Preaching yesterday morning (Easter 3), when the readings were Acts 9:1-6 (the Conversion of St. Paul), Revelation 5:11-14 (the worship of the Lamb in heaven) and John 21:1-19 (Fishing on the Sea of Tiberias) got me thinking ...
The resurrection is like an explosion with a massive rippling effect across the pages of the New Testament.
Sure, most of the four gospels could have been written without the resurrection (which takes up just the last chapters of Matthew, Mark and Luke and the last two chapters of John). But without the resurrection there is no conversion of Saul to become Paul and no history of the first Christians which is Acts. No epistles of Paul, no other epistles, except may be the Epistle of James. And no Revelation with its vision of a heaven transformed through the presence of the once slain, now resurrected Lamb.
Which makes it all the more intriguing that the Gospel passage yesterday begins with no sign at all of an explosive resurrection impacting the main disciples of Jesus:
Simon Peter said to [the other disciples with him at the Sea of Tiberias], "I am going fishing." (21:3)
Simon and his fishing mates seem to be at a loose end! Now, sure, to be a bit anachronistic, workers for God need a day off, annual leave, team building exercises, and, within the 40 days (per Luke's account in Acts 1), there could have been a lull in activity in Galilee (though, per Luke the disciples do not go to Galilee, in contrast to Matthew, Luke and John).
Yes, the historical accounts of the appearances of the risen Jesus, especially in relationship to the commissioning-by-Jesus-and-what-happens-next, are intriguing as we note tension across the accounts between Jerusalem and Galilee and, in John 20 and 21, between Simon Peter and the Beloved Disciple, to say nothing of the tension between the explosive character of the resurrection and this exceptional lull at the beginning of John 21.
Perhaps that might keep us humble as readers many centuries later - humble in the sense of not being too sure and certain about exactly what happened, even as (through the witness of the apostles, embedded in the pages of the New Testament) we have high and joyful confidence that the Lord is risen and lives among us, as he did in the heady days of the expanding Christian church in the first century AD.
There are other things to keep us humble these days - or they ought to. Globally we have the continuing scandal of the Russian Orthodox Church showing not one scintilla of compassion for Ukraine and Ukrainians from its top leadership. Locally, Down Under, we have media stories about serious misconduct and unsatisfactory conduct in churches in Australia and New Zealand. Even when it is only a few named churches which feature in the headlines, it seems to me that all churches are tarred with the same reputational damaging brush.
I have been delighted, nevertheless, to read recently one heartwarming media story about a Down Under church - it concerns Curate Church in Tauranga and can be read here. (That's "curate" in a non-Anglican sense of the word "curate" - an active noun versus a role description!!)
Of course bad stories about churches do nothing to create, let alone enhance some kind of warm, questing space in people's minds re the existence of God and the possibility that God has revealed God's self to be compassionate and merciful. Secularism (in the sense of a society and its cultural expectations excluding the possibility of God's existence and interest in our world) grows apace hereabouts.
Interestingly, in this morning's Christchurch Press a local scientific commentator, Peter Griffin, has a column about the origins of life. As far as it goes it is an informative column, informing us of the possible role of meteorites (as carriers of DNA etc) in the development of life here. But its last sentence highlights the contrast between a questing science which knows not of God's revelation and a questing Christian (i.e. someone interested in meteorites) who knows of Genesis 1:
"Our origin story is still to be fully understood and written. But it will eventually make for one of the most remarkable chapters in the history of life itself."
(Incidentally, the thread of comments below the column is delightful!)
These are challenging times. A person with no acceptance of the role of God as Creator is unlikely to be open to the thought that the power of the Creator has resurrected our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. The pathway along which we hope the good news travels into people's hearts is beset with blocking landslides and unbridgeable chasms.
Yesterday Psalm 8 was read in a service. It struck me that verse 4 is the question which all of Scripture answers:
"what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?"
But the question presupposes the Being to whom the question may be addressed and from whom an answer has come. We live in a world, many of us on this planet, in which it is denied that there is anyone who minds us!