Monday, 1 April 2013

Mary Magdalene & The gardener

At the good Friday service I mused why it was that we all can identify so much more easily with the cross than with the resurrection – and in truth it isn’t hard to see why.
We are all acquainted with grief, suffering and death. It is a part and parcel of life. When Jesus uttered those words from the cross “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” we can relate to that instantly. We so often can feel forsaken, forgotten, unloved. For some of us, especially if they are used to constant pain I’m sure it can feel as if we are permanently nailed to a cross.
So what is the resurrection? Well i could just talk about the promise of life beyond death.  I am not saying that is wrong. On the contrary I believe it to be true that our lives are drawn against an infinite horizon. I don’t believe we come from nothing and go to nothing. I believe we come from something and go on to something else.
But how does that fact work for us and change anything for us in our lives now which so often  have their fair share of tragedies.
Because I think it is true to say that the resurrection for most of us is either just a historical event that happened to Jesus 2000 years  ago or else it is a future event that might be waiting for us when we die. Either way it’s power to change the present is very limited.
When John talks of eternal life he means neither of those options – he means eternal life as a transforming quality of life that we can enjoy in the present. That quality of life feeds off the resurrection and uses it as fuel for the transforming of our perspectives and expectations.  
True resurrection, if it is to have any power at all to transform our lives has to be experienced in the blood and guts of everyday life.
Mary Magdalene meeting Jesus after he had died, yet in a form that she didn’t immediately recognise, I believe is a metaphor for meeting the Spirit of God in and through the stuff of ordinary life. I happen to like the thought which actually only came to me yesterday, that actually Mary didn’t recognise Jesus at first – thinking it was the gardener for a very good reason. It was the gardener that Mary met – but Jesus spoke through him. She recognised the Spirit of God working through the ordinary.
That shouldn’t be so surprising to a Christian. We ask every Sunday that we recognise God in a piece of bread and a sip of wine, in a handshake, in a community. It is a commonplace of Christian theology that we, the people in this church are the body of Christ. Look at the people around you – on your left and on your right, in front and behind you.
What do you see? A bunch of disparate individuals who happen to be sitting in the same building at the same time? Or do you see people made in the image and likeness of God? Do you recognise Christ’s body and hear his voice through them as Mary saw and heard Jesus through the gardener?
Brother sister  let me serve you, let me be as Christ to you – is radical Christianity that dares to believe what is hinted at in the Bible that the divine is living and active in the world now and God can come to you through any one of us.
One of the sadnesses of life is that most of us go through life without being truly blessed. Blessing, to speak well of, is fundamental to human well being. To be loved, praised, appreciated in a non-exploitative way. To be told you are loved, appreciated, and praised for being a wonderful human being just as you are by another human being is a blessing. We all need to be blessed. But to be unblessed is the normal lot of most of us.
For resurrection to be felt, to be experienced in the here and now we need the blessing of others. We need to hear the words that Jesus heard at his baptism “You are my child, the beloved, with you I am well pleased”. And we hear and experience those words through other people.
You can be the voice of God for others today – you can be a blessing for someone else – you can help unlock the potential of the resurrection in someone’s life. At the peace we say “Peace be with you”. Through repetition we can become inured to it – but don’t take it lightly. When we come to the peace – actually look at the person you are talking to – and mean it.
You can do God’s work today.
You can do God’s work any day.

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