Resurrection is the finger of God
on my scars
and a deep breath
to start again.
I hope there are no more episodes of BBC2 series Rev.
In the final episode, all the usual elements were there. Comedy – in the poorly made coffee, stolen Easter eggs and slapstick dancing. Wit – most memorably in an all too believable jargon-filled job interview – and, as Nigel surfed the web looking for dates, gentle digs at the established Church.
However, this was an episode where poignancy and pathos took centre stage – in the death Bongo, in the radishes planted for the future occupants of the soon to be ‘Old Vicarage of St Saviours’, in the over-heard, prayers of the other characters – Alex Adam’s wife, Nigel the hapless lay reader and the obsequious archdeacon Robert – and recognising oneself in the worst of them and Adam, himself like a Pope of the Waste Places intoning Easter praise whilst smoke ascends disturbing the pigeons as well as a disgruntled neighbour having a lie-in.
The latest in the BBC 2 series ‘Rev’ broadcast on Easter Monday was Religious Broadcasting of the most surprising kind.
Monday night’s episode saw the downtrodden sinful vicar in a struggling inner-city parish which the diocese wants to close is put in to a disciplinary process for kissing the Head Teacher of the Church School. Ha! Ha! But it was not the sort of joke that begins ‘have you heard the one about the vicar and school-mistress?’
I lost count of the references to the last week in the life of Jesus – betrayal, jealousy, envy, hand-washing, denial, cross-carrying – all ending up on a green hill not so far away with a view of the City and a surprise appearance of God joining in with a rendition of ‘The Lord of the Dance’. This was a passion play for the 21st Century.
Easter Sunday was the last day of my ministry in Bath. I went, as has been my custom for a number of years to the Magdelen Chapel before going on to the service at my church. It has become a place to say my Sunday prayers before a day’s work in a context wider than my own tradition or ideas.
It was a communion service following the Book of Common Prayer. An experience of quiet, controlled liveliness. And as usual it was the invitation to ‘feed on Christ’ that gave the occasion a depth and richness for me and none more so than on that Easter morning.
Yet I knew the Easter reading would include the poignant story of Jesus extracting himself from the frantic clinging of Mary Magdelene so that he, in the words of John ‘could go to the Father’. I wonder how that left Mary.
John seems to be saying that we’ve got to read Jesus from the end, not the beginning. Some of us say that when it all really comes to an end, when the Lord returns, it will be just like a wedding.
The New Testament was compiled by people who believed in the Resurrection of Jesus. It is important to remember this when reading the Gospels in particular. They are all Easter stories. So in John’s Gospel we are told that the author has made a special selection from the material available to convince his readers that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. This reflection imagines the impact of this on John’s scribe as he realised what was going on.
“You’re late”. My sister was angry. The food was spoiling. I was not home when I said I would be.
“He kept me longer”.
“What was it this time? Another one of his letters? What’s he found to say now?”
She found it hard to understand. She enjoys the discussion when we all get together. She has ideas of her own and when she speaks everyone listens. She just found the writing it down unnecessary. If I am honest so do I. But John insisted and this time I think he was on to something.
“Let’s eat, then I’ll tell you. I think it’s really important. He says it’s the best thing that we will have ever written together.”
He refused to leave. He knew his place. It was his home.
He refused security. He knew his task. They were his people.
He refused safety. He knew his God. They were His people.
Jesuit Father, Frans van der Lugt had lived in Syria for nearly fifty years and refused safe passage out of the city of Homs. A brief cessation of conflict at the beginning of the year had meant that there was an opportunity for him to leave with the young and wounded but he refused.
He stayed in his monastery to serve the small number of Christians still in the city. He explained his rejection of evacuation in these terms:
‘I don’t see people as Muslims or Christians. I see a human being first and foremost. I am the shepherd of my flock’. Continue reading