24-26 May, 2010
In the morning I packed my bags and did a bit of blogging. Then I caught the metro to the airport. I left my hotel 3 hours before my plane was due to leave, and as it happened, that was a good thing, because I had a long wait for the train. I checked my large suitcase through to Auckland and took what I needed for my stopover in Dubai in my backpack. The flight went fine and the transfer to my hotel in Dubai went perfectly. I was just sorry I wasn't staying longer as it was a lovely hotel! (I got into Dubai around 10pm and had to leave the hotel around 7.15am the next day.) I flew directly to Sydney, arriving at 6am on the 26th, and after a short stopover headed on to Auckland. After my sleep in the hotel in Dubai, I found it almost impossible to sleep on the plane - so I watched movies non-stop to Sydney and on to Auckland! I particularly liked Helen Mirren's portrayal of Tolstoy's wife in the Last Station and I thought that District 9 was a very exciting and involving movie. When I got to Auckland I found my suitcase as planned and then had a few hours to wait for the plane to Wellington. By this time I was definitely wilting! I finally got to Wellington around 6pm and had a lovely welcome from Helen, Michael, Eliza and my mother who had come to meet me. It was great to spend the evening (and the following days) together with the family after 9 weeks apart.
As I have reflected on my trip, I have thought how fortunate I was in all that I did and experienced. How can I sum up such an amazing and enriching time in a few paragraphs? Perhaps a photograph will help.
This is an icon of the resurrection that I photographed in the Benaki Museum in Athens. Another depiction of this same traditional resurrection theme had been discussed during my Holy Week and Easter course in Jerusalem. So it links both parts of my time away.
In the centre of the icon is Jesus, depicted as the all-conquering hero, defeating death and depopulating hell through his glorious resurrection power. The absolute centre of our faith as Christians is Jesus the Messiah, who is Saviour, Lord and God. Whether in Israel and Jordan or in Greece and modern-day Turkey, the saving power of this Jesus was experienced and proclaimed by those who knew him during his earthly life, and those, like St Paul, who first met him as the risen Lord of all. Jesus is the Lord we proclaim throughout the world. Of course, we do not proclaim him to the exclusion of God the Father or of the Holy Spirit, but we must not water down the fact that the human/divine Jesus was raised from the dead. He ascended to the Father and lives to raise all of us to life with him.
Notice the vigour with which he raises Adam and Eve from the dead - and with them all of us. Human sin and death is no match for the vitality and goodness within our Saviour. He pulls them by their arms. They are not helping him. They cannot help themselves. Jesus is doing this alone in the power of God. He stands on the broken-down gates of hell and beneath his feet are the demons and all the instruments by which they have sought to harm and terrorise humanity. Satan is fast bound, never to do harm again.
And Jesus does this for both Adam and Eve - for male and female, for all who are like me and all who are not like me. There is no one across any human divide, however much I dislike or differ from that person, however much you dislike or differ from that person, who is not a subject for the resurrection to eternal life through Jesus Christ. He is not just my Lord or our Lord but Lord of all. As I said in my blog on Easter Day (8 April), "God's love and goodwill is for all of us whoever and whatever we are."
What return can we make for all the goodness and life that radiate from our Saviour and lover of all? That is perhaps the most important question as I come to the end of my sabbatical. Fr Makarios at Simonos Petras monastery on Mt Athos would say to me, "It is all God's work, beginning and end, but in the middle we can co-operate a little." May I and may we co-operate with the grace that God has showered upon us through Jesus, so that what he has done may achieve its purpose in our lives and in our world, to the glory of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.