Saturday, 14 April 2018
Not everyone recognises the perfect love of Christ risen casts out fear and allows us to find life independent of the death of the body. At Easter, we are not offered a dead Jesus but a living Christ, so the Greek Easter chant is Christos Anesti, Christ is Risen! There is a scene in the film My big fat Greek wedding when a Greek girl invites her very non Greek boyfriend to meet the whole family at Easter. She knows he won't recognise Greek so she is coaching him, by saying, "For Happy Easter, we say Christos Anesti!"
Suddenly her Father appears. The boyfriend says “Cheestro Anasti.” The father mutters Greek the boyfriend doesn’t recognise and the audience sees the subtitles; “When my people were writing Philosophy, your people were swinging from Trees.” The daughter, aghast, turns to her boyfriend and says; “He likes you.”
The whole family appear, a pig on the spit, food is flowing, music is playing, dancing is happening, the Mother comes and says can she cook for the boyfriend. The Greek girl tries to calmly explain he is a vegetarian. The Mother does not recognise this term, she looks confused, the girl explains he doesn’t eat meat. The Mother loudly asks, “What do you mean he doesn’t eat meat?!?” The whole room stops – a record scratches, music halts, a glass drops from a stunned hand, jaws drop as they stare at the boyfriend. The Mother, ever the gracious host, says, “That’s okay. I’ll make lamb!”
She is using food to make peace even though she doesn’t recognise something strange. If like her you don’t understand being a vegetarian, imagine a friend I had who went to African Churches on placement and was greeted on his first night by people offering their local delicacy in his honour, a large plate of usually flying but now dead white insects, not something he recognised as a honour, but for the community it had power. In Luke's gospel reading, appearances, conversations, and even physical evidence cannot liberate the disciples to find a life independent of the death of the body, so Jesus resorts to “Have you anything here to eat?”
This gets disciples gathered around the table, so they finally hear him. In fact, the text says that he opens their minds to understand scripture. After confusion, fear, lack of recognition, misunderstanding and disbelief, comes food, clarity, wisdom, direction and peace. An eternal view of life breaks through, the disciples accept it, commissioned to take it away.
For those of us who have never received or who have received it our whole lives, we may forget that the food we call Eucharist, Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion or Mass can also heal, reconcile, and embolden. What is it that prevents us finding in Christ risen the life independent of the death of the body? Maybe we don’t understand, maybe we are scared, maybe we identify too much with our bodies, maybe we are trying to protect ourselves. Maybe the articles of the faith seem impossible. God becoming human. A virgin giving birth. Water becoming wine. Five thousand fed with two fish and five loaves. Lazarus coming out of the tomb, Jesus’ resurrection. But inexplicable and impossible are not the same.
Impossible holds meaning and power without being recognised rationally or even literally, and we all have stories of when what seemed impossible in our lives was made real. What if, instead of starting with what we consider possible, recognisable, we began with the impossible, that Christ is risen. In Luke's gospel, the disciples see Jesus, but they do not recognise him as the same bodily Jesus they had known. The first words he offers are ‘Peace be with you,’ a deep awareness of God with us, when they are wounded and estranged. Have you had an experience like this?
Jesus may speak peace but he shows his hands and his feet, the cost and the wounds involved in being a presence of peace in a world and Church that does not recognise or understand peace is not comfort but a truth of life independent of death of the body.
I was standing in the heat between a funeral and a furnace last week at the crematorium, no-one else around, and I distinctly heard a voice say I Love You, do not be afraid. Peace is not the same as comfort, but we don’t have to fear. Allow the words and all they may mean to fill your body and remain within you.