Sunday, 1 April 2018

Easter Day: Running towards Resurrection

The Swiss painter, Eugene Burnand shows the disciples Peter and John running to the Sepulchre on the Morning of Resurrection.

If you want to see the real thing you’ll need to take a trip to Paris and visit the wonderful Musee d’Orsay on the bank of the Seine.

Peter is graphically portrayed by Burnand.  He’s the older disciple with furrowed brow and gnarled hands.  He has the eyes of a man who thinks with emotion and who has spent a lifetime acting on impulse.

I suspect that Peter is a much-loved disciple amongst us.  He’s all too human and we see ourselves in him.

Where does Peter find resurrection that first Easter?

Well, I’d like to think he encounters it in his mind and the way he thinks.

His journey thus far with Jesus hasn’t been the smoothest.

On the Mount of Transfiguration he misreads the sacredness of it all and wants to build tabernacles there to preserve the moment in aspic.

He once told Jesus he would not be a suffering Messiah and received the rebuke of his Lord in the severest tone with Jesus declaring: Get thee behind me Satan!

And, of course, in the early hours of Good Friday, around the fire in Pilate’s courtyard Peter denies Jesus three times before the cock crowed.

Yet this wizened and world weary character we see in our painting this morning got so much right.

He was the first to recognised Jesus as the Christ and he was the disciple who actually got out of the boat and joined Jesus on the water.

He, like so many of the male disciples, wasn’t at the cross.  Yet here he is running towards resurrection.  And if we could read his mind and hear his thoughts as he strains to arrive at the garden tomb, maybe we would hear a dialogue going on in his mind as he ponders that perhaps Good Friday wasn’t the end after all, and just maybe there is another chapter in the story of Jesus.

As the gospel unfolds Peter’s narrative develops too.  For him the resurrection brings a new beginning as he is re-instated.  He can begin afresh, he isn’t to be remembered solely as the disciple who denied his master, he will go down in history as a faithful servant of Christ, indeed one upon whom the church has been built.

Peter will still make mistakes.  Indeed, quite soon he’ll retreat into a certain exclusivity, a sort of mindset that over-emphasises a particular religious tradition.  Paul will come along and challenge him and once more he’ll change his mind and become more inclusive in his outlook.

But that, I suggest is the very essence of resurrection for Peter.  The living presence of Jesus constantly challenges his thinking and taking him to new places. 

This continuous revelation, these exciting ongoing discoveries about the breath of God’s love are Peter’s way of exploring faith and encountering the divine.

Perhaps they can be ours.

For it seems to me that one of the greatest experiences of resurrection for us today is the way that God is continually renewing our minds as we think through our questions, apply our faith to new situations, become eager to tease out more and more our understanding of the way spirituality touches the everyday – and in all this something of the life of God blossoms in us and in the church.

We too can meet resurrection in our thinking – just like Peter.