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Life in Death: Resurrection

Easter Sunday: 20th April, 2014
Rev'd Dr Hugh Kempster, Vicar of St Peter's, Eastern Hill

Acts 10: 34a, 36-43; Colossians 3: 1-4; John 20: 1-18.

On Wednesday of Holy Week, in the afternoon, on a busy suburban street, Fiona Joy Warzywoda was stabbed to death by her former partner. And what was her crime to warrant such violence? Fiona had taken out an intervention order against him.

People denigrate Christian faith and suggest we believe in fairy-tales, but the biggest fairy-tale in our society is what theologian Walter Wink termed "The Myth of Redemptive Violence." It is the myth that violence saves, war brings peace, might makes right. Fiona's former partner, knife in hand, was out to make things right. America, with Australia and others of her allies, went into Afghanistan and Iraq to make right the atrocities of 9/11. On 21 June 2007, the Australian Government announced a "national emergency response to protect Aboriginal children in the Northern Territory" from sexual abuse and family violence. Good intent I am sure, but who was at the forefront of this initiative? Social workers? Pastoral care givers? No, it was Australian Defence Force who were deployed. It was good to see Archbishop Philip Freier heading up the news on Good Friday, highlighting the fact that more than a thousand children will remain incarcerated over the Easter weekend. For what crime? Fleeing violence and seeking asylum.

It is a powerful and invasive myth, the myth of redemptive violence. None of us are immune, even good Christian folk. It is very much the zeitgeist, the spirit of our age. I think back to my childhood, the television that I spent far too many hours in front of. Popeye and Olive Oyl; what is the message behind that spinach? Tom and Jerry, Superman, Danger Mouse, and the list goes on (I gather "Oggie and the Cockroaches" is the latest thing). And it is not just our children that Western society feeds with the myth of redemptive violence. I love a good movie, but looking at the list of all-time best sellers, there is a very clear common thread: Avatar, Marvel's The Avengers, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Iron Man, Transformers, The Lord of the Rings, Skyfall, The Dark Knight (See filmsite.org).

This week we have travelled on the Way of the Cross, and today we celebrate the Feast of the Resurrection. Through humble faith and beautiful ritual we enter once again into the truth that holds salvation for a broken world. Rowan Williams writes: "the resurrection is in part about the sheer toughness and persistence of God's love. When we have done our worst, God remains God" (Tokens of Trust, p. 91). This is what makes things right, not might, or violence, or bullying behaviour, but persistent resilient love. This divine reality conquers even death itself.

It is a reality that was witnessed by Mary Magdalene in our Easter gospel. Mary went to the tomb early on the first day of the week and found it empty, after raising the alarm she was followed by Simon Peter and the disciple Jesus loved. When the men left, Mary remained there weeping, vulnerable and in deep despair. But then, in her grief, she saw a vision of two angels, she turned and saw the humble gardener. He spoke her name, and she recognised him. "I have seen the Lord" she proclaimed to the disciples, the disciples proclaimed this blessed mystery to others, and so the message has been passed on through the centuries to us today.

We might not "see" the Risen Lord in the physical way that Mary did, but as we celebrate the Easter mystery we engage with a force so much more powerful than the myth of redemptive violence, so much more powerful than even death itself. Today we celebrate life in death: a mysterious, strong, gentle, humble, compassionate force. The love of God.

Christ is Risen: He is Risen Indeed ... Alleluia!


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