He is risen.
At this point there is confusion. Where is His body?
The gospel of St. John 20.1-18 tells us the story, and we imagine it almost in real time. A frazzled and faithful Mary Magdalene running to exclaim that the Lord’s body has been taken. Mary just wants the body back. Anyone who has suffered loss knows the desperate feeling of wanting to be close to what you have left of that person, their body, their shell, and to be able to treat them honourably, to ‘do them proud’, to lay them to rest.
Of course this is no ordinary body, in fact there isn’t a body at all. The tomb is empty bar the linen wrappings.
Mary couldn’t leave the tomb without finding the body of the Lord. She desperately wanted Him. The determination, resilience and loyalty of a woman grieving cannot be underestimated.
Jesus revealed Himself to Mary, yet she couldn’t see the ‘wood for the trees’. I think this happens all the time. WE can’t see Him because we don’t expect Him to be there. Through our grief and our pains and our expectations, we cannot see. Jesus calls her by name, and she knows Him.
This Holy Week has been one full of sadness for the world. The fire in Notre Dame raised debates for me as a Christian and a socialist. A quote from the social media account ‘A Southern Pastor’ is here:
It is no wonder that Christianity has become a ‘toxic brand’ (Paul Bayes, 2019, p.127) when people cannot see our humanity. When billionaires can raise the entire funds needed to rebuild a cathedral in a day, whereas the victim-survivors of Grenfell and still waiting to be re-housed.
Some theologians have defended the ‘generous’ donations by drawing from John 12.1-8 and the story of Jesus being anointed by Mary with a perfume worth a staggering £15,000 in today’s currency (2019). The story shows the reckless abandon of her love in abundance. Mary sees the world differently through the lens of Jesus.
Whilst I like the example of being risky, reckless and having extreme love in abundance, I would much rather that we didn’t have billionaires hoarding the world’s wealth, and that secondly that risky reckless acts of love and generosity could go towards the poor / the excluded. To do so would be to call out the disgusting levels of wealth disparity in the world, and to call for a radical social justice.
When I heard of the billionaires flooding in with donations I wasn’t impressed. I instantly thought of Mark 12:41-44 and the widow’s offering. I also thought of Mark 10: 17-31.
“Jesus looked round at his disciples and said to them, ‘How hard it will be for rich people to enter the Kingdom of God!’. The disciples were shocked at these words, but Jesus went on to say, “My children, how hard it is to enter the Kingdom of God! It is much harder for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle’. (Mark 10:23-25).
I am not one for using the bible as a pick-and-mix of put downs and rules, it is written in its beautifully rich and textured way. But we can’t pretend Christianity is comfortable. We can’t pretend it isn’t political.
The Muslim scholar Qasim Rashid puts it simply here. The hoarding of wealth is revolting.
On the same night that Notre Dame burned, Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem had a small fire. However we know from history, that if the fire had been larger and more damaging, the Western world would not have cared.
On Maundy Thursday the Pentecostal Holiness Church in South Africa collapsed . At least 13 people are dead included a child.
Today on Easter Sunday at least 207 people have been killed in terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka, where churches and hotels were targeted.
And of course on Thursday the talented and brave Northern Irish journalist Lyra McKee was killed . McKee was a journalist known for being ‘committed to the truth’. McKee was a hero to the LGBT community and an ally to the sex worker community. She believed passionately in tolerance. You can watch Lyra’s Ted talk here.
It has been a traumatic Holy Week, one which has demonstrated how desperate the world is for tolerance and for a radical love. A world that has been corrupted by the evils of power and money, and a world where some people and causes appear to matter more than others.
In Holy Week we are meant to remember that death gives resurrection its meaning. And that darkness will always give way to light. In these dark and desolate days it can be hard to cling on to that.
As we sit with others in their pain, and as we think and pray for those around the world, we can be the light by promoting tolerance and an outpouring of radical and reckless love. The fifty days of Easter start today and I am praying for a radical transformation of myself and the world.
At an Easter Vigil last night we sang a song that I hadn’t sung for many years. It reminded me of primary school. ‘Kum Ba Yah’.
We also sang ‘Make Me a Channel of Your Peace’:
“When there’s despair in life, let me bring hope,
Where there is darkness, only light,
And where there’s sadness, ever joy”.
My personal prayer for the next 50 days of Easter is that I might be a comfort to others, and they a comfort to me.