The Wonder Loaf

I was thinking, as I typed the title, that I may have legal correspondence from Tip Top about poaching their idea. It rises (bakery pun) from a series of conversations following Easter this year, both within and without worship.

Rather than an orderly event, in which the disciples noted the Easter happenings step by step, the resurrection accounts bear all the marks of chaos. We’ve noted the stones being rolled away and then after the rolling; women and men running to and from the empty tomb, various accounts of angels (men? messengers?) appearing in the tomb and nearby.

And then the risen crucified One.

Fear, disbelief, belief anEmmaus 3d wonder mark all the stories. In Mark’s original account it seems the Gospel ended with the words

So [the women] went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

The accounts read like the various reports from witnesses after a major event. People who were there first, then later, offer various, layered renditions. Interpretation grows as more people hear – and experience – the event. People remember bits and pieces of what Jesus said before he died and some find the whole thing impossible “But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” (Luke 24.11).

There are even (understandable) rumours that someone has stolen the body, and many fingers are pointed at the authorities.

As I mentioned on Easter morning, the creation story has God making order out of chaos, and now, in this new creation, God is making chaos out of order.

So, is it surprising that two bewildered disciples are trying to make some sense of things and fail to recognise (the resurrected) Jesus as they wander along their strugglesome journey?

In Luke’s Gospel, despite all the events, this is the first appearance of the risen Jesus. However, it’s not the rebuke from Jesus which sharpens their vision, or the textual and hermenuetical analysis as they walk. It seems that their eyes are still “clouded” and they remain unaware. Until.

Is it the blessing of the bread, or is it the breaking? The answer is, yes. Is it the reminder of what Jesus has done before he died, or the movement of the Spirit now? Yes.

The bread is broken; they see and begin to understand. They take the road back to town to let everyone know, but it takes a few more appearances before everyone seems to be on board.

Why? Because resurrection is hard to accept, to believe.

Whenever we try to explain resurrection, to sort it out, we are doing precisely what we cannot do – make rational sense of God breaking the laws of death and life.

Resurrection is God’s new creation. Life is stronger than death. We meet the risen Jesus in forgiveness and reconciliation, we meet the risen Christ is moments of grace and wonder beyond describing. We meet Jesus, crucified and raised, in the broken bread, where we proclaim the mystery of our faith:

Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again.


Aftermath | Siegfried Sassoon

Have you forgotten yet? …
For the world’s events have rumbled on since those gagged days,
Like traffic checked while at the crossing of city-ways:
And the haunted gap in your mind has filled with thoughts that flow
Like clouds in the lit heaven of life; and you’re a man reprieved to go,
Taking your peaceful share of Time, with joy to spare.
But the past is just the same – and War’s a bloody game …
Have you forgotten yet? …
Look down, and swear by the slain of the War that you’ll never forget.

Do you remember the dark months you held the sector at Mametz –
The nights you watched and wired and dug and piled sandbags on parapets?
Do you remember the rats; and the stench
of corpses rotting in front of the front-line trench –
And dawn coming, dirty-white, and chill with a hopeless rain?
Do you ever stop and ask, “Is it all going to happen again?”

Do you remember the hour of din before the attack –
And the anger, the blind compassion that seized and shook you
As you peered at the doomed and haggard faces of your men?
Do you remember the stretcher-cases lurching back
With dying eyes and lolling heads – those ashen-grey
Masks of the lads who once were keen and kind and gay?
Have you forgotten yet? …
Look up, and swear by the green of the spring that you’ll never forge-

Siegfried Sassoon 1886-1967

Truth Getting in the Way

It’s the question every parent has asked their children (some more than once!) and which generations of teachers have asked their generations of students. It’s the hottest topic in politics at the moment, with opinion ranging from the absurd to the neurotic.

It’s the question asked at the darkest moment of Jesus’ life, which many would say is the darkest moment of history. Shackled, and facing his imminent death, Jesus is interrogated by the Roman governor, who asks him, “What is the truth?”

