I touched on a thought today in my sermon, which for reasons logistical, meant that the touch remained light - so I am going to unpack my thought just a little more here. Also, a zeal-filled Priest ought to say something meaningful on his Blogette on Easter Day, just in case God is watching and thinks I have signed off early!
I am often mindful that we have a very specific perspective on events 'biblical' because we have the 20-20 vision of hindsight (which is, after all, an exact science). We trot through Lent, Holy Week, the Passion and the first stages of the Triduum as the preparation for Easter Day, and rightly so, for it is the focus of our Christian heart - but what about the hapless ordinary Joes - the Disciples. They hadn't got the New Testament to hand (and if they did, it would be the NRSV, of course). They didn't have the happy memories of 'last Easter' when fliching from the side of Golgotha, and frankly, they had no inkling that this was all going go anywhere else than right down the toilet. Jesus, the man of snappy parables and handy one-liners was quite dead. Now, without a New Testament to hand, how does a mere mortal contemplate this as anything other that catastrophic failure? I am guessing that they missed their boats (was Zebedee still sitting on that boat, I wonder) - thinking that perhaps this had all been something of a fools errand. I am sure I would have. I am sure that had I been former fisherman Cloake of Galilee 90210, I'd be just a tad dis-chuffed by all of this.
So, what were they to think when the Aramatheian Cave was discovered to be devoid of its post-crucified inhabitant. That would probably add to my dis-chuffment, as I would also have been denied the chance to bid a final goodbye (and to say sorry for being human and a mite inadequate these last few days). Thankfully we have the rather marvellous Mary of Magdala who 'gets it' - but what a leap of faith!
I extrapolated this to church life - and painted a church that, in the Resurrection, was without role and rota. Imagine a church where all the job roles have vanished and all the rotas somehow 'defragged'! I asked the good folks to imagine how church life would be on Easter morning in such a circumstance; would they peer into a darkened church, enter, take their usual seats and just wait until ... well, nothing happened. Would there have a been a church full of people all looking at one another thinking, 'what happened to the choir', and 'where's Father this morning?'. That is the world the Disciples were thrown into - a life without order. Does the congregation worship God, or do they go home assuming that the service was cancelled and that they missed the notice last week? Do they work it out for themselves, or do they curse the bones of the ones who normally 'do', and who appear to have vanished?
In broad terms, John's Gospel paints a world that until that moment was without Resurrection (barring Lazarus, but I am fairly confident that a typical pattern of human 'surely not', and 'perhaps I misunderstood - no one comes back from being dead for four days' had balanced that fact out in the minds of the Disciples). With my NRSV in my hand, I can' fully grasp the Resurrection - so how the heck were Mary and her mates going to fathom it?