He is not here

As I sit in a hospital bed I chew on this phrase that the angels told Mary. 

I think many of us Christians hurry to the bit where Jesus makes his appearance.

But first you ask, what are you doing on a hospital bed? Well, it shall be revealed in due course.

The one thing all the gospels agree on is Jesus’ absence from the tomb. It’s that note of unison before they diverge into their parts. Instead of hurrying on to the next bit it’s worth reflecting on the absence. (Lot of good and clever folk have said lots about God’s absence so maybe this is all old hat.)

Jesus says earlier that he has to leave. He promises an absence. He has to leave so that the Comforter, the Holy Spirit can be with us. The Holy Spirit is breath. Breath is an absence of a kind. It is the absence before sound. It is the absence before speech. The absence before the Word. 

So in the absence Jesus is always arriving. Over Lent I have felt Jesus’ absence like never before. Is he arriving? Is that him in the distance? Or is he behind me? Or above? I don’t know. All I know is that first absence turned a bunch of scared poor folk into something far beyond themselves.

So why am I on a hospital bed this Easter? Just practising my absence with my family. No seriously, I had some palpitations which needed monitoring. A good reminder of my mortality. And God’s.

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Our urge to protect the story

I’m not that into tennis. Not since Steffi Graf and Boris Becker anyway. But Maria Sharapova’s performance enhancer event fits into a pattern of many other such events.

The pattern is this. A famous person gets caught for doing something they shouldn’t. Famous person either denies it OR accepts the finding but says it’s a simple mistake or misinterpretation. From Sepp Blatter to Lance Armstrong and to now Sharapova there’s this strange air of innocence that is put forward. It is strange because I think the accused actually believe in their innocence. I’m not sure what the psychological terms are but we find it very difficult to actually come to terms with our ‘mistake.’

But there is yet more to this pattern. When the Sharapova event happened we had Navratilova saying it ‘seems like an honest mistake.’ Serena Williams, the greatest tennis player every in many ways said ‘she showed a lot of courage’. (That’s quite a nice thing to say but was it courage or just damage limitation?) So what this bit of the pattern shows is that when the powerful are found out their friends will inevitably publicly defend them.

A while back I posted how Lance Armstrong was defended by his friends all the way till the end. Further back I posted on Roman Polanski and how people like Whoopi Goldberg defended him. Now we can have our opinion and we are surely justified in holding on to friendships. But I think what is interesting is that the supportive celebrities feel the need to publicly state their allegiance.

It is that strange spirit of conforming allegiance that gathers everyone together in a shared myth of persecution. The church is no stranger to this. We have protected a lot of our abusers and downright nasty folk. Protecting the story seems to be a primal urge. One that needs to be broken.

‘You have heard it said… but I say to you…’, a sage once said. We need to break our stories.