Enlightenment and courage elude Pilate and, through fear and expedience, he sentences Jesus to a flogging, then a criminal’s death, flanked by criminals. This is the truth of power when it is challenged, the truth of every empire throughout history. Monarchs do not like the dissenting voice, and have always sought to extinguish it, by corruption or extinction. The truth which empire claims is that might is right.

And yet, across the world for the last two millennia, followers of Jesus have claimed a different truth, in which they place all their hope.

The story empire tells is that the strong don’t waste their time on the weak, that the first don’t care about the last. The empire’s narrative is rigidly controlled: the mighty don’t sacrifice themselves for those at the bottom of the heap, they are the collateral damage in every system.

Except for one.

On Friday we declare that God gave everything – all God had, including life – for all of creation, all of history, all of us. We all know the brokenness of our world. The gassing of innocents in Syria, the fracturing of relationships amongst people we love and a system which values us by how much we earn, all point to a world in need.

When we believe no one is listening and that no one cares, Jesus dies as a victim, to proclaim that God cares, each and every time someone suffers. God does more than care; when we are in our darkest moment, Jesus’ sacrifice declares that God stands with us.

The story which empire spins is that dead is dead.

The story fashioned by God in love and hope is that love is more than death. Easter is not only the cross, it is the empty grave and Jesus’ community finding new hope when they encounter the Christ, amazingly alive.

The truth which every follower of Jesus, every faith community and every church will celebrate this weekend, is that forgiveness is greater than punishment, that justice is stronger than revenge, that love overpowers hate. Death is not the last word; in Jesus Christ, the first and last word is life.

One Far Fierce Hour

There are pieces of music, like Ravel’s Bolero, which start quietly, sparingly, and build, over what seems an interminable time to the climax, a crescendo of triumph and orchestral power.

Theatre, too, where all the threads are laid separately before the audience, and slowly woven together until the tapestry – of beauty, or disaster – is revealed.

If you read Matthew’s Gospel as a story, from beginning to end, there is a sense of inevitability about this coming week. From the danger shadowing Jesus’ birth and his family’s rush to the safety of Egypt, there is always the impending final confrontation. Since early in Jesus’ ministry, there have been plans to discredit and destroy, and he has not been ignorant of the forces arrayed against him.

So he takes them head on. From an itinerant ministry, moving amongst Jewish towns and Gentile villages, Matthew always seems to place Jerusalem just out of Jesus’ line of sight, even though it has been on his mind for some time. Until now.

From a ministry of encounter with those in need, and those seeking wisdom, Jesus initiates the beginning of the end. It seems a donkey has been arranged, for an arrival during preparations for the Passover festival.

This is street theatre. This is Jesus’ plan to draw attention to himself and to the reign of God. This is Jesus embracing his role as Messiah and declaring it to the crowd, and to the temple, and to the empire that watches in disdain, if it watches at all.

Discipleship is worshiping together, and caring for those around us. It is engaging in our community by serving people in need. It is prayer, singly, or together, as we name with God our concerns for our world. It is generosity and sacrifice which clothes the naked and feeds the hungry and visits the imprisoned. It is meals shared where people are made truly welcome.

And discipleship is confronting the powers which say “there is no forgiveness, no healing, no justice, without our permission”, by offering life and hope when the empire views us with disdain, if it even bothers to look.

Discipleship is turning over the empire’s tables, located deliberately in the temple. It is declaring a new empire where the least and the last are foremost and first, and where loving God and neighbour summarises everything we are asked to do and be.

Is it any wonder this week ends with the cross? To appropriate Chesterton’s poem, this “tattered outlaw” began with his death inevitable and declares an empire where sacrifice is victory, and death is defeated.

One word of advice; do not run ahead. Stay with Jesus, as he convenes his entry to Jerusalem. Wait with him in miracle and disturbance. Watch with him as shadows darken. Risk with him as all appears to end. Grieve in his silence.

Stand with him as God declares all things new.

pulling the curtain banksy