Resurrection transformation and transition

31 March 2013

Resurrection (detail) Stanley Spencer

Resurrection (detail) Stanley Spencer

Luke’s account of the Gospel ends as it begins, with women. At the outset Mary and Elizabeth experience not a little apprehension but their fears are quelled by an angel. Now the women visit the tomb and their anxiety is stilled by men dressed in white. Mary’s empty womb was filled with joy; the broken hearts of the women are made whole.

Transformation is a theme of Luke. From the revolutionary ideas of the Magnificat to a bereavement that began a new way of living.

Just as the Spirit once brooded over the waters of chaos at creation so the Spirit would help make sense of the chaotic voices of Pentecost. It is clear that Luke intends his readers to enter into a transformation from chaos to order and despair to hope because death has become life. What should have been the end has become a whole new beginning.

Luke is also about transition, a journey from one place to another: in the Gospel account from the backwater of Nazareth to Jerusalem and in Acts from Jerusalem to Rome.

So it is clear that Luke doesn’t intend us to stand still. The women were to leave the tombs and have a choice to return to their homes, to their lives, for some the pots and pans and for at least one the court of Herod. But their lives were to never be the same as those kitchens and that court were to be blessed by lives that had moved on by experience.

Life can never be the same once resurrection has been glimpsed. We can neither stay the same nor stay in the same place, we have to change and we have to move on.

The late Dorothee Soelle (1929-2003) was a German liberation theologian who wrestled with the shock and shame of the Shoah and the suffering that went with it. She knew that if resurrection was to come to her society then it had to be through the work of the people, the graft of coming to terms with events. Influenced by Augustine (‘without God we cannot, without us God will not’) her poem speaks of the need God has of us.

He needs you
that’s all there is to it
without you he’s left hanging
goes up in dachau’s smoke
is sugar and spice in the baker’s hands
gets revalued in the next stock market crash
he’s consumed and blown away
used up without you

Help him
that’s what faith is
he can’t bring it about
his kingdom
couldn’t then couldn’t later can’t now
not at any rate without you
andf that is his irresistible appeal.
Revolutionary Patience, Orbis 1974

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