Easter: "Responding to Shock"

The Revd Robin Sims-Williams

“Then the disciples returned to their homes…" they returned to their homes and put on a cup of tea? switched on the telly? starred at the ceiling?

How do you react when you’re amazed? When you are shocked? 

A few years ago, we went to India for a couple of months in the summer. Travelling with a 20 month old Iris, we had talked to lots of friends and family who had been before. We had read blogs and guide books. We knew we would never be quite ready for the culture shock, but we felt pretty prepared before we left. When we landed at Bangalore airport and met the ride which the college we were visiting had arranged for us, we realised we were completely unprepared. As our bags and buggy were launched onto the roof of the small hatchback and the three of us squeezed into the back seats, I desperately searched for seat belts in the back seat while the driver swerved between trees and oncoming traffic. Meanwhile he was turning around to motion to us not to worry.

By the time we had checked into our room and sat down we were in complete shock - way more than we expected. In the first week we were there we took things very slowly - we would go out and do something each day, but needed to go back to our room and re-integrate our reality each day. As our time went on it was through our relationships with my fellow students and their families that we became integrated into the place we were living.

Jesus’ resurrection is the most significant, defining moments of the Christian story. The symbols of new-life - chicks bursting from eggs, little bunnies bounding about - are so common place to us now the average person probably doesn’t really understand why we use them. Crosses are now so synonymous with emergency help, healthcare, first-aid and hospitals, we need reminding of the terror of the cross in films like Mel Gibson’s The Passion of Christ, before we can understand the enormity of it’s rebranding.

It is the kind of terror that we saw this week in Brussels, or that the Syrian people have seen in the last decade of war, which the cross truly acknowledges. And yet, the cross has rightly become the sign of hope for a new order, for a new creation, one hinted at by some of the spontaneous responses of love and compassion in the streets of Brussels in the days since those suicide bombings.

Stories need re-telling and re-imagining. Meaning need to be repeated and revisited as we continue to develop an ever deeper understanding, both publicly and individually. Why else has the last decade seen so many film franchise’ restarted or rebooted. From Star Wars to Star Trek, Superman to Doctor Who, The Pink Panther to Bond. It’s not just about studios cashing in on good stories that are worth retelling. Going back and polishing up these old characters with new technology, updating them for developments in social values and style is worth doing because it enables us to revisit the heroes and values which made us what we are and shape who we will become.

Whatever your politics, whatever your judgements on his motives, Ian Duncan Smith’s reminder to his own government about the need for any government to keep in mind those who are least able to speak up for themselves, regardless of whether they are likely to vote for you, is another example of the importance of repeating our values when we’ve gone astray. But without the respect of his party, would anything he said have had any impact - it is the relationship which is at the core to the story.

The Good News of Jesus’ Resurrection is timeless, it is literally outside time. Both tangible and mysterious, material and spiritual. The disciples, unsure what they’ve seen, go home. Mary, in shock and dismay, sits weeping in the garden, unable to see what is in front of her.

But the resurrection is a story of hope. Like Superman and Doctor Who, this character, both Alien and familiar, Divine and human reminds us to have hope for what we can become. The implications of the resurrection weren’t understood overnight. The implications of the resurrection aren’t fully understood now. We are, like the disciples, still trying to understand what the resurrection means for each of us.

The resurrected Christ, is living and eternal, never becoming ‘out of date’ even if the religion which worships him can seem to be slow to stay current. It is that we are constantly finding new depths to the Christian story as it becomes part of our lives, rather than that we are introducing new values to it. Gender equality, LBGTI rights, care for God’s creation, care for the oppressed and the imprisoned were all there before we understood that they were. We need to continue to struggle with the true meaning of the resurrection we celebrate here today, and learn to recognise it when it comes into view.

The success of the film franchise reboot is always dependent on the relationship of the loved characters to the audience. If the next Bond, rumoured to be Tom Hiddleston, isn’t the character we know and love, with his charm and wit and ability to convince us that he is the good guy no matter what he does.

It’s the person of Jesus that Mary eventually recognises. It’s his character, his concern for her, his passionate love for us all that we can recognise the resurrection for what it is. It’s not always easy to see the Resurrected Jesus. It is in the Christ that we find in each one of us this day that we can begin to see the possibility that the resurrection to eternal life offers.