Thursday, March 13, 2008

Easter is coming ...

Stop. Look. Listen. You're at the edge of the pavement, and it's a busy road. You need to stop. Look. Listen. It's a strange way to start talking about Easter, but I think there's a real sense that the Easter stories in the Bible, stories which the Church can so easily take for granted, are like a busy and dangerous road. So stop. Look. Listen. It's significant that the Gospels tell us that when the women encountered the empty tomb and the angel with the news of Jesus' resurrection, they fled in "terror and amazement" (Mark 16:8) ... terror, because they were genuinely terrified at this new experience, and with the sense of responsibility it gave them, but amazement, because they would now find themselves living in the world in a new way.
But more than that, these stories are dangerous in two other ways: 1) it can be especially dangerous to read these, if not any, Bible stories on your own - you might be likely to think that your interpretation of them is enough, and you are likely to be satisfied that you can possess the truth in your own life - whereas the Bible demands interpretation in community, which is partly the point of the resurrection stories themselves - the good news is to be "shared" with the whole discipleship community; it is not the possession of individuals, but something which comes alive and makes more sense through the testing and enriching process of conversation with fellow travellers ... which is why those who say they can be Christians on their own are a sign of our individualistic times, whereas the counter-cultural thing to do is to go to Bible study!
2) The Easter stories are dangerous, because they challenge our world - where Good Friday teaches the power of violence, Easter says that violence shall be overcome; where Good Friday teaches that goodness and hope can be crushed, Easter says hope strikes back! and where Good Friday teaches that any movement, any idea, any story, any interpretation can be entombed or pinned down or finalised, Easter insists that there is always new life: the story might not be quite as you had thought, the interpretation might be only half an answer, the thing which looked like a full stop might be exposed as a comma, because the story continues, new life strikes again!