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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Homily

Easter Sunday, Year C
South Sydney Uniting Church
March 31, 2013

Psalm 118; Luke 24:1-12

Stations of the Resurrection

Our Stations of the Cross installation is a joy to behold – it’s the first installation in the Orchard Gallery, other than Miriam Cabello’s exhibition in 2008, that brings together the artistic and the liturgical. The works evince the careful and prayerful engagement of our artists. Holy Week has seen significant engagement with the Stations – keen observations, reflections and prayers. I’ve been inspired to write a first-time meditation in the style of a tradition some say has its origins in the grieving love of Jesus’ Mother; a tradition revived in the 13th century by St Francis of Assisi. The sequence invites not just an imaginative walking with Jesus the way of the Cross, but a re-membering of the Gospel more broadly – relating our own troubles, concerns, hopes, gratitude, grief and joy. Thank you, Margaret, Jovana and all the artists involved. God be with you

On Monday night we walked and prayed the Stations with friends from the Cana Communities, stopping at Station 8: Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem. Gaylene’s beautiful watercolour evokes a crowded scene as through tears. One participant said: “I see the bright colours of middle-eastern dresses and head scarves.” We read from Luke 23, where Jesus acknowledges the women weeping for him and refers to a calamitous time when people will say to the hills, “Hide us”. Such will be the need of consolation – in a time of war or crisis. People will desire the solace only nature can give. We saw, then, the image of bright flowers on a hillside – an image for our time of ecological crises.

Today’s Gospel, too, features grieving women. The scene is a cemetery garden, and references to creation abound: the first day, the dawn, the tomb (in a hillside?), the spices, the stone, and the ground to which the women bow before the “two figures in dazzling garments”. I’m drawn again to Gaylene’s painting – dazzled by light and colour. How do I imagine the Resurrection?

Traditionally, there are 14 Stations of the Cross, but artists have sometimes created a 15th Station – a Station of the Resurrection. How might you depict this new quality of life? You’ll have the chance today to make an experiment – we have black scraperboards and nails to mark our responses to the Gospel record.

The angels – if, indeed, that’s what we’re given to see – invite the women to put together what they’ve experienced – the suffering, death and empty tomb – with the words of Jesus. The women make the connection and go to share their discovery with the Eleven and the others. We’re invited, now, to make our own connections …

It seems right that we should create many Stations of the Resurrection. No two appearance stories in the Gospels are alike. We are dealing with the miracle of unexpected life, the life of God – the raising to new life of One whose life and death communicated the love of God – a love, as we said on Good Friday, more powerful than the powers of manipulation, exclusion and violence. We ought to be surprised by it.

That’s the first mark we might make. A mark of surprise. How might you express surprise – what do your hands do when you are surprised? What kind of gestures do they make? The women at the tomb, we read, are terrified. Their fingers tremble, their hands shake. What surprises you most of all today? Your mark may be the scratching of a word or letter or symbol …

The presence of the mysterious and dazzling witnesses is striking. Does their presence suggest something in particular? Have you encountered angelic or otherworldly sources of revelation? Have you experienced, in other than human beings, a luminous holiness? The second mark we might make is a mark of respect for the world beyond the human realm – again, I’m thinking of creation in all its cosmic breadth and depth – figures include stars and other heavenly bodies, wild eyes, deep sea creatures, plants, birds, animals, microscopic organisms, and so on …

The Resurrection of Jesus entails decisive victory over all that is “physically and morally and spiritually most deathly” (Peter Steele SJ). That’s what the Church teaches, and I believe it. My belief, however, is not without disbelief (doubt is a mild term for that which accompanies belief in Resurrection). If death is not the end, then anything at all is possible. The third mark is a mark of faith – and here “faith” holds belief and disbelief in creative tension. Faith is wonder/amazement and trust, in the thick of existence. The cross is often used as a symbol for this kind of faith – the horizontal and vertical arms of the cross hold a creative tension between belief and disbelief. How might you depict the cross in a way that shows a victory over all that is physically and morally and spiritually most deathly?

It’s striking that the men in the Gospel regard the women’s story as “nonsense”. In order to experience faith in the Resurrection, the men, including the Eleven, will need to grapple with certain patriarchal assumptions. The men will need to hear and heed what the women are saying. There’s quite a bit to examine here, of course – but let’s make this fourth mark a mark somewhere on the edge of our black scraperboard. Peter’s willing response, in spite of initially refusing to believe the testimony of the women, represents faith’s willingness to go to the margins of culture and convention, the liminal space where one culture meets another – faith’s openness to what lies beyond the familiar. What kind of frame or border might you give your Station of the Resurrection? What’s it like at the border? Is it a straight or jagged edge? Is it smooth or rough? Frayed or torn?

It’s fitting that we make our marks with nails. The Resurrection is, above all, perhaps, the unexpected overcoming of violence. By way of faith in the Resurrection, by way of the Risen Christ, God speaks words of forgiveness (not a trace of retribution), words of gentleness (without intimidation), and words of wisdom (without ever denying the harsh realities of political and religious conflict). The Resurrection is the unexpected overcoming of our violence – and the unexpected outcome of nonviolence. The fifth mark can be a mark of peace, then. You might like to draw a soothing line or shape. You might like to link two or more aspects of your design in some way. You might want to include a sign of peace.

Your Station is your own and expresses, however scratchily, scratching at the surface of the Paschal mystery, that Jesus died for you. And we are all the richer for sharing with each other. Let’s complete the homily by bringing our Stations to the altar-table … Amen.