place of preparation.  A time to reflect with friends over a meal, have you ever noticed the meal mentioned before?  Before make their way into Jerusalem.  What else went on at that gathering?  It seems to me that Mary and Martha’s house was a place to gather and plan their strategy.  We hear that Jesus visits this home on at least three occasions.  A friends house would be the ideal place to plan the next move.  To plan the events we are about to remember from Palm Sunday to Easter.  It seems a deliberate attempt was being made to provoke the authorities.  For such an encounter, preparation is perhaps the most important.  Not the twenty years as we see in One Day.  But the point of a comfortable place of refuge is for that space of preparation and if preparation is required, then there ought to be some form of confrontation.    Was that the point of meeting at the house of Mary, Martha and Lazarus.  We hear none of that sat around the meal table with Mary, Martha, Lazarus, Judas and Jesus.  The conversation turns sour as Judas remarks on the perfume and Jesus retorts about his future.  As we prepare to enter into that story at the passover festival, are we left in anticipation of the final moment? Or is the story a little too familiar.  One that perhaps we think we know very well and so read it through quickly.  So this Passion Sunday, I’d like to invite you to dwell with this image of Jesus sat around the table with his friends.  What would we like to know?  What questions would we ask at that table?  Would we be the one to break open the jar of ointment?  What was the smell like?  Was it this event that prompted the writing down of this event, turned into a prophetic moment of Jesus’ final days as he remarks that he will not always be with them.  The moment is gone as quickly as it came, the story moves on to the next moment.  For us, for a while, it is good to be left around that table with the remains of the meal and to consider where we might go after such an encounter.  Do we choose to walk onwards with Jesus to Jerusalem, or choose to remain in the place of safety and comfort?

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.