Friday, July 31, 2009

Joseph of Arimathea

According to James Kiefer's Hagiographies, this is Joseph of Arimathea's Day.

He's n
ot on the Lutheran calendar. Probably because what we know of him from scripture is pretty sparse. According to all four gospels, (M 27:57-61; P 15:42-47; L 23:50-56; J 19:38-42) after the death of Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy member of the Council, asked Pilate for the body of Jesus, and buried it with honor in the tomb he had intended for himself. That's all we know from scripture but there's lots of good stuff in legends.

Joseph is all wrapped up in medieval legends of the Holy Grail because he is said to have brought it to Britain. He is credited with evangelizing Britain and indeed Christianity came to Britain very early - so who knows?

I love ancient legends and saints stories. I think it's a shame we have this weird modern notion that if something didn't actually happen in history, the story is of no value. That's the kind of thinking that leads to fundamentalists insisting that if Jonah wasn't really swallowed by a fish then Jesus didn't rise from the dead and God is a Big Fat Liar.

When I went to Israel on one of those cheap Pastor tours, we visited competing spots that claim to be the tomb of Jesus --the church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Garden Tomb.
The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is the oldest, discovered by Constantine's mother herself, Helena, who embarked on a very successful tour to discover ancient landmarks in Christ's life. I believe she found every thing she was looking for, so fortunate was she.

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is very dark, full of candles and incense and icons and statues. It's very "Catholic" (although it is shared by several different ancient church bodies)

But it is small wonder that some Protestant sensibilities were offended by this old mysterious and dark church and preferred the quiet simplicity of the Garden Tomb which resembles a respectable English Garden.

They are both lovely places in their own way. But it really is the Holy Sepulcher that gives me goose bumps.

1 comment:

  1. I have often said - and I sometimes say it in my sermons, too - that truth and historical fact are totally not the same thing!

    I envy you going to Israel; my parents did a pilgrimage there with their church, but we couldn't afford it when ours did one (also daughter was very young & it was in term-time).