Type your search below
Preacher: Canon Victoria Johnson, Precentor
Title of sermon: The Resurrection Perspective
Date/time/service: Sunday 1 May 2022
In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
There are moments in life that change us. That change our perspective indelibly. Not just a U-turn to save face, or an alternative choice, but a complete ground breaking, life-changing, earth shattering transformation of fundamental proportions.
There are moments in life that change our perspective and make us look at the world differently. Almost as if we have been given a new way of seeing things. Moments that turn all of our assumptions upside down. Paradigm shifts, Eureka moments at the most personal level: a ‘Damascus Road experience’, is the phrase often used. An Epiphany, an enlightenment. An event which completely re-orients our very being, our lives, and our way of life. We’re never the same again.
When orbiting in space or walking on the moon, Astronauts from the International Space Station, are able in the most unique and profound way, to quite literally look at the world differently, from a different point of view. They look back at our blue planet, silently spinning, and see it in all of its wonder and fragility. The effect that this experience has on the astronauts has been well noted.
The NASA Astronaut, Nicole Stott describes how looking upon the earth from a distance, gives humanity a new perspective: She says: “We have this connection to Earth. And I don’t know how you can come back and not, in some way, be changed. It may be subtle. You see differences in different people in their general response when they come back from space. But I think, collectively, everybody has that emblazoned on their memories, the way the planet looks. You can’t take that lightly.”
This is a common phenomenon amongst those who journey into space, they call it the ‘overview effect’, a cognitive shift in awareness, a huge ruction in perspective which changes your life forever. It might result in compassion for the planet, an acknowledgment of the preciousness of life, a desire to do good and make the most of the time that has been given to us.
Most of us, will not be lucky enough to jet off into space. But there will be moments in our lives when our world view shifts in a similar way to those astronauts- moments of clarity and insight-when we see the world differently. In your own life can you identify the moments which have changed you? A moment of intellectual clarity? A sudden realisation of the truth? A revelation? Falling in love? The birth of a child? The experience of grief? An illness? A global pandemic perhaps? Can you identify the moments when you have experienced the Overview effect and been enlightened or shocked into seeing things in a new way?
The events of the resurrection which we continue to celebrate and which we are witness to today (recounted in the Gospel of John), illustrate world changing events in the lives of a small community of men and women in first century Palestine. The Lord of heaven and earth, the one who had been crucified, dead and buried, appears in a garden to Mary, moves through closed doors to be with the disciples in the upper room, walks along a road and reveals the meaning of the scriptures- breaking bread with the disciples, stands with them on a beach, early in the morning.
As the sun rose, this was the new day, the new beginning which no-one could have anticipated. The new day of a new world. Here was Christ, risen from the dead. How could this be possible? Of course the disciples didn’t know that it was Jesus, because that possibility was beyond anyone’s comprehension. The dead did not come back to life. But here was Jesus. Stood on the beach and when their nets were empty, when they felt dejected and useless and lost, when they perhaps could see no way out, no way forward, when they had no perspective, this risen Christ tells them to put their nets on the other side. In sense he is telling them to look at things differently.
This is what Christ does, always calling us to see the world differently, to believe in the impossible, daring us to change, willing us to be born again and see the world as if for the first time. Urging us to throw our net on the other side, strengthening us to break out of the traditions and expectations and assumptions that bind and imprison us. Christ wakens humanity from the slumber which obscures new life and breathes into us the gift of spirit, bursting the prisons of our souls and turning hearts of stone to hearts of mutable, transformable, changeable flesh.
For Saul, on the road to Damascus the voice and the light of Christ are dramatic interventions which turn a persecutor to a protector, an enemy to an advocate, a denier into a believer. This new perspective gives birth to Paul, whose life is then lived in proclaiming the risen Lord to anyone who was ready to see the world differently, a man whose life was turned upside down by Christ. The same might be said of Peter in whom three denials are transformed into three commissions, to tend and to feed the new community of Christ. A weak willed man, through the eyes of Christ is changed into the rock on whom he will build his church, a sinner is turned into a saint.
This is the Christ who is called the shepherd and yet is also the lamb, the God of heaven who is with us eating breakfast on the beach, this is the body crucified, and made glorious through resurrection.
Listen, says St Paul to the church in Corinth- a little time after his Damascus Road experience: I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. I suppose he, of all people, was able to talk to the Christian community about the change in heart and the change in perspective enabled by Christ.
The reminder of our baptism at the beginning of this service challenges us with the question: Do we really want to be changed? Are we open to having our perspective transformed? Are we ready to see the world differently? I think we might all acknowledge that something might need to jolt humanity into a new perspective as we face this moment in our history- climate breakdown, war in Europe, the stock piling of nuclear weapons, a loss of integrity among those who lead us, a growing inequality between rich and poor, poverty on our doorstep, anxiety and confusion. We surely need to pray for a resurrection perspective on what it means to be human? Yours are the eyes, ours are the eyes, says St Theresa of Avila, with which Christ looks with compassion on the world.
It is through the eyes of Christ that we can see for ourselves all the things that mar the image of God in the family of humanity; it is through the universal and cosmic Christ that we can look upon this earth in wonder and awe, and see also its fragility and beauty; it is through Christ that we can be transformed by an overview effect which changes who we are and how we live. Most of us do not need to become astronauts, in order to gain a new perspective. God simply asks us to turn to Christ, to submit to Christ and to come to Christ the way, the truth and the life.
It is in Christ that we can be changed and made new, and stand each day as if on the seashore, with endless possibilities set before us, if only we could open our eyes the reality of the living God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Stay up to date with York Minster