Sunday 24 April 2011

Easter 2011 (Lent 5,Lent 6 2011)

ewe and lambs at the end of our garden

Rainbow Bridge Festival Northampton
I have got side tracked from Lent by politics and life so here goes some retrospective thoughts. Lent 5 this year is the story of the raising of Lazarus.  Each story in Johns gospel is designed to illustrate an “I am” statement. I am the door, I am the true vine, the bread, the water, the light. The raising of Lazarus is illustrating “I am the resurrection and the life”, heard mostly at funerals as the coffin is brought in."Lazarus" is the Greek form of the Hebrew "Eleazar" - "God helps."The point of the story is that there is life beyond death.The raising of Lazarus by Jesus also predicts and precedes Jesus own resurrection.  The Jews did not mummify their dead, which was lucky for Lazarus, because in mummification they throw away some of the less vital organs like the brains! Lazarus has really died. Jesus called  out loudly. "come out" Lazarus stumbles out of the grave in his grave cloths (strips of sheets) and with a towel wrapped around his head. Jesus upsets the uneasy peace with the Romans. Caiaphas the high priest was preparing to kill Jesus to prevent political upset. As then so today people will kill to maintain the status quo. 

Lent 6 was Palm Sunday. Have you ever felt jealous of someone who was more popular than you? Felt jealous of someone because they are just too nice? This story is about that but it has even nastier undertones.The context of the ride into Jerusalem from Johns gospel, is the healing and raising from the dead of Lazarus and the story of the cleansing of the temple. Why else would the people suddenly recognize who Jesus was? Mary the sister of Lazarus recognized this when she took the perfume and poured it over Jesus "for the day of his burial"(John 12v7). The plot has thickened, the chief priests are planning to kill Jesus and Lazarus because of this raising from the dead. Then for a moment the mood was different. 
Jesus has stirred up such feelings in people that either they love and worship him or are threatened by him, because he is too powerful, too popular. Time and time again the gospels tell us that Jesus knew the people and the implication is that he knew they were not sincere. It is the knowledge of a mature person. "You see you can do nothing,  the whole world has gone after him" said the Pharisees.  Oh what jealousy, what envy, feelings enough to kill, "if looks could kill".......
And so we have before us a story of love and hate. A story of duplicity.
But hang on a moment dont we have these thoughts too. Aren’t there people we hate, or envy because they show us up and they’re more popular than us. Do we sometimes hurt them, consciously or unconsciously? 

This morning I heard a different take on Easter-its about change. We have all changed since last Easter, the world has changed, our lives have changed. We live in a situation of flux and Easter represents a massive shift in the worlds history whatever you think and believe about the death of Jesus (which happened historically-its just the disappearing body people disagree over!) I like this. We are all centres of change and can initiate good change and bad-and indifferent. We make a difference. We can make more of a difference (rain drops idea). For me though Easter is not only about a changing paradigm but death. As in the raising of Lazarus it indicates death is not the end. We care about dying but Im not sure how many people care about afterlife anymore. We have become very terriocentric (life on earth)! Unlike the desert fathers and mothers we tend not to see death as part of our soul journey but as an end. But we dont know despite our arogance actually what happens when we die  and maybe other civilisations have much to teach us about a healthy respect towards dying and after lives!



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