Yesterday I spoke at Moreland Baptist Church in Brunswick, not far from where I live at the Indigenous Hospitality House in Carlton North. In the liturgical calendar Easter actually goes for several weeks, so we were continuing to reflect on the story of Jesus’ execution and resurrection. In the story we read, from John’s gospel, Jesus mysteriously appears among his friends in the middle of a closed room, still bearing the marks of his execution. He breathes on them his executed-and-resurrected breath, telling them that they have the power to forgive sins or leave them standing. No flames above the disciples heads like we find in the book of Acts. In John’s account, God’s Spirit is the breath of the executed-and-resurrected.
Jesus’ friend Thomas misses all this and doesn’t believe it. He says he needs to see it for himself, to even touch the scars in Jesus hands and put his hand inside the hole in his body. Jesus turns up for Thomas’ benefit and challenges him to do exactly that.
Many people in our society today also find it hard to take the accounts of the resurrection seriously because of a lack of any material, corporeal evidence. However, I think there is actual corporeal, material confirmation of the resurrection out there. I have experienced it in the welcome and hospitality I have received from our First Peoples, despite the poor track record of Settler people. It is bodily because it has taken the form of shared food and drink, shared shelter in the bad weather, a hug of welcome. This is the forgiveness that the resurrected Jesus talks about.
I also see confirmation of the resurrection in the witness of Leo Seemanpillai. Leo
came to Australia as an asylum-seeker, and was living in Geelong when he received the news that his application for asylum had failed and that he would be returned to Sri Lanka. He feared that when he returned he would be killed, and in despair he took his own life. In his death Leo Seemanpillai returned our cruelty with generosity. He was registered as an organ donor. One of his eyes, one of his lungs, his kidneys and his liver were given to people who needed them. In a very material way, Leo Seemanpillai lives on in Australia, in our bodies, helping us to see, cleansing our bodies and giving us breath. This is the kind of forgiveness that the breath of Christ gives. This is not just as an illustration, an allegory or a parable. This is serious and it is real, and we need to take time to consider what it means.