To understand Easter, we need to do some preliminaries. We need to think about God. We need to think about God’s word, about God’s writing, about God’s feeling, about God’s dissatisfaction with it all, about God’s ordinariness.
God comes to us in scripture most of all as a conversation partner. What does God do most? God talks. God wants us to talk, too. To talk to God. To talk about God. God is not a silent, supreme commander. We are not robots, acting mechanically. God and we are meant for communion through conversation. We are to be talkers together.
There are two famous instances in scripture where God writes something. One is the ten commandments. They are literally in Hebrew the ten words of God. But God didn’t say them out loud. God wrote them, scratched them on stone. They are really the scratching of God. The other instance where God writes is circumcision. This time God does not write on rock. God writes on flesh, on the body, and says to the human being so written on, ‘you are mine – I just wrote my name on you’. Writings are gathered together. They are made into a book. We are people of the book. The writing is our way of life, our Torah.
Jesus talked a lot. He used words, words that shocked. They shocked because there was feeling in them, feeling for people. Jesus never wrote anything. His feeling was too fluid to be frozen on stone. It was part of the pleasure and pain of every person. When we say he was human, we mean he understood a hungry child, a battered spouse. He took to himself the ways people chose to live together. Stuff you can’t say. Stuff you can’t write. But stuff you can and do live. Stuff you can sing. Karl Rahner said Christians are the most sublime materialists.
Have you ever had a good meal and finished it dissatisfied, filled but not fulfilled? Did you ever have a spiritual experience and after it feel hungry, not for more of it, but hungry for more justice for those not getting justice? Could I suggest that God knows feelings like that. After God has had a good conversation with humans, after God has written God’s message on their scrolls and their skin, after God has felt for them and with them, God is still not satisfied. So God says to us humans, you stay there and enjoy the garden and the meal. I’m going out to the marginals…I belong among the unfulfilled. See you some time! That is the ‘Great Reversal’. It isn’t the fact that the rich and the poor among us have swopped places on our priority list. It’s the fact that we and God have swopped places. God has gone away to the left-outs. Theology calls this the divine mission. It is God sending God somewhere else. If you stay at the full table of spiritual nourishment, and you think about it long enough, you could easily become an atheist. There is no God there. God went some place else.
God went out to the margins, and found that God liked being there. Where? In the ordinary, common, simple life of nobodies. If you have a conversation there, you use basic words. If you try to write about it, you can’t – the demands of prose and poetry get in your way. The few words you could use sound amateurish. God loves being taken for someone like that!
That is really what church is. The gathering of the unrecognised and ungathered. We say a lot these days about people leaving the church. We say that secular society has taken people out of the church. But the church cannot leave the people. You can’t take the church out of the people. And you can’t take God away from the unrecognised and ungathered. It is what being human is all about. It is what being God is all about.
What we have been thinking about could be called incarnation. What we have been shocked by this past week, Holy Week, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, is the way people tried to rule incarnation out of our world. So what does Easter mean? It means they tried and they failed. God has become human, and lived and died with dead men walking – what more could you add? Just one word. FOREVER. God will never be different, and will never be anywhere else.
HAPPY EASTER. HAPPY GOD. HAPPY PEOPLE.