Guess what happened to me yesterday. I was walking along the Back road looking out across the meadow toward Kings College Cambridge. It was late afternoon and the sun was streaming across the lawn illuminating the buttercups so that they shone like golden treasures. And then out of the blue five angels floated down from the sky with their wings out stretched and landed right there in the middle of the meadow. They collected up the golden butter treasures and swallowed each flower, one by one. And as they swallowed their bodies became golden light and then they disappeared.
I know it is very hard to believe as story like this. We all know that yesterday afternoon … it was very cloudy and the sun was hidden away and the sky was certainly not blue.
Oh, and we know that butter cups are not made of butter.
And we know that angels don’t float down from the sky and land in the Kings College meadow.
A very difficult story to believe.
But if we read a story from the bible about Peter bringing Tabitha back to life in Acts chapter 9, can we bring ourselves to believe that? This is one of those stories we’d probably be very unlikely to believe unless it was in the bible. A dead person being raised to life again is totally in-plausible. It just can’t happen now because in our experience it has never happened. (except for Jesus of course, but that was different)
Last week I read about Psychology, Religion and Spirituality and read about the human brain’s innate capacity for engaging in religion. I sat next to a man at breakfast who was here in Cambridge to deliver a lecture about cognitive science and his research about how is not just one part of the brain that has the capacity for engagement in religion, but many aspects of the brain working together.
Yesterday, exploring the Cambridge Theological Federation website and ended up watched a lecture delivered 4 years ago at the Faraday Institute by Justin Barret where he described an experiment. A group of researchers took a box with something inside it and shook the box so that the children could hear that there was something there. They asked the children if they knew what was in the box. ‘no’. They asked if their mother would know what was in the box. ‘no’. The researches then asked if God would know what was in the box… children aged 3 said ‘no’, but from the age of 3 up until about 7/8 overwhelmingly the children agreed, in the research they did in 4 different countries, that ‘yes’ God would know what was in the box. 80% of seven year olds report an experience of God’s closeness.
Children have an innate awareness of God as the creator of the world around them and an ability for the kind of intuitive thinking that underpins religion. As we get older and develop the capacity for analytic and abstract propositional thinking there is a decline in intuitive religious experience.
We are told that this disciple who died at Joppa was named Dorcas in Greek or Tabitha in Aramaic. As we listen to this story, we are reminded of Jairus' daughter, where Luke also takes the unusual step of translating some Greek into Aramaic for us. Jesus said “Little girl, get up”, in Aramaic that was “Talitha Cumi.”
And in the book of Acts, Peter says in his native Aramaic: “Tabitha Cumi.”, Tabatha get up. Almost the same. There isn’t any magic in these words, but Luke's original readers would have recognized the echo of one story in the other.
Do I need to remind you that this resurrection story takes place amidst the women disciples, the for centuries forgotten and diminished ones in the life of the church. Hey girl, get up. Don’t stay sleeping to the presence of God manifest in all things… get up!
Jesus’ story is not over. Jesus might not be physically present anymore, but the influence of the risen Christ-Sophia is undiminished. What Jesus did in body, is done now in Spirit through his disciples. The power of Christ-Sophia the risen Cosmic One bring new life, is undiminished from one story to the next.
I was walking along the Backs road looking out across the meadow toward Kings College in Cambridge after Evensong with the echo of angelic voices ringing in my ears. It was late afternoon and the sun was streaming across the lawn illuminating the buttercups so that they shone like delicious golden treasures. Each the sweet musical note of heavenly voices resting in the lawn. With my eyes glazed with tears of joy at the brilliance in that moment, my senses opened up as if angels floated down from the sky with their wings out stretched and landed right there in the middle of the meadow. They collected up the golden treasures and swallowed each flower, one by one. And as they swallowed their bodies became golden light and then they disappeared.