One of the little treasures which I have on my shelf at home is this card. It was given to me almost thirty years ago now. It both makes me laugh and helps me get up in a morning. It`s a cartoon picture of Good Friday.
There`s an empty cross on a hillside. Jesus has just died and been taken down … It`s pouring with rain…. there are nails and a hammer lying on the ground and three disconsolate women are walking away. But someone has pinned a note to the cross which reads: “To be continued…”
As I say, it brings a smile to my face but it also has a certain poignancy which makes yesterday -the day between Good Friday and today- a day for being thoughtful and hopeful. To live with this sense of “To be continued…..”
Now, this mood was reinforced for me yesterday by an amusing text message I received from my daughter. Knowing what kind of week I will have been having, and that yesterday was a `pause for breath` so to speak…. she jokingly and kindly said, “Happy Intermission Day”.
Remembering the Card I`ve just told you about… I texted back, “Yes, Normal service will be resumed!” And then, after a while with a typically wry sense of humour she wrote, “It`s just like they turned Jesus off and on again- just like a computer!” I apologised for getting heavy but replied, “Yes, but it`s the world that gets `re-set`”. And I think, this is the point I want us to ponder this morning.
Many of us will know how strange it is that a computer can sometimes `freeze` on you; and how the standard remedy is to switch it on and off again…. Press it`s re-set button. Frankly a good many of us live lives in which we wish there were some possibility of re-setting things… And what I`m saying is that this might be one way of getting a hold on what it is we actually celebrate this morning.
With great humour, St. Matthew tells us that the resurrection of Jesus came with a great earthquake… and describes an angel who rolls away the stone “and sat on it”. I like that. (Matthew 28.1-10)
Basically he`s saying that the resurrection of Jesus is an event of seismic proportions…. It`s an `earthquake` of an event. In fact it`s the pivotal moment in all history… Things have never been quite the same since…
In other words, the staggering claim that we make today is that a world that was dysfunctional, lost in repetitive cycles of death and destruction; and clogged up with bad memories has been re-set … Resurrection is yes, the fact that Jesus who died is alive again. Yes, that there is hope of life beyond this… but more fundamentally Resurrection is `a whole new world…`
Jesus called it the Kingdom of God; the new regime which Christ had announced is in fact breaking in with unstoppable force… like a seed growing in secret… and continuing to well up in the lives of countless men and women who are learning to breathe a totally different atmosphere…. where all the rules for being human and for being a world have changed.
Some years ago, I was playing a game of snakes and ladders with some children. Because I`m like that I said. “What do you think it would be like if we went up the snakes as well as the ladders?”
It was another of those silly conversations… in which it was clear that this didn`t seem right…. It was disorientating… I mean, we become so used to there being `penalty clauses`. There has to be a down-side; there has to be a catch…. Doesn`t there?
But what if the rules have changed? What if (because of the resurrection) the air that we breathe is actually rather different. What if the underlying truth of all things is actually `kindness` and what we call `grace`?
What if forgiveness and service and compassion and self-giving love (everything which we see in Christ) are actually our natural environment; the things we are actually wired for….. . and made for?
What if this old, defective way of life we have become so used to (what we call `sin`- this old order of sin and death) has been swept away… and the re-set button has been pressed?
What if, like the Father in the story of the prodigal son, our God has come out to greet us; to restore us to our place as his children? What if our record of `missing the mark` has been swept clean?
What if we don`t need to be anxious or afraid anymore? What if, instead of grasping at life we can receive it as his gift?
Yes, like climbing up the snakes it seems confusing… out of place… There must, we think, be some kind of catch? Well, no, there`s no catch. This is the heart of what we celebrate today. All the rules have changed….
I so often think (as Richard Rohr says) that what we call salvation is a matter of `when? When will you get with the plot? Live and breathe the air of the Kingdom? In the Resurrection of Christ, the re-set button has been pressed… St. Paul says: “If anyone is in Christ, there is new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (2 Corinthians 5.17)
Alleluia, Christ is Risen. He is risen indeed, Alleluia!