Easter – 2019
Too Good to be True?
‘When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he placed his right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living one. I was dead, and see, I am alive for ever and ever; and I have the keys of Death and of Hades.”’ Revelation 1:17-18
“Do you remember where you were when you heard the news?”
For the generation which came before mine, this question always seemed to be ‘do you remember where you were that you head the news that JFK had been assassinated?’ – I remember a senior teacher at the first school I taught at giving an assembly on the 25th anniversary of that event . . . and it was obvious the shock and sorrow still lived with her . . .
For my generation it might be “do you remember where you were when you heard the news of the attacks on the World Trade Centre?” “Certainly you remember the date . . . the date we all learned to date the world as the Americans do, back to front, 9/11”
Or do you remember where you were on March 15 this year when we heard the news from Christchurch – or even this week ‘do you remember where you were when you hear the news of the fire which engulfed the Cathedral of Our Lady in Paris?’
I was sat in bed, idly reading an article on people ordering a single onion online -when the banner headline flashed across my screen – there in the midst of the utterly mundane – horror
This News, we struggle at first to find words for it, but finally we come down to the old tired and weary and too well worn words – ‘horror’ ‘Tragedy’, ‘atrocity’, ‘disaster’; ‘catastrophe’ even.
It’s interesting to note that of all Shakespeare’s plays, almost all are Tragedies.
The opposite of Tragedy was technically called a comedy . . . what that meant was ‘a story with a happy ending’, like a fairy tale. This is why Dantë’s epic poem which begin with his Inferno is called ‘The Divine Comedy – because like a fairy tale it has a Happy Ending.
Comedy, Fairy tale . . . words which seem to us to sum up the idea of escapism . . . relief from the day to day tragic nature of our existence – ‘dust you are and to dust you will return’ The Words at the beginning of Lent sum up the human tragedy . . . and so when we ask ‘do you remember where you were when you heard?’ . . . it is almost entirely tragedy, atrocity, disaster, or catastrophe . . .
The reports of the women – Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Mary the mother of James as well as the other women that were with them . . . sounded like nonsense – like a fairy tale . . . this news didn’t fit the way of the world . . .
Today – The Great Feast of the Church – Our Great Feast is a Day like no other. A Day out of History – from somewhere else . It is a Day that doesn’t fit ‘the way of the World’ . . . a day that comes to us not out of the darkness which surrounds us, but a Light so great it blinds us, so accustomed as we are to the dark . . . it sounds like nonsense. To a world accustomed and resigned to tragedy – it sounds too Good to be True . . .
Too Good . . . small acts of kindness – great tragedies . . . it is interesting how our way in the World is marked by a language for which the good is Small, but the opposite looms large . . . .
Why do we for example casually say, things are ‘Too Good to be True?’ . . .
What word can we come up with to describe this Day? We have a whole lexicon of words for all those other days we remember ‘terrible’, tragic, appalling, disastrous . . . but what word will we use for something which is Terrifyingly, Shockingly, Old World denying and New Creation Announcing Good?
Perhaps this is why we heard Jesus say on his way to the cross on Good Friday, “they will begin to say to the mountains, “Fall on us”; and to the hills, “Cover us.”’ So accustomed to the dark we are, that we cannot begin to cope with the Light – it is Too Good to be True . . . by our evaluation of what is True
JRR Tolkien, a man given to the world of myth and fairy tale gave much thought to this – to the end that he had to coin a new word for Something which is Shockingly Good – he called it ‘Eucatastophe’. Literally The Good Catastrophe . . . which I think sums up the Resurrection of The Crucified One – it is Catastrophic – it challenges and dismantles everything – nothing of our old way of looking at the world is left – and it is GOOD!
On Friday we considered how easy it was to be ‘Hosanna!’ ‘ Alleluia’ Christians . . . people who avoided the Cross of Jesus . . . but the Shock of Resurrection is visited on those who have seen Jesus die . . . humanly speaking all hope is extinguished at the cross – this is The End of the Old story . . . the story we are so accustomed to . . . only in following Jesus into the darkness – Seeing and understanding god’s judgement on our old tired and weary ways, of constantly trying to save ourselves, of constantly trying ourselves to build what we call the kingdom of God – Only when we see this in the dust are we finally in the place where The New Creation can WAKEN us from the sleep of death . . .
As we sleep something stirs within every human breast . . . as we look out on a tired and weary world, a voice within us, is it our voice, this voice says ‘things are not meant to be like this . . .’ deep within ourselves every human being . . . it is that voice that impels so many as it were to ‘try and build a better world . . . the voice ‘things are not meant to be like this . . .’ but it is like a form of sleep paralysis. I used to get this from time to time, I would imagine myself awake and need to get out of bed so in my sleep I’d get out of bed, only to find myself in bed and try again and again and again . . . but I was asleep – i was only when the Light of the Sun blazed through the window I experienced the shock of waking . . .
‘it is not meant to be like this . . .’ As Tolkien says, the eucatastrophe of the Resurrection tells us that THIS is how things really work in The Great World for which we are made . . .
We are made for something different – completely Different – The New Creation . . .
And this is the great challenge of the Resurrection of Jesus
As we spent time at the Cross on Friday we realised that the words of Thomas were to be our words ‘Let us go with him, that we might die to him . . .’ Good Friday is the Great End of human history . . . the only way forward is to the New Creation, god History, The Life of the One who is alive for Ever. Who by his death had trampled down death . . .
We only finally walk in Easter light when we embrace good Friday Death – that is the way to Life which is Terrifyingly, Shockingly, tired Old World denying and New Creation Announcing Good. If we are his people, His resurrection is Ours . . . whoever lives and believes in me, will never die . . .
The World shattering Joy of Easter is for those who have known the Death of the World on Good Friday – By his death he has trampled down death!
Too GOOD to be True?
Christ is Risen – will we allow this Story to shape our entire being . . . that we might be Raised with Him?