Christ Church Cathedral
20 May 2018
Today we are in an interesting space, a liminal space of sorts.
Christians are observing Pentecost Sunday, a holy day that we share with our Jewish friends. But during this past week we have also seen the beginning of Ramadan, the holiest time of the year for our Muslim friends and neighbours.
Shavuot … Pentecost … Ramadan
This is quite a convergence of sacred times in three of the world’s great religions. It is a convergence that invites us to reflect on the real world outcomes of religious life.
Bringing in the harvest
Pentecost is a holy day with ancient roots that run deep into the spiritual soil of our religion, while offering us a fresh vision for what life and faith might mean now and in the future. In ancient times this feast coincided with the spring harvest festival, and it was a time to gather in the crops before the hot dry summer burnt the fields brown.
By this stage seven weeks had passed since Passover, another great Jewish festival. Those 49 days—7 weeks each of 7 days—gave rise to the idea that day #50 was worth celebrating. A week of weeks had passed, and indeed that is what this holy day is called in the Jewish religion: Shavuot, The Festival of Weeks.
For us as Christians, the Great Fifty Day of Easter finish today.
In the shops Easter has long since been forgotten. The hot cross buns have disappeared from the shelves and the chocolate bunnies have vanished.
But in the church we have been busy teasing out just what kind of difference Easter makes in our lives here and now.
The ‘secret’ meaning of Easter
After 50 days—a week of weeks—it is time to check what difference (if any) Easter makes to our lives as people of faith.
For many Christians, Easter is all about the bones of Jesus.
Where are they? What kind of ‘event’ was the resurrection? If we had a camera at the tomb on Easter Day could we have taken a photo of Jesus emerging from the tomb? Was it a ‘bodily resurrection’—seemingly the new test for orthodoxy in certain circles? Was it something else?
Most of those questions are meaningless in the world that we now know that we live in.
None of us imagine that after our own deaths we shall have a physical body, so why would we imagine Jesus having a physical body after Easter?
None of us think we live in a three-tier universe, with God ‘upstairs’ and the devil ‘under the floor’. So why would we imagine that Jesus ascended from ‘down here’ to ‘up there’?
We know that we live in a universe that is at least 15 billion years old, constantly expanding, and with no known boundary.
Jesus did not ascend into a heaven ‘up there’ and he did not need a physical body after Easter.
Such questions reflect our own failure to keep up with the God who dances beyond our best ideas, and always calls us forward into the adventure of discovering new truth.
This is the great adventure—aka, “life”—into which we baptise Lottie Mae this morning.
In one of his several letters to the fledgling Christian community in Corinth, St Paul wrote a very long discussion on the nature and the meaning of resurrection. Towards the end of the discussion, which we call chapter 15 of 1 Corinthians, Paul makes this remarkable declaration:
“… the second Adam became a life-giving spirit …”
That is the secret meaning of Easter, and it is the great big truth about God that we celebrate today.
At Easter, God said NO to fear, hate and death.
At Easter God said YES to hope, love and life.
Today as we conclude the fifty days of Easter we pause to think about how our lives, our community and our world might be transformed for the better if we took seriously how God responded to the death of Jesus.
God took everyone by surprise at Easter time. Nobody saw this coming.
At Pentecost we celebrate another time when God took everyone by surprise.
Today we celebrate the presence of God among us, within us and between as the Spirit of Life, the Spirit of Jesus, the Holy Spirit.
This is not about religious party tricks.
It is not about the bones of Jesus, for which—by the way—he had no further use.
It is about the love that throbs at the very centre of the universe being active in our own lives. Every day. Every moment. In good times and in bad times.
That is the ultimate meaning of Easter, and that is the big, exciting and transformative truth into which we baptise Lottie this morning.
It is the big truth that God invites us to embrace today, and which turns our lives upside down.
Are we game to say YES to God?