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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Easter Sunday, Year B
South Sydney Uniting Church
April 5, 2015

John 20:1-18

‘Pictures of Jesus’

The Orthodox icon of the Resurrection shows Jesus rising from the tomb, his hands grasping the hands of Adam and Eve (earth creature and mother of all; humanity and life-giver). The Hebrew puns and Greek signs present a religious richness. The icon is also called the Harrowing (Destruction) of Hades (Hell). The meaning has to do with redemption and re-creation new life and new possibilities. The icon shows/teaches this meaning so well (love enfolding every suffering and hopeful soul). God be with you

How blessed we are to have before us Penny’s artwork, which unfolds for us the meaning of Easter. The artwork shows a transfigured cross and creation. Again, Hebrew (rainbow) and Greek (rabbit) figures signify the goodness of the earth and the atmosphere, all creatures worthy of redemption, the elements and senses (yes, chocolate eggs taste great!) as bearers of hope and faith.

Penny’s artwork is an icon. We can see it that way. It can help us to pray, in our own ways, in our own place and time. It might also be seen as an example of what theologian Catherine Keller (who would love the clouds her recent book is called Cloud of the Impossible) has recently called “christographics”. Pictures of Jesus, and of the world as seen through the eyes of Jesus.

Keller considers the meaning of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus with reference to multiple testimonies gospels, epistles and apocalypse. Her words conjure a picture of Mary Magdalene who mourns the death of Jesus; Mary Magdalene whose encounter with the risen Christ gives new life a renewed conviction and self-examination ...

“In moments of enflamed love we can hardly miss the nonseparability of our difference. In fantasy or in flesh that other before me at once enfolds and eludes me [‘Do not go on touching me,’ Christ says]. And in the unfolding of love, felt so unquestionably as the most vivid affect of a life, committing, full of hope and faith, we also learn its questionability. The uncertainties, fragilities, and betrayals that beset love are the stuff of every comedy, every tragedy. I do not need to elaborate. But on love I might. Is it the case that those loves live longer and stronger that have built into themselves the ability to be questioned? Then doubt who is this before me, really, after all? [Gardener? Teacher? God?] need not sink to despair. Then no discrete love need bear the full force of our desire. It can’t. Love’s indiscretion is boundless. Love, in other words, is never just a private affair. What movement of collective materialisation religious, political, ecological has a chance if it fails to channel that passion, binding us to one another while stimulating our singular gifts?” [‘Go to my sisters and brothers,’ Christ says.]

Our April (Easter) issue of the South Sydney Herald includes an obituary for Brian Vazey. Brian’s life, his marriage to Margaret, his family life, his scientific vocation, discoveries, disappointments, accomplishments, love of learning, love for the environment; his latter-day illness, courage and gentleness … in all this we have been enfolded, implicated.

“You enfold yourself in the becoming other, knowing the other already enfolded in you,” Catherine Keller writes. “You affect and are affected willy-nilly. Entangle mindfully.”

Poet Heather Robinson writes:

“As one partner fades
the other grows to hold and support,
enfolding the loved one
with the dignity of being loved,
holding gently,
respectfully …”

The poem, for me, folds back upon Keller’s prose “… those loves live longer and stronger that have built into themselves the ability to be questioned … Then doubt who is this before me, really, after all? need not sink to despair” and I am led to think again on our Holy Week liturgies.

In the Spirit of love, to think on the kindness of the Cleftomaniacs choir (community members, parishioners) who blessed us with a solemn song from Bach’s St John Passion.

And in the Spirit of love to recall Pat Bishop of the Cana Communities who spoke so warmly of Jesus as companion; of a collective/collaborative “search” for the risen Christ.

I am encouraged, then, to question Thursday’s selection of exclusively white, male poets. How might we do better next time? And to question the means of inviting participation in the gospel readings and responses on Friday. How might we do better next time?

“Only 5 per cent of the world’s cocoa is certified as ethically grown, according to aid group World Vision. Further, ethical products are expected to account for just a tiny fraction of the record $282.3 million forecast to be spent on seasonal chocolates, largely Easter-related, this year in Australia, said research analyst Daniel Grimsey from Euromonitor International.” How might we do better next time?

In response to such questions, Keller has this to say about John’s picture of Jesus:

“The christographic difference of [John’s] gospel is figured as a divinely human exemplum for a people, a community, a species. Later in the age, he congealed into the absolute ontological exception: the God-man, metaphysically wrought of two separate substances, divine and human. The power of the exception, mimicking the dominance of a Sovereign, then infused empire with the political theology of unquestionable Lordship. Might we, with John’s blessing, let the power of the exception dissolve into the lure of the exemplum? Perhaps then the incarnation would get redistributed as intercarnation: no creature lives outside of bodied participation in its fellows. And therefore … in God. But some creatures more than others answer to the truth of that participation.

“In the self-implicating entanglement of our differences not of the one exceptional difference the Johannine Jesus predicts those who will do more and greater than he. He comes not as the one and only but the one who per exemplum made himself the most hospitable rhizome, the fruit of the vine, the edible host. And this self-implication of love in John’s epistle then spins back upon the meaning and the name of God: God becomes love. The very love by which we perform our communities, our worlds. This love signifies a relation, not an entity. Language of the Holy Spirit as love itself, relation itself, has held this fresh disclosure in language ... We might say … that ‘God’ names our relation to everything, including God. Not just any relation, but an amorously boundless one. It is a relation, and so a God, which does not happen apart from our participation.”

Penny’s golden cross, we see, is entangled in mystical vines and fruits (or perhaps they are chocolate eggs?) …

I see again now the hands, the scars of the risen Christ. The beauty of wounds healed. The scars of the risen Christ are a promise that our own wounds may be healed; that our own scars might be signs of healing for others with whom, in God, we are enfolded; as the world, beloved of God, unfolds. Amen.