Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.
‘Rushing to share Good News’
There is a story, familiar to Eastern Orthodox Christians, of Mary Magdalene preaching Christ crucified and risen. She preaches before Tiberius Caesar. Caesar scoffs and says that he no more believes in a crucified criminal rising to life than the egg in Mary’s hand turning red. At which point, the egg in Mary’s hand turns red. The story speaks of Mary’s boldness and effectiveness as a preacher and witness (in all likelihood it understates her role as a full and leading member of a messianic community of equals). Hence, we have our own red eggs to share today. God be with you ...
Matthew's account of the resurrection is distinctive in several ways. It depicts Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (probably Mother Mary) as contemplatives (they come to "see the tomb") in frightening proximity to armed Roman guards/soldiers.
It is the guards who tremble, however, as the earth shakes and the tombstone is rolled aside by an angel who assures the women of Good News, and invites them to see the empty tomb in which the body of Jesus had been laid.
These experiences -
And the women rush to share with others the Good News of God's vindication of the life and teaching of Jesus ...
It is in their enthusiasm (with "fear and great joy"), their passionate concern for others who are hurt and grieving, that the women encounter the Risen Christ. They are greeted by Jesus who, like the angel, calms their fears; making intimate reference to those male disciples who had fled the scene of crucifixion. The women are commissioned to bring Good News of new life, indomitable love and forgiveness/reconciliation to the "brothers". "The scattered and terrified flock is to be reconstituted as the family of God" (Brendan Byrne).
It's no doubt important that the gospel writers give diverse accounts of resurrection appearances (there are 12 accounts in all). The common theme, though, speaks of nonviolence and love. There's not a hint of bitterness or retribution. In the cemetery garden, on the road to Emmaus, in Jerusalem, in Galilee, on the mountain-
Matthew's account, then, is distinctive (coloured in apocalyptic tones and touched by a certain political awareness), highlighting concern for broken relationships and resistance to oppression, while at the same time helping to constitute a bigger picture of resurrection in terms of a love that will "never die", as we have prayed this morning.
I am reminded of Dorothee Soelle's understanding of resurrection. Soelle writes: "For me it is still the simplest ... formulation of the resurrection to say that they could not do away with [Jesus]. They simply could not succeed in destroying him. That is resurrection. What his life meant, what his spirit was, what his disciples did, this 'yes' to God's will lived, and lives today, and this life appears in the cross" (Thinking About God, p. 132).
Sometimes the church expresses anxiety over a proliferation of Easter stories and symbols. But it's right to speak richly and wildly of indomitable love -
It's not that there is one right and proper way to understand resurrection but that orthodoxy (right thinking and right praising) affirms kaleidoscopic expressions of faith, hope and love.
Heresy tends to limit understanding -
To love like Jesus -
To love like Jesus is to love the body and spirit (the matter and meaning) of history, politics, art, science -
To love like Jesus is to love the body and spirit (the gritty realities and imaginative flights) of our faith tradition -
If, like Mary Magdalene, you have ever known love like this, you have believed in resurrection.
If, like Mary, you love another, willing the good and the new in and for another, you believe in resurrection -
It is faithful to pray for a word that challenges and exceeds the binary: "compassion for refugees/responsible border protection". It's faithful to call for a policy that constructs a new compassionate and responsible nation around those fleeing persecution who seek asylum on our shores. This is precisely the kind of ethical (having to do with love) impossibility or impasse susceptible to the tremors of resurrection power and faith. At yesterday's Holy Saturday Vigil outside the office of the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Christians of various traditions prayed and called for a new way forward, together. Bipartisan, regional, humane, lawful, hopeful.
To love like Jesus is to enter into love -
Christ is risen. Zie is risen indeed. Alleluia! Amen.