|Pen and Ink Reflections||
Jesus wept. In English, that phrase is the shortest verse in the Bible, although - as ἐδάκρυσεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς - it is not the shortest in the original languages. Nonetheless, what expressive power it has. It is certainly appropriate to recent events. What with the AUKUS deal, with its expensive, and nuclear, submarines; Nazis on the streets of Melbourne; continuing anti-trans violence; right wing Christian attacks on our own community and others; and the latest IPCC report, as if earlier ones were not enough; Jesus wept indeed. This passage has also been on my heart for some time. Not least it came to mind when I saw a recent transport ad. ‘End Extreme Poverty’ it said and it brought me up with a shock. For wasn’t that the cry of other past campaigns in which some of us have shared, such as the Jubilee campaigns to end the debt of poorer countries, and the Make Poverty History campaigns of the ‘noughties’ (2000s) with their vaunted Millennium Goals? At that time, some of us may remember, there was an ecumenical campaign, led by a former colleague of mine, called the Micah Challenge. Meanwhile, working with the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ecumenical Commission, I recall being involved in our own Make Indigenous Poverty History campaign, with our own Millennium Goals, several of which have been part of the Closing the Gap initiatives since. As part of that, with an Aboriginal Christian leader, I co-wrote a little reflection on the Gospel story we heard this morning. Yet are we that further forward on many First Nations issues too? Well may we say Jesus wept. Where though is the pathway to life?
“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...
When you see an egg, do you see the risen Jesus? This is what Christians have done from the earliest times. There is an Armenian picture from the eleventh century that shows the angel and the women at the tomb with a huge egg inscribed with the words ‘He is not here. He is risen.’
So why an egg. Well firstly eggs are elliptical in shape – they are infinite, having no beginning or end, and so are symbolic for God. There is no end to God’s creativity, God’s love, God’s compassion.
Secondly an egg symbolizes the potential of new life. In some sense it is a microcosm, a miniature version of everything that is. It reminds us of the potential that each of us has for new life and a new beginning, today on Easter Day and every day.
Thirdly, for a chick to emerge from an egg, the shell must be broken. This symbolizes for Christians the rolling away of the stone from the front of the tomb, so that the risen Christ could emerge. It reminds us that for the new to come, the old has to be fractured and let go – an important message in these days, where so much of what is familiar to us has to be left behind.
Eggs tell us that God cannot be contained; that resurrection is possible and life is stronger than death. In recent memory Christians living under the severely repressive Albanian government, used to dye eggs red for the blood of Christ in the Orthodox fashion, and then take them out in the dark of Holy Saturday night and place them on the steps of town halls and places of government. By doing so they asserted the power of love over hate.
So, what do you see when you see an egg? Take a little time today to contemplate an egg and ask God to help you see there the reality of new life even in the midst of death. And look twice – for it can be a messenger of hope and resurrection to you today.
Penny Jones, for Easter Sunday 12 April 2020
We wait at the tomb. As Gregory of Nyssa pointed out centuries ago, Jesus lies in the tomb, in order to bring to life all who lie in tombs. We pause this Holy Saturday night, on the very threshold of resurrection. The Latin word for threshold is limen, from which we derive the word liminal, to describe all those spaces and times that are ‘in between’ - the ‘not quite yet’ spaces; the crossing points from one state of being to another.
Tonight is a liminal time and this is a liminal space that we have created, in order to draw near to Christ. For it is easier to draw near to Christ in a liminal time and place than in any other. Between light and dark, there is the twilight of dawn or dusk, exactly the kind of light in which the women went to the tomb on the first Easter Day. Between grief and happiness there is a space that belongs to the shy gift of joy, whose nature partakes of both. Between life and death, death and life, there is the waiting time; the time when nothing appears to be happening, but actually everything is happening. This is the chrysalis time, when the caterpillar dissolves and the butterfly emerges. The work is done inside, unseen and unknown...