Homily for 2nd Sunday of Easter 2007
Recently, while watching an old western movie, I realised that not so very long ago the world was a fairly silent place! Think about a world without the noise of any transport except one's feet or a horse. Think of a world without TV and Radio, CD, DVDs etc. and a shop without background music. The only noise the sounds of nature. Or in a home, squabbling children, conversation or the crackling of a fireplace or maybe a someone playing a piano. Our world today is a very noisy place. I wonder how that change has had its effect on us human beings. Many would not easily be able to return to such a quieter world.
Today, every world crisis becomes a personal crisis as we have contact across the world. Even the noise of a bomb exploding in Baghdad is heard in our homes.
To the island of Patmos lying some 55 km off the SW coast of Asia Minor the apostle John was banished from Ephesus, evidently for some months about the year ad 95, and here he wrote his book of Revelation (Rev. 1:9).
In Greek the word for revelation is "apocalypse". An "apocalyptic seer" is one who claims to have been let into the secrets of the heaven by means of visions or by hearing, or by a kind of virtual tour of heaven. The language John uses in his apocalypse would have been readily understood by his hearers. The images and symbolism were part and parcel of their culture. Its obscurity for us means it is open to all kinds of interpretations. Yet this kind of writing in John's day was used to address crisis situations. His message was meant to be heard very clearly. He did not use all the images and symbols to confuse people.
John is offering first of all a criticism of the dominant Roman society whose values are at odds with the Christian way. That society was persecuting the Christian movement. He writes to seven churches in what is now western Turkey not far from Patmos. He offers them warnings and encouragement. The seven churches are represented by the seven lamp stands. The lamp stand is a liturgical symbol. These are Christian churches who gather for worship. And in the midst of the lamp stand is one like the Son of Man, Christ. And that is, to put it simply, the message of the whole book. Christ is with his disciples. He is in their midst no matter how deep the crisis. It is the message also of the Gospel today as well (John20:19-31). A crisis of faith amongst the disciples, hidden away in fear, is relieved by the risen Lord in their midst. He says to them "Peace be with you." This is not much different to his remark to John in the Apocalypse, "Do not be afraid."
We, like the Christians in John's day as he looked on from Patmos, have to live with all our frailty, in a largely unsympathetic and sometimes hostile world to the Christian way. We like they have our doubts and fears. We like they, have to hear John's warning in his Gospel (16:33), " in the world you face persecution." But despite every appearance to the contrary, cling to the hope, "But take courage; I have conquered the world!"
Easter does not just celebrate the belief that Jesus rose from the dead, the doctrine of the resurrection. The good news for us is that we share in that resurrection even now. That begins in Baptism. It continues because we can be forgiven by God. We are offered a new beginning when we fail. The Eucharist is a pledge now and into the future of Jesus' abiding present in our lives and so the hope of our own resurrection.
That once again is the story of Easter, the victory over sin and death that Christ won for us.