Homily for Easter 2009
One day while travelling to Brisbane on the train I overheard a fellow traveller talking to her husband. She was expressing her disgust about the graffiti which proliferated on walls and buildings everywhere along the way. Graffiti like that seems to be a worldwide phenomenon. I am no sociologist but I wonder what it is saying both about the people who write it and our society. Looking at all those colourful identity tags on the walls I wonder if they making a statement that "This is who am I!" Or perhaps, "Who am I?" Or maybe, "Where do I belong?" We often do speak of a lost generation. A generation for whom society has not been able to pass on its culture or its wealth.
Over the past week I have been claiming that Holy Week celebrates the story which is the cornerstone which shapes and gives direction to our lives. The story of Jesus' passion, death and resurrection. It is a story we are given. We did not invent it. By faith we have made it our own story. Having rejected the Christian story, much of our world looks everywhere for something to replace it. I don't think our society has found it yet. People do attach themselves to one ideal or lifestyle but they seem to be more for themselves as individuals. There does not seem to be a common story to share with future generations as a guiding principle for life.
Christianity, along with Judaism and Islam, is often criticised precisely because it is a revealed religion. That is, our religion is not just something we human beings made up but is a consequence of God being revealed to us through various means. It may be through a prophet or a holy person but for us above all through Jesus Christ. This criticism says that people of faith descend into the irrational. We put a blind faith in what someone tells us is true. On the other hand, it is said, science discovers things that are true by investigating what we can see and touch and measure. This, it is said, is the only valid way to true knowledge.
I am not a scientist either. But quite apart from the fact that even science does not invent truth, it discovers what is already there and describes it. The laws of nature are a given as well. They are there to be revealed by research. And we are told also that in the realm of quantum physics even the act of observing something changes it. Facts of nature are very hard to pin down. This is not to play down the importance of science but simply to say that when it comes to ourselves and the universe we have to be careful when we claim we have the truth. There are different kinds of truth.
Some of the most important things in life cannot be proved, such as when someone says to us, "I love you". We can only take it on trust. It is a given. We can only accept it or reject it. For someone to say they love us is of immense importance to both parties. It is a revelation. It can be one of those turning points in one's life. It can be truth of a high order. How we respond can change everything.
Our texts of the bible, our doctrines set out in catechisms, are of themselves not revelation. They are the record of revelation and try to describe and safeguard what God reveals to us. The revelation at the core of Christianity is what the disciples experienced in meeting the risen Christ on that first Easter. It was not the empty tomb itself. There have been plenty of empty tombs around. That does not prove anything particularly. However, afterwards the empty tomb confirmed the disciples that they could trust that their experience of the risen Lord was real. Because the Gospels were written after the event. That experience, as recorded in the Gospels, happened on the first day of the week, when the disciples were gathered together in the upper room in fear and apprehension. In that sense that first Easter Sunday is no different from this Easter Sunday. It is here in this space as we assemble together in prayer for the breaking of bread that we to can experience the risen Jesus as Lord just as they did.
Yet we must still go and look into that tomb because there is buried our sin and mortality. It is only after we have looked our sinfulness and our mortality, our weakness and failures in the eye that we can then experience what resurrection means for us. The best evidence of the resurrection of Jesus and ourselves, as I see it, is to meet people who have looked into the tombs of their lives with all the fears that are there and are still people of courage and hope. People whose lives radiate love for others especially those who are in need. It is with that faith that we are able to gather around the Easter candle and say "Jesus is risen, Alleluia!" He has risen but not disappeared. He is in our midst. We are the Body of Christ, his presence in the world. That is our story for we are Easter people. That is who we are. It is a story we want to hand on to our children.