Coronavirus Pandemic Sunday 26th April, 2020

Third Sunday of Easter, 2020 - Rev. Jerry Eve

1 Corinthians 15


“I passed on to you what I received, which is of the greatest importance: that Christ died for our sins . . . that he was buried and that he was raised to life three days later, as written in the Scriptures; that he appeared to Peter and then to all twelve apostles. Then he appeared to more than five hundred of his followers at once . . . Then he appeared to James, and afterward to all the apostles. Last of all he appeared also to me.”

 I was heading for a meeting during Advent at the end of last year, and it was just off George Square. I was early, so I thought I might go into GOMA, our Gallery of Modern Art. And I may have been late for the meeting, because when I went in – and it took my eyes a few moments to adjust – there were two enormous screens opposite each other, and I had to be careful because there were beanbags scattered around, and people sitting on them.

It was a video installation by Fiona Tan, and it was made in 2009 for the Venice Bienniale that year. Fiona, who’ll be in her early fifties now, is from Indonesia. She was brought up in Australia, lives in Amsterdam, and was representing the Netherlands. If you saw it, you may well have been as captivated as I was. I didn’t know which screen to watch. One was showing a film Fiona herself had taken of shelves of oriental artefacts collected together in some Western museum, possibly in Amsterdam (I’m guessing). And the other was a montage of news and current affairs footage from the orient.

And what made it so compelling for me was the soundtrack, for somebody was reading from Marco Polo’s Travels. Which I thought was inspired because Marco Polo was from Venice. His dates are 1254 – 1324, and what shocked me about hearing his writings spoken was how overtly racist he was when categorising whole groups of people he came across on the Silk Road from modern-day Syria out to China via India, and beyond. It certainly had me thinking very deeply about the whole issue of colonialism and its aftermath. The title of that work of art? It’s Disorient.

We are currently in the season of Easter which lasts for seven weeks, and it’s difficult to be sure of these things, but one theory is that the name Easter comes from a Germanic word meaning east. It’s to do with the sun rising higher and higher from that direction each day. The word orient (we use it to refer to those countries to the east of us) comes from a Latin word meaning ‘to rise’.

But there’s another sense in which we use the word orient, and Easter I think is a very good time for us to do this, as we all of us seek (as more than five hundred of those first followers of Jesus did all those years ago) to orient ourselves as well to the new knowledge we now have of God’s love.

A love, to return to that installation, which as Europeans demands that we regard all peoples (and not just those who are the same as us, but everyone) to be made in the image and likeness of God, and treated accordingly: north, south, east and west.

Let us pray: God, the Garden of Eden was planted by You in the East (and not in the West), and Jesus’ first visitors – those men who studied the stars – came not from the West, but from the East. Forgive us for all those times when those of us who are European have thought of ourselves as superior to anyone who isn’t. And remind us too that our Christian faith wasn’t forged here in the West at all, but comes to us from the East, and all the way from Turkey and Egypt to as far away from us as the Persian Gulf, Amen.

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