This holiday time has brought out the favourite old films on TV: The Sound of Music, Oklahoma, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The good news is that there is a film to be released in May which will provide another addition to the list of family favourites. Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett have been limbering up for the new version of Robin Hood. No expense has been spared; they are both Australian but the actors have been trained to speak with authentic Nottinghamshire accents. Just imagine the opening scene in the Greenwood. Robin to Marion "Ey up, Flower; it's waaarm, int it?" Marion to Robin:" Ey up, Mi Duck, I'm as cowd as owt!" This could go too far with King John lisping with a Norman-French accent a bit like Poirot or Officer Crabtree. Each remake of this great story has its idiosyncracies - Crowe will be dropping Errol Flynn's Lincoln green tights(!) in favour of something more like Levis. But the gist of this story of derring-do in which good trimphs will remain the same. Let's hope there are some weepy moments too; there's nothing like a good nose blow at the pictures. It will surely speak to the depths of our romantic souls.
We don't know how much truth there is in this tale, though the telling of it is linked into history. We know King John was real enough, you can see his tomb in the middle of the Choir of Worcester Cathedral. Very handsome it is too, with a stone effigy of the king carved not long after his death. He may have been fierce, cruel and unlovely in life but after eight centuries lying down listening to Vespers and Choral Evensong he must be pretty peaceful by now. Not that he hasn't been disturbed; the tomb has been opened twice, most recently in 1797. It seems he was just over five feet six with a sword by his left side. In the ancient library of the cathedral is a fragment of his silk shroud, beautiful and delicate as gossamer, embroidered with the Plantagenet leopards. Rather more disturbing is a glass case exhibiting his thumb bone. I know the cathedral librarian and so in a recent flippant email expressed concern that King John's thumb bone should be available (should I say "handy") for him at the Resurrection. He calmed my worries by replying immediately that there is one thumb bone on display but two more in drawers!
We have so many jokes about death and resurrection - St Peter at the Pearly Gates and so on. The very seriousness of the subject makes us handle it lightly. In fact nothing could be more important. Here we are in this wonderful world. If we are fortunate we have friends and perhaps family for us to love. Maybe we have pain, trouble and sorrow too, but how good it is to be here. Surely, God would not have given us this wonderful experience with all that seems to point to the eternal values of love, kindness, gentleness and many more unless the future stretches out ahead for us. We crave that our destinies should be robed in something even more beautiful than Plantagenet silk.
So back to the heroic. The story of Jesus appeals to so much that is good in us. This is heroism on a unique scale. We respond naturally to him. He is not engaged in physical, testosterone fuelled activity like Robin Hood. His sensitivity and courage are of a very different order and are all the more remarkable:
He affirms the beauty of the world "consider
the lillies", the importance of the fragile "not a single sparrow falls
to the earth without our Father knowing it."
He reinforces the dignity of individuals "the hairs of our head are numbered." He extends a welcoming hand to the untouchable leper and has time and love for the mad, bad, and desperate (we're all in there somewhere)
He stands up with courage to the bully, the bigot, the corrupt. Think how tough he was with religious and political leaders who wanted to keep a good thing to themselves (Pharisees, Sadducees and Herodians), not to mention his cleansing of the Temple.
He shows the deepest reverence for life. For him the Kingdom of Heaven or Life Eternal is not "Pie in the Sky when you die", it is a quality of life beginning here and going beyond death. Remember those graphic accounts of him bringing people back from the jaws of death : Lazarus his friend at whose tomb he wept and, poignantly, the daughter of Jairus. Incidentally St Mark records the very aramaic words Jesus used with Jairus's daughter: Talitha
kumi. The Authorised Version translated this with "Damsel, I say unto the arise". Beautiful - but even more beautifully the words actually mean "Get up, Little Lamb."
Today is a day for astonishing good
news. Jesus of Nazareth is a real figure from
history. He is heroic but historic, in a totally different
league from any other heroic figure. His priorities, people
centred and God directed, value this beautiful world, reinforce the
dignity of individuals, face down bullying and corruption, and show by
word and action that this world with its rich, loving human experience
is of a piece with what is to follow.
We have just heard that part of the Gospel that speaks of Jesus' Resurrection. Given the way he taught and acted is it surprising God raised him from death? Well, it certainly surprized his disciples. They were disconsolate, desperate and disorganised, dreading the future. Their experience of meeting the Risen Lord was to change all this. It provided a springboard to challenge and change the harsh values of the world. As for us - for the present we may enjoy this world, value each other and use our time unselfishly. For the future - that is with God, and Jesus' resurrection he has given us compelling evidence to undergird our faith that we may continue to grow in faith and love with each other into his future.
is risen today.........Alleluia!