Saturday, April 07, 2007

Athletic Disciples

Easter Day Homily – St John’s Bungaree
John 20:1-9

In today’s gospel there’s a sense of excitement in Jesus’ followers that we haven’t seen before. Christian art, from the Renaissance onwards, has a habit of depicting the disciples as heavy, ponderous individuals, encumbered by voluminous flowing robes and cheap footwear. This image is furthered promoted by the gospels generally speaking of the disciples as being ‘slow on the uptake’ as they fail to understand Jesus’ teaching and rarely take any initiative themselves. Slow plodders, constantly having to be lead.

But today there is a change. Mary, finding the tomb empty, comes ‘running’ to Simon Peter. Then Simon Peter and the ‘Beloved” disciple (John) run back to the tomb. Not just a jog, it’s a race to see who can get there first, who can be first to verify Mary’s news.

Suddenly, ‘at this moment’ the gospel tells us, they understand the teaching of the scripture, and then all that Jesus had been saying to them about his death and rising made sense. Today there is speed and action replacing the fear and inertia of the past; today they are excited and today they believe.

Runners in the ancient world were the equivalent of today’s e-mail, SMS or mobile phones. We have always had a need to communicate news quickly; wether it was news of a victory in battle, the birth or death of a Sovereign or news of an immanent threat or danger. Today, Mary may have sent a Videotext message showing the empty tomb, but in first century Palestine she had to run to share her news and the others had to see for themselves.

We need to catch some of that excitement.

During Lent, and especially during Holy Week, we have taken time to reflect on our discipleship and to deepen our relationship with Our Lord. We have suppressed the Alleluias and omitted the Gloria from our liturgies.

Like Our Lord’s first followers, we have been deeply affected by the remembrance of His Passion, from the betrayal in the garden to the final cry of anguish form the cross; after all the ugliness of our own lives has been spilt out at the foot of the Cross on Good Friday we need the day ‘in the tomb’ to get over the effect of that purging.

So today, Easter Day, the Day of Resurrection, we too can run with excitement and share the news that Jesus is risen.

David Hick’s trial and the news of his immanent return to Australia would have robbed many preachers of their Good Friday sermon analogies. At least they still had the Gulf War and Global Warming to provide them with material for their media intended ‘sound bites’. If you watched the news on Friday evening or read Saturday’s papers you will know what I am talking about.

In attempts to make the Eater Message ‘relevant’ to a growing number of people who have never heard the ‘full message of the gospel’, all too often preachers focus on the warm and fuzzy (“Easter is a good time for familles to get together”) or, as I said earlier the issues of Iraq and Global warming.

But the focus today must be unashamedly on the empty tomb and the transformation that took place in the lives of the followers of Jesus who witnessed these events.

For this is a news story far more important that any other. It is news that will transform lives not just in one place and at one time but in all time, beyond time and in all places. It is the resurrection of Jesus that transformed the lives of his followers. They were accustomed to the atrocities of living under Roman rule; for them the brutal horror of crucifixion was a regular sight. The fact that Jesus defeated all this and rose brought them the hope they needed, cemented their faith, changing not only their lives but also the world.

It is this message that we have to run to tell the world, to run with all the excitement of Mary, Peter and John, for the unbelievable is believable. Jesus lives and continues to transform lives, to bring hope and to conquer death in all its forms.

As Bishop Michael calls the diocese to Mission, how will we respond? We will run with joy to share the good news of our risen Lord or sit in fear and wait?

If we are not running to share this good news then it may be that our eyes are still fixed on the Cross and that we haven’t looked into the empty tomb and seen and believed.

Over the next few weeks of the Eater Season we will journey with Our Lord and the disciples, watching as the penny finally drops and they, along with us receive the Great Commission to “Go and make disciples”.

This news is too good to keep to ourselves; we are to run to share it.

Christ is risen: He is risen indeed, Alleluia!