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Easter Vigil Homily

By Elaine Bardwell - Posted on 13 April 2013

31 March 2013 - 6:00am
Dr Tony Phelan

You’ll be wondering what Heston Blumenthal has to do with Easter – No, I promise you will be wondering what Heston Blumenthal has to do with Easter!
If you go to Heston Blumenthal’s famous three star restaurant The Fat Duck at Bray, I am reliably informed (I’ve never done this myself….) One of the things on the menu apart from the famous snail porridge, is hot and iced coffee (or tea) – the trick is that there is really hot coffee in one side of the cup and very cold iced coffee in the other: they’re kept apart by a slice of gelatine which the waiter whips out as its served – and the result is your mouth and your taste buds can’t figure out whether they’re being scalded or frozen – it’s a case of what psychologists call cognitive dissonance. Two things seem both to be happening, when we know only one of them can be. I had an experience like that for free yesterday afternoon: I could feel the sunshine on my face as I cycled down Osler Road, and I could hear the birds, and even see a few daffodils – but the temperature (I reckon about 3.5°C) told me it couldn’t possibly be spring yet. (And if I’m honest I felt something similar when I heard the alarm going off at 4.00 o’clock this morning: that’s what the time was, whatever has happened to the clocks going on.)
The Gospel story today tells us that Jesus’ earliest disciples were in much the same state only much more so on that first Easter morning. The women (who had followed Jesus from Galilee) think it’s another day like the one before: so there they are, ready to get on with things, and do what they had to do. ‘They came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared’ and they find the seal broken, the stone moved away, and they are perplexed! And on top of that, two men in shining clothes appear and speak to them: and perplexity gives way to fear and awe: ‘The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground.’ And then it turns out they should have been expecting this all along: it was what Jesus had said would happen, and then they do seem to piece it all together – it starts to make sense. Mary Magdalene and Joanna and the other Mary who is James’ mother go to tell the disciples – and we find another reaction all together: they think it’s ‘an idle tale’; but Peter wants to see for himself, or wants it to be true and he goes running back to the tomb – and he is amazed at what had happened. [(According to some versions of Lk at any rate.)] 
What’s fantastic about this record of the Resurrection is how perplexed, or amazed – or frankly unconvinced these first disciples are on that Easter Sunday. Jesus coming back from the dead is never just cut and dried: that’s what David Jenkins who was the Bishop of Durham meant when he said the Resurrection wasn’t just a conjuring trick with bones – the way it works for the disciples is never an open and shut case. It’s like Heston Blumenthal’s coffee – they don’t know what to do with what they’re experiencing; and neither do we – we hope, we believe in the resurrection of Jesus but we’re bound to be asking ourselves what it means to us and what it does for us – in a time of austerity and great uncertainty, for our jobs and livelihoods, for our health service, for our future as a community and as a country.
Each of us perhaps at different times of our lives will find ourselves mirrored in the confusions of the first disciples – like the ones on the Road to Emmaus who still don’t get it until Jesus shares a loaf with them, and just as they see who is there with them, he disappears again; or like the disciples who’ve decided to get back to what they really know and go fishing – only to find him waiting for them on their beach, cooking breakfast; or Thomas flatly refusing to play along with any of this – unless, unless … Whether we see ourselves in Mary Magdalene as she recognizes Jesus when he calls her name, or wanting to believe it like Peter; or whether we are resolute in our doubt like Thomas; or just don’t get it – like most of them, and like most of us – we are still as much in the grip of what happened that morning as they are. The Resurrection of Jesus doesn’t let us go, and won’t let us go – and for us as for them, that changes everything.


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