The divine shattering of time and space by the resurrection of Christ is told by a woman running to two men and not being believed. And then they do believe.
Exult, all creation around God’s throne!’ (Easter Vigil Exsultet)
Acts records in simple terms the crux of the whole history of salvation, as it runs its course in the life, death and resurrection of the man Jesus of Nazareth: God has appointed him to judge everyone, alive or dead… it is to him that all the prophets bear witness.’ (Acts 10:43)
So here in the great feast of the Christian year, Christians testify to the pivotal point of the greatest story ever told, and as it unfurls in the final eruption of the resurrection. Each author tries to paint some of the consequences of that event as it breaks through every human category of thought and expectation. Their canvas is global. We have an imperative to ensure ours is also. And especially in proclamation to those who ask to listen – and in dialogue with those of all religions who have an equally fervent attachment to their revelation of the beauty of the Divine in age old dialogues of their own – so we must partner in fellowship.
Peter here continues the momentum he has been drawn up into, in the house of the Centurion, Cornelius. The verse omitted from the start of our reading (Acts 10: 35) is one of the most telling of all Scriptural texts for inter-religious dialogue. Peter dreams of the great sheet let down from heaven containing all the varieties of foods to be eaten. This is his conversion from excluding all but observant Jews from the new gathering (Church). In blinding vision he now admits: ‘I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation, anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.’ There can no longer be any boundaries of faith – God is for everyone and this includes the whole of nature and creation. Whilst the Church can call itself the “People of God”, by virtue of its explicit gathering by Christ, it must equally witness to this fact, as Peter first does, that God’s people are co-terminous with the whole of humanity. There are no peoples outside the designation “People of God.” Christians do not build relationships purely to achieve peace (though this may be an outcome) but because relationships define them. Communion is written into their DNA.
Paul reminds the Colossians that dialogue brings new life with Christ in God. When Christ is revealed, they, too will be revealed in all their glory with him. This transfiguration which humanity finds in its relationship with God is not to be confined to the Colossians but is meant for the whole of humanity. If God is to respect our humanity then God must dialogue with the particular human being in communities on a human scale. No revelations or theophanies are made to vast groups of people. God speaks in human terms in human circumstances to individuals in still small voices, in dreams or inspirations of the heart and then this exchange creates community. So, Paul is in conversation with the small Christian community at Colossae, but then through it with the world.
The stories of the empty tomb are vividly but simply told, as in John’s gospel here. The divine shattering of time and space and our entire human world by the resurrection of Christ is to be told in terms of a woman running to two men and not being believed. They run, the younger out-running the elder. Until then they had not understood the scripture that he must rise from the dead. But that their unbelief is recorded here is significant. Human beings, less than perfect, run about, tell unbelievable stories of a man dead and then alive. They do not believe and then they do believe. This is divine dialogue with a human face on a human level. That’s how it always is. God has a human face.