He is Going Ahead of You

The Resurrection is the beginning of everything. The moment of new creation. The bursting out of hope, love, creativity and healing. It is the event which makes reconciliation possible. As Christians we must keep returning to this source again and again.

18-04-06 Sunny Birmingham 002At the end of Mark’s Gospel three women discover an empty tomb. They are told by a young man dressed in white that the Risen Jesus is not there, he has gone ahead of you to Galilee, it is there that you will find him. (Mk 16:5-7).

Where is Galilee? It was the disciples’ home region, it was their starting place. The risen Jesus has gone ahead of them back to the beginning of their story. He has gone back to their everyday normality. We are told that the first reaction of these women is to run away scared and to say nothing to anyone (Mk 16:8). And there the story ends, but what comes next? That is up to us to discover.

So let’s leap forward two thousand or so years to my daily reality. City centre Birmingham in 2019. That same Risen Christ has also gone ahead of me. Being part of a Christian community can never be about bringing Jesus to the people around us. We are not giving Christ to the city. No, the Risen Christ is already ahead of us. To be present as Christians is to trust in the promise that we will find him here in Galilee. This simple incite transforms everything. It is not my responsibility to bring the hope and joy and love of the resurrection; that presence is already here. My role is to try to discover the new creation and to live according to it.

It is very easy to see where the Crucified Christ is present: in the homeless who sleep all around us, in the addiction both to drugs and to consumerism, in the aggression and violence I see and hear through open windows as I lie in bed at night, in the military recruitment stands, in the banks which promote unethical investment, in the shops which invite us to buy the fruits of global exploitation. We see the Crucified Christ in the fear and lack of welcome so commonly directed to the most vulnerable and damaged, the discarded Christ is everywhere.

But where is the Risen Christ? This same Christ is also present in all those places and situations listed above. We are called to believe that in every person no matter how broken and discarded there is the presence of God, and that this presence is a source of hope, joy, peace and love. Each person is a place of incarnation. If we really believe this then it means that we have to live in a different way. The High-Anglican Desmond Tutu writes about how we ought to genuflect to each other as we are all the presence of God. If we could really believe such a reality then it would inevitably fill us with a sense of celebration. If we are able to see the Risen Christ in each person then the unexpected becomes possible, we begin to interact with each person as a sister or brother rather than a stranger or enemy. Each encounter becomes a place of grace. We can transcend fear and anxiety.

Such is the vision, such is our faith. The challenge is living it.

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