Last weekend I celebrated the powerful drama of Easter – in three different churches! On Maundy Thursday I went to the HTB (Holy Trinity Brompton) service – a mix of teaching about the Jewish Passover with an informal communion tacked on, a bit like the original Last Supper. But it was spoilt for me by the fact that no sooner had it ended than the place erupted in a cacophony of chatting, whereas in previous services I knew, we walked in silence to a prayer chapel to remember Jesus’ night of mental agony in the garden of Gethsemane.
However, Good Friday was exceptional. I went to the church in our road, St Cuthbert’s Earls Court, for the stations of the cross, each reflection being read by children. But the main event for me was the 2.00 pm service at St Mary Abbott’s Kensington. It was a very solemn service, with the Passion story being sung superbly by a fantastic choir, a solemn procession of a large wooden church through the church and a simple giving of communion. God felt very near.
Easter Day started for me at St Cuthbert’s, with a vigil at 8.00 done in complete darkness apart from the candles we were holding. Two hours later we celebrated the amazement of the resurrection with a glass of really quite good champagne.
The whole weekend gave me space to indulge in some blue-sky thinking about the resurrection of Jesus. I believe this did happen, because in my view the historical evidence of Mark’s Gospel, (c. 55 AD?), and1 Corinthians 15, (c. 56 AD), is extremely strong. I got to linking John chapter 12 to BBC4’s programme “Gravity and Me”. What John 12 implies is that the miracle of Jesus rising again on Easter Day was not so much a physical miracle as a chronological one.
John 12 is the story of Jesus’ friend Lazarus, who fell ill, died and two days later Jesus turned up with his disciples. Lazarus’ sister says reproachfully, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Jesus replies, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha responds, “I know he will rise again at the Last Day.” That was the popular hope.
So we can assume that after the crucifixion, Jesus’ disciples did expect him to rise from the dead – but on the Last Day, or Day of Judgement, when time and history would be dissolved. Obviously that did not happen. Or has not happened yet. But what if the resurrection of Jesus did involve a disjunction not merely of physical laws but of time itself? The programme “Gravity and Me” gave a brief introduction to Einstein’s general theory of relativity. According to this (I think) the universe exists in a space-time continuum, in which space is curved and time itself slows down or speeds up according to gravitational forces, and that the creation of time itself may have led to the creation of matter. I don’t really understand any of this. But suppose the resurrection of Jesus is the forerunner of a much bigger change some time in what we call the future; and that this unique event created a hiccough in the space time continuum which is still rippling through the universe, just like the merging of two black holes in a distant galaxy about 13,000 billion years ago?
So what was the effect of the resurrection? In John’s gospel the effect is clear. The evening of the same day, Jesus appears to his closest followers, breathes on them and says “Receive the Holy Spirit”. I.e. this tiny gap in the space-time continuum has liberated the Spirit of the Creator of the universe (think big!) to enter the lives of people in history, and has continued to do so all over the world and throughout history. How else to explain the extraordinary resolve of Christians throughout the Middle East to stay faithful in the light of the atrocious acts by Daesh in Syria, Iraq and Egypt?
What do you think?