|Pen and Ink Reflections||
Easter Day sermons are hard to compose. How on earth do we speak of something as extraordinarily mysterious, and utterly transformative, as the Resurrection?! Part of me, and not just the liturgical Anglican, also wonders whether an Easter Day sermon is necessary at all – and maybe you feel the same, or will do after my particular words today?! After all, the Easter stories and symbolism are so rich, with so much food for thought and our spirits, as well as embodied proclamation of good news and the living Word of God. I can also only really remember two Easter Day sermons, and even their details are somewhat hazy. One I preached myself, in particularly lively circumstances: and that might be the starter for an Easter Reflection on another occasion. The other was on the first chapters of the book of Genesis and biblical critics’ theories of the Pentateuch. So that sermon was seemingly not even about Easter at all. Or was it?...
How do we want our stories to end? Whether it is our own story, or that of our community, our nation, our world, much is up to us. Now, we may not have much room for manoeuvre. All kinds of forces help shape our lives, internal and unconscious, as well as external and recognised. Yet we still have power to shape our stories, even if only by our attitudes, and by how we receive and respond to what happens to us. This truth is at the very heart of the Gospel and the power of love, forgiveness, and justice seeking. For, however you view the Resurrection stories, a common feature is their open, unfinished nature. The tomb is not sealed. The body is not there or is transformed. The end is a new beginning. So how do we want the story to continue?...
“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb”
I want to teach any children here today a special and perhaps unfamiliar word – the word is ‘liminal’.
Any ideas what it means?...
I checked the dictionary, and it means, “occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold”. Let me show you what that means. If you come forward here and put one foot on the step of the platform here at the front, and keep one foot on the floor, then you are standing on the threshold – right on the boundary – not on the platform, and not still on the floor either. You are in the liminal place...
a shared reflection and invitation by Josephine Inkpin (J) & Penny Jones (P)...
(P) We‘ve just heard two different accounts of Jesus’ resurrection, haven’t we?! (Mark 16.1-8 and John 20.1-18) So what we do make of that – and all the other resurrection accounts which cannot be simply conflated? More importantly, what does Resurrection mean to us – to you, to me, to all of us together? That is not a question which can be answered in a few minutes of Reflection. Jo and I have therefore decided to open up a dialogue, which we hope will encourage us all to share in the days ahead. For one thing which is absolutely clear about Jesus’ resurrection of is that it is related through a multiplicity of stories and symbols. These come from different people and biblical outlooks and they thereby also invite us to share our own experiences and insights into Resurrection. For Resurrection is an extraordinary reality we celebrate today. Yet it is not a simple ‘fact’, is it Jo? Isn’t it rather an invitation to see, and travel into, deeper experience, deeper love, and deeper mystery?…
Have you ever felt silenced, not being heard, when you have shared your story and your truth? Have you ever been suppressed in some aspect of yourself, your love and understanding? Have you ever been stigmatised, misinterpreted, or presented as something you are not? If so, or if anyone you know has ever suffered any of these things, then this day – this feast of Mary Magdalene - is for you. This is your day, our day, everyone’s day: for every silenced, suppressed and stigmatised person who lives, or has ever lived. For though herself silenced, suppressed and stigmatised, throughout Christian history Mary Magdalene has always remained the foremost witness to the Resurrection, the ‘apostle to the apostles’, the first bearer of that astonishing hope which, through Christ, transforms all the silencing, the suppression, and the stigma of our world. In so far as we can identify with Mary Magdalene, we too are set free from our demons, and from our fear. We too can find our voices, step out of our tombs, and live the truth of God’s image, call and naming of us. So, rejoice my gorgeous siblings! This day – this Mary Magdalene Day - is such good news for all of us and all of God’s wider, wondrous, Creation…
In the northern hemisphere our season of Easter corresponds with spring time and the returning to life of plants and flowers from the deadness of winter. There is a natural resonance between the message of resurrection and the blossoming of the natural world.Here in the Southern Hemisphere of course things are a little different, as we enter autumn and with the shortening of the days prepare to welcome winter. For us this is a time of fruitfulness, of gratitude for all that the earth has given through the spring and summer, and of letting go. At this season the trees are letting go of their seed pods, so that what we have is not so much new life as the potential for new life. When we look at the little sunflower seeds we are been given this afternoon, it is not immediately obvious that they are even related to the magnificent sunflowers we see in the vase here.
When Mary encountered the risen Jesus in the garden, she did not recognise him. He looked so different from the Jesus she knew, that she thought he was the gardener. Only his voice remained recognisable to her. He had been utterly transformed. We too are being transformed, hour by hour and moment by moment. Different aspects of ourselves are in a constant process of change and transition. We know that biologically speaking every cell of our body changes every seven years. We are not the same people we were seven years ago. Spiritually speaking we are changing and evolving too - readying ourselves at some level for the greater transformation that death and resurrection will bring. Pastor Steve Garnaas Holmes expresses it this way.....
The seed of you,
released in life's gracious sowing,
descends in darkest soil,
where the fingers of God,
earthy and rank,
smelling of root and rot,
work open your shell,
pry loose your outer being
and let you spill into earth,
blood outflowing its veins.
Hands of darkness hold you
still, deathly still,
longer than you want,
close and unknowing,
until you are earth.
The grave that enwraps you
knows it is purely in the hands
of the One who changes everything
who has the only power.
In time the original light,
set free, swells in you,
and who you are,
who God is in you,
drains upward into light,
and a green blade appears,
reflection given by Penny Jones at the first Sanctus gathering, 29 April 2017
We don't often think of Jesus as having a home do we? We usually emphasise that he was a wandering preacher, who had 'nowhere to lay his head'. Yet for the first thirty or so years of his life he probably lived quietly in Nazareth, probably in one house. And here we are told that he actively chose some obscurity following the execution of John the Baptist, and made his home at Capernaum.
I don't know about you but I find it comforting that Jesus knew what it is to move house, to leave behind the comfortable and familiar, and to begin again in a new place, just as Jo and I have done this week, and just as some of you are doing in moving to a new spiritual home here at St. Francis College. It is not easy to do this, but it is absolutely necessary to the advancement of the kingdom of God. The Spirit calls us onward, and we never know where we may end up. Had you told me thirty odd years ago as I began my ministry in London that one day I would be part of a theological college and parish community in Brisbane I think I would have been astonished!...
by Jon Inkpin for Easter Sunday, 2015
I would like to ask three leading questions this morning.
The first question is: Does anyone here have a garden?...
What does it look like? What do you do with it?
Do you realise we have a special garden – called a Quiet Garden – at St Mark’s? You might like to check it out sometime…
Gardens are so often a delight, aren’t they? – not least in this ‘Garden City’ of Toowoomba.
My second leading question is: Have you ever done anything wrong, or had something done to you, which was wrong, and which maybe made you feel bad or ashamed?... All of us I suspect!
Have you ever felt afraid, or suspicious too? Have you ever felt betrayed, or been betrayed?
Again, all of us experience these things, don’t we?
This part of what Holy Week, and especially Good Friday, is all about, isn’t it? - facing up to our sin and shame, our fear, suspicion and betrayals. So what then is Easter about? – and what has it to do with a garden? The answer is: a whole heap of beans, running over and flowing everywhere! When we see that our whole life is transformed, just like Mary Magdalene in our Gospel reading today: which leads to my third, and the most important, leading question of all in a moment…