I`ve heard it said that the one thing you don`t hear people say on their death bed is: “I wish I`d spent more time at the Office”. Of course, more often than not it`s quite the opposite. A great many folk look at the busy-ness of life and wonder why they haven`t had the gumption to make time for what we might call `the important things in life…` which usually means family and friends.
And so often it takes the onset of something like a terminal illness for the penny to drop… and sadly it`s only then that some of us come to appreciate that beneath all our striving and goal setting a different and healthier rhythm really needs to be found. But in a very real sense we`re addicted aren’t we? This is why C.S. Lewis once famously said that, “Suffering is God`s Megaphone”… it takes something this dramatic to get through to us.
What bothers me though, is that far from challenging our hectic and let`s be honest, often superficial way of living… the way of faith seems to have been co-opted into supporting or endorsing it. Before we were called Christians we were called “Followers of the Way”… From the outset there was a very clear sense that following being a Christian involved living a life shaped in a very different way. But to look at much of the western Church these days you would think we had become the purveyors of `religious good and services`. It`s almost as if, whatever lifestyle choice you make…. we`ll find a way of endorsing it somehow…. Besides we wouldn`t want to make ourselves unpopular now would we?
After all, the common cry is for the Church to be what`s called “Relevant”. And what`s meant by that is that the faith should be shaped so as to endorse and uphold whatever world view I choose… and whatever lifestyle I wish. So what we end up with is a religion that`s all about `the meeting of needs`…. Religious consumerism. It`s about “when I feel the need” and so on…… So we re-shape the faith in our own image. It`s here to serve us…. And I particular those who can`t cope… We treat the symptoms of that overly busy life…. We offer a bit of calm… reflection and all the rest… before sending them on their way ….back to the same old routine. And to some extent that`s how folk want it to be…. And after all we don`t really believe there can be an alternative can there?
No, we`re here to help them keep their plates spinning. I mean woe betide us if we dare to address the disease. But I would like to suggest that actually it is not our business to be relevant at all. It`s not our task to help people keep their plates spinning. On the contrary, it is our task to tell people they`re not only spinning too many plates… they`re probably spinning the wrong plates anyway. We`re here to say that that the good news is that there is a better way…. And I think is that which frightened those women on that first Easter morning.
You see our Gospel reading ended with those quite startling words: “They went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid”. (Mark 16) These three women had gone to Jesus`s tomb (as we might put it) to pay their respects… to anoint his body. The reading tells us that this wouldn`t be an easy matter because of the huge stone…. And we could easily assume that of course they were startled and afraid on finding things so …empty. This kind of thing doesn`t happen every day! But I want to suggest that the reason they were afraid is that the penny had dropped. The reason they were afraid is that they suddenly realised that everything Jesus had been saying was true.
You see the Christian understanding of Resurrection is far more than an event that gives us a cosy thought that there might be life after death. Resurrection is a vindication of Jesus and all that he is. It`s the point at which we see God`s new order; his way of being a world breaking in. Because of the Resurrection we see that the all the rules for being a world have changed… and one of the most important of them, is realising that life is not about getting God to fit in with us…. It`s about our life being re-shaped to fit in with him.
Christ is not going to be relevant to our life… he wants to give us a new one. No longer your life; based on your choices with perhaps a bit of religion tacked on for re-assurance or should we say `fire insurance`(!) And what does that life look like…… Well it`s shaped like a cross… Jesus told us: “Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. (Luke 9.24)
This is the shape of life Jesus lived and was vindicated… now it`s our turn. Resurrection means that things have changed so radically that you hear someone like St. Paul saying to a group of Christians….. “You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God”. (Colossians 3.3) So no wonder the women were afraid…. Filled with awe… and so should we be.
To say, “Yes” to the Risen Christ is to drop your agendas, assumptions, priorities and choices. It means to quit using God…. or trying to get him to fit in with you….and to start again…… Under new management. In religious language we say “Repent”. As we say in the Baptism service, “To follow Christ means dying to sin and rising to new life with him”.
Resurrection is not merely nice thoughts about what happens after we`ve died… The Resurrection faith begins in fear and trembling at the door of an empty tomb…. Aware that all the rules; all the landmarks have changed. And you`re told to `go`….. and you take a step into a new and different world… It`s what Jesus called the Kingdom of God.
Alleluia. Christ is Risen!