Gospel for this Sunday: Luke 24: 36b-48.
"Some looked for wider breadth of preaching which reaches out more to young people and a wider community."...
Have you ever watched the films or read the trilogy known as The Hunger Games? Have you seen Mockingjay? All this is available on SKY movies or in video stores.
This inquiry is one way of asking how much we know about what young people are reading and watching and thinking about – a way of checking out our connectedness and our willingness to be engaged.
If you have not watched The Hunger Games, think of one of those TV so-called reality shows where people are voted off a team and the winner is the last one remaining. I have always thoughts such reality shows demeaning and essentially nasty – but The Hunger Games takes this to the furthest point of horror. We enter a dystopian world where the nightmare of our Global Financial Crisis and the horror we glimpse in ISIL seem to have become the norm. We see a decadent world ruled by a privileged and powerful minority: food and essential resources are used to enforce control over all others and, a particular controlling device is the games where 2 young people from each sector are selected and sent to an arena to kill each other for view on live TV. Think Lord of the Flies, think of every dystopian novel you know – The Hunger Games has all the ingredients.
The great thing about the trilogy is that it expresses the questions and the challenges that face humanity now. Taken to an extreme it images the kind of inequities created by Globalization and an inequitable economic order where 1% control all the wealth; it images the horrors of desperation – such as we now see playing out in the Middle East, the Ukraine and refugees drowning in the Mediterranean. The Hunger Games asks what it means to be human – and shows the efforts and the costliness of asking and seeking to answer that unsettling question.
Answering that question, at a time when people were dying in arenas, and after a bloody execution, it was Jesus who stood among his disciples and asked them ‘Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?’ Well of course they were frightened and full of doubt – we all know, or think we know – that dead is dead! But what happens when the model of reality we live with and work by, suddenly shifts? We, with 2000 odd years behind the event, can more easily dismiss it now and say it is simply a pack of lies, a record of a group’s hysterical delusion.
The trouble is that the more closely we look at the gospel texts – and probably no other texts in the world have been so carefully scrutinised – that kind of answer just does not wash. Luke seems to have been written quite early, probably well within thirty years of Jesus crucifixion and at a time when witnesses of the resurrection were still alive – in other words he writes well before there has been opportunity for other bogus elements (pious rumour, mythology and so on) to cloud the essential memory of the event.
They consider the possibility that Jesus is a mere psychic phenomenon – a ghost – but the memory of the event not only names that possibility but dismisses it utterly with the memory of seeing the wounds and the invitation to touch them. Then, last of all, he eats a piece of fish. By the wounds and the eaten fish our material world is utterly affirmed –and yet here he is, this Jesus is indeed raised from the dead. The consequence of this revelation is that they now must see the world differently; they must see reality differently. The extraordinary story of the church that Luke tells in Acts begins here in this room of frightened and doubtful disciples whose world is being turned upside down.
Now can you hear the question our Lord directs to us: ‘Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?’ It is true – we are not strangers to fear and doubt; at times it feels as if these demons have taken up permanent residence among us. Yet against our fear and doubt the question echoes still: ‘Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?’ We are the reluctant disciples – it is as if we are on the edge of a great pier extending far out into the ocean, shivering and nervously speculating whether or not we take the plunge and dive into this vast, cold and hazardous ocean!
What is asked of us? Are we really so afraid, so doubtful that we simply dare not take the resurrection seriously and dare not have our minds and hearts changed? In a society where unbelief is so dominant, are we fearful of seeming foolish? In our own family and among our friends, among our Cathedral community – are we able to be peacemakers, are we able to be vulnerable, to say sorry, to stop wanting to have things our way? Are we able to live in such a way with one another that we will be, like that piece of eaten fish, a sign and proof of the resurrection? In a world where the dystopian horrors of The Hunger Games seem too close for comfort, are we prepared to so live that we “bring life to others” and “give light to the world”?