18 April 2021

Are we ‘startled and terrified’
or are we joyful in peace
in the days after Easter?

Marc Chagall’s painting ‘The Fiddler’ (1913) … inspired the title of the film ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ released 50 years ago in 1971

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 18 April 2021

The Third Sunday of Easter (Easter III)

10 a.m.: The Parish Eucharist

The Readings: Acts 3: 12-19, or Micah 4: 1-5; Psalm 4; I John 3: 1-7; Luke 24: 36b-48.

There is a link to the readings HERE.

Christ appearing to his disciples at the table, Duccio, ca 1308-1311

Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

The Covid-19 pandemic lockdown means that in recent months many of us have watched more movies or films on Netflix than we thought it was possible to produce in a year.

Indeed, I am sure that many of us cannot recall or even name half those movies.

On the other hand, many of us remember with affection great movies that we regard as classics, that we saw at key moments in our lives, or that were culturally formative. Why, we can even remember many of the lines, or instantly recall the music or songs in those movies.

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the release of the movie Fiddler on the Roof in 1971, an epic musical comedy-drama from Norman Jewison.

It came out at a key point in my maturing, and for many decades after I thought I could sing all the songs … I have even tried to dance along to the ‘Bottle Dance.’

The film is an adaptation of a 1964 Broadway musical, with music and lyrics by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick. The screenplay by Joseph Stein is based on a series of stories by Sholem Aleichem.

The title of Fiddler on the Roof and the set design for the original stage production are based on Marc Chagall’s painting, ‘The Fiddler’ (1913).

The film tells the story of the milkman Tevye (Chaim Topol) and his wife Golde (Norma Crane), the parents of five daughters, and their attempts to maintain their Jewish religious and cultural traditions as outside influences are about to change their family life.

Throughout the film, Tevye talks to God and directly to us, the audience, in monologues as he ponders tradition, poverty, anti-Semitism, violence, and family divisions.

Tevye’s internal struggles are no different than the debates that have divided the member churches of the Anglican Communion in recent decades about Scripture, Reason and Tradition: new sexual mores, women’s rights, revolution, interfaith marriage …

Tevye’s three older daughters wish to marry for love – each one’s choice of a husband moves further away from the customs of their faith – and the family also faces a pogrom when an edict from the Tsar orders the eviction of the Jews from the shtetl of Anatevka – ‘underfed, overworked Anatevka.’

It is Ukraine in 1905. But Anatevka could as easily be Yakmyan or one of many similar towns near Kovno in Lithuania from which many Jewish families fled to Cork, Dublin and Limerick at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries escaping similar pogroms.

Tevye leaves, some of his family going to Kraków, a hint perhaps of how anti-Semitism in central Europe would reach its deepest depravity in Auschwitz, about 65 km west of Kraków.

The time between now and the release of the film Fiddler on the Roof 50 years ago is longer than the 40 years or so between Anatevka and Auschwitz. Ryan Tubridy’s interview with Dr Efraim Zuroff on his show last Wednesday (14 April 2021), about his determined pursuit of the last surviving Nazi war criminals in the quest for justice, was a reminder that we are not too distanced at all from the Holocaust.

Fiddler gave us many memorable songs, from ‘Matchmaker, Matchmaker’ and ‘If I Were a Rich Man’ or ‘Miracle of Miracles’ and ‘To Life’ to ‘Sunrise, Sunset,’ and ‘Do You Love Me?’ … as well as the ‘Bottle Dance’ at the wedding reception.

I sometimes hear people saying things like they prefer the ‘Old Testament God’ to the ‘New Testament God.’ It is fundamentally wrong to say something like this. It is a cruel depiction of God that was used by Nazi tormentors in the death camps as they quoted the psalms and dashed children’s heads against rocks (see Psalm 137: 9).

In reply, how many people in the death camps must have pondered the opening verses of this morning’s psalm: ‘Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness; you set me at liberty when I was in trouble; have mercy on me and hear my prayer. How long will you nobles dishonour my glory; how long will you love vain things and seek after falsehood?’ (Psalm 4: 1-2)?

We must reject false and distorted approaches to reading Scripture that have enabled people, from the Middle Ages on, to use Biblical passages, such as verses in this morning’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 3: 12-19), to blame Jews for the Crucifixion.

But, in this reading, Saint Peter reminds the people listening to his sermon in Jerusalem that God who raises Christ from the dead is ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors’ and it is he who ‘has glorified his servant Jesus.’

In our Gospel reading, the Risen Christ greets his disciples, ‘Peace be with you’ (Luke 24: 36) and reminds them of the living truth ‘in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms’ as Scripture (Luke 24: 44)

Racism, hatred, discrimination, violence and division run contrary, in every way, to our Easter faith, and we must constantly challenge them in both prayer and action.

During my prayers and reflections on Friday evening (16 April 2021), I returned to the scene in the movie that includes the ‘Sabbath Prayer.’ This reflects a traditional and peaceful Jewish family custom on Friday evenings. This song invokes several traditional blessings associated with Shabbat evenings.

The first verse asks for God’s protection and defence of his people.

The second verse is a blessing for daughters to be like the matriarchs in the Bible, including Ruth who was meek and Esther … who was anything but meek.

The third verse is a blessing for longevity and the strengthening of families, with a prayer for ‘good wives’ and ‘husbands.’

The last verse appeals for God’s enduring favour and bestowing of happiness:

May the Lord protect and defend you.
May the Lord preserve you from pain.
Favour them, Oh Lord, with happiness and peace.
Oh, hear our Sabbath prayer. Amen.

Luke 24: 36b-48 (NRSVA):

36b Jesus stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ 37 They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38 He said to them, ‘Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’ 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate in their presence.

44 Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you — that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’ 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46 and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.’

‘They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks’ (Micah 4: 3) … Jesus … stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you’ (Luke 24: 36) … ‘Humanity’s Contempt for Humanity’ by Peter Walker in the ‘Consequence of War’ exhibition in Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Liturgical Colour: White.

The Greeting (from Easter Day until Pentecost):

Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Penitential Kyries:

Lord God,
you raised your Son from the dead.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Lord Jesus,
through you we are more than conquerors.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Holy Spirit,
you help us in our weakness.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The Collect of the Day (Easter III):

Almighty Father,
who in your great mercy gladdened the disciples
with the sight of the risen Lord:
Give us such knowledge of his presence with us,
that we may be strengthened
and sustained by his risen life
and serve you continually in righteousness and truth;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Introduction to the Peace:

The Risen Christ came and stood among his disciples and said, Peace be with you. Then were they glad when they saw the Lord. (John 20: 19, 20).


Above all we praise you
for the glorious resurrection of your Son
Jesus Christ our Lord,
the true paschal lamb who was sacrificed for us;
by dying he destroyed our death;
by rising he restored our life:

Post Communion Prayer:

Living God,
your Son made himself known to his disciples
in the breaking of bread.
Open the eyes of our faith,
that we may see him in all his redeeming work;
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Blessing:

God the Father,
by whose glory Christ was raised from the dead,
raise you up to walk with him in the newness of his risen life:

Dismissal: (from Easter Day to Pentecost):

Go in the peace of the Risen Christ. Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thanks be to God. Alleluia! Alleluia!

A monument to Jewish victims of the Holocaust outside the Jewish cemetery in Mitte, Berlin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)


323, The God of Abhraham praise (CD 19)
338, Jesus, stand among us (CD 20)

Painted eggs in an Easter decoration in Platanias near Rethymnon in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

Material from the Book of Common Prayer is copyright © 2004, Representative Body of the Church of Ireland.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Beautifully crafted work Patrick. Thank you so much.