As a young man I went to stay with a family with two small sons.
To enter into the games they were acting out, I sat on the floor, and the older boy ran through me with his toy wooden sword.
I lay down flat, acting dead.
The younger boy then came and touched me on my head and said,
”I am Jesus, come alive again.”
So I sat, and then stood up.
The practice of making peace had begun at an early age in that household.
It was of course resuscitation that we were acting out: coming back to the same sort of life, just like the raising of LAZARUS by Jesus.
But these ‘resuscitation’ stories do prepare us to make the leap of faith for the resurrection of Jesus; The unique event which eternally combined human and divine life, in the body still bearing the marks of crucifixion.
And it was on the evening of Easter Sunday that Jesus appeared, greeting the disciples with;
‘Peace be with you.’ (John 20:26)
A Story of Assumption
Neither were we acting out the assumption of Jesus’ body into heaven leaving no earthly corpse. That was the tradition about ELIJAH going up to heaven on a chariot of fire in a whirlwind.
But I want to tell you a story of a more recent Assumption that ends with a story of Good News: The witness to the death and assumption of the body of BERNARD MIZEKE in Zimbabwe in 1896.
MIZEKE was an indigenous pastor placed in Mangwende’s village by the first Bishop of Mashonaland.
When fighting broke out between white settlers and the Mashona, Bernard remained in his adopted village rather than respond to the offer of military protection in Fort Salisbury.
One night he was brutally speared by sons of Chief Mangwende, and left for dead. When his wife found him, she went for water and first aid, but as she was returning she was aware of a dazzling light. Afterwards no-one was able to find Bernard’s body.
We can say that he had been assumed into heaