I first understood what a polarising lens was all about when I bought one for my old camera. It allowed me to see very clearly into water and stop the glare and reflection. A polarising lens (common in sun glasses) only allows light waves of one direction to enter the lens. Polarising lenses are now being used for 3D movies by allowing light in one direction into one eye and light from a different direction into the other eye, such that each eye sees a slightly different image taken from a slightly different angle that imitates how the eyes see. Too technical – where am I going? Hang in there!
I want to suggest that Easter, more particularly resurrection, is a lens through which we need to read the Biblical stories, our own lives and the life of the world. It is a lens that is enlivening and hope-filled rather than pessimistic and hopeless, as much of our perspective tends to be. We watch the news, listen to leaders (political, economic and even religious) and feel overwhelmed by the crises and predictability of life in our world.
We stand between Good Friday’s darkness and Easter Day’s light and hope. We are caught in the place of grief and confusion, anger and frustration until it wears us out and we give in. How many people actually believe anything can or will change? How many have simply given up on politics, religion or anything else? How many have let go and followed the seductive addictions that enable escape and release from the interminable living that slides into meaningless oblivion?
Of course there are those who are too busy to allow the state of the world or meaningless existence to touch their being. They rush on through work that is relentless, promising so much if only they can reach the hallowed goal, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow – it is there, if only… The day surely comes when they look back and wonder how life has passed them by. Then they sink into the wretchedness of despair, rolling in money, they have no time. If this sounds desperate and frightfully negative and hopeless, hang in there. I am only reciting what I see and hear from so many people.
In the midst of this ordinary life where change or transformation seems a hollow promise where politicians, economists or even preachers offer a bored and struggling populace little of substance, we hear a story that is impossible, naïve and insane. It comes every year and most people shut it out with a shake of the head. It is the story, or set of stories, that surround the experience of the early church, the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. The profound and mysterious elements of the story confound common sense or scientific probing. We know these things don’t happen and the stories are puzzling, strange and don’t always make sense.
I want to suggest that this resurrection is a lens through which may perceive life from a new and different perspective that changes everything. In fact this is exactly what Jesus does in the story we read this week, Luke 24: 36-48 (the full story begins at verse13). Jesus invites the disciples to hear the story of the God’s people from a different perspective that changes its meaning and imbues it with life. He says elsewhere that God is the God of the living, not the dead but we think in terms of death not life. It is said that Erich Fromm, a well-known psychologist and one who loved life, on his death said to his friend, “Bob, why do people prefer necrophilia to biophilia?” Why do people, the human race, prefer the love of death to the love of life? Bombs to celebrations? War and conflict to community and peace? It is a great question as so much of our world is geared towards pessimism, violence, hatred and deathliness. Even life in the developed world is tedious boredom for many as their lives slip by watching others live life on TV.
The stories of resurrection are political and speak into the hopelessness of the human condition, the ‘necrophilia’ of which Erich Fromm speaks. They speak into the questions and doubts and fears we all encounter when we stop long enough to sit with the realities of our lives. The resurrection stories provide a key to reading the stories of the Bible, of the reality of God in human life. They help us understand what the ancients were trying to say then and now. When we read life through the ‘lens of resurrection’ we see new things as it filters our seeing and allows us to live with wonder and joy, to believe in hope and to be energised to be the change we want to see in the world.
The political nature of resurrection is that it challenges the powers of the world that would seek to kill and destroy love and peace. The powers and forces that killed Jesus and have silenced so many who have walked in his way are still at large. They control much of the media, the stories, the ‘wisdom’ and would have us believe a truth that is less than real. The powers are content with the world as it is – the economy and the taxation system, the differences between rich and poor, the laws, the party political priorities – the way things are. Resurrection challenges the rest of us to see something different and to begin to believe that there is another way, a way that is more life-giving, life-affirming and hopeful that anything the powers-that-be would offer.
Resurrection challenges and questions the priorities we feel and know all around us. Why are we sending more soldiers to a war that is not our own and in which we have no clues and have achieved little more than suffering and pain all round? Why does our nation invest so heavily in the futility of defence systems whilst the health and education systems flounder? Why do we believe those who commit crimes should be condemned forever – after all it is called the ‘correctional facility’? Why do we believe that mistrust and aggression are the right ways to deal with refugees? Why do we believe that aggressive consumption, greed and environmental degradation are good for us when they continue to bring more isolation, loneliness, fear and anxiety, as well as pain?
Resurrection says something different. It invites us to believe in people, in one another and to recognise that relationships are the basic currency of life. It helps us embrace the wonders of the earth and to read the creation stories as our story, one that is about the goodness of God’s creation and the interdependence of all parts of creation. It helps us understand the flood story as a hopeful story reminding us that even from a remnant life can be renewed – when everything fails, there is still hope! God is the God of the living and fills the world with beauty and wonder if only our eyes will be opened. No matter what the world does or says, the Living God indwells us and fills us with life and love. In the resurrection story there is the constant gift of peace and the challenge to live peacefully before the world, with love and grace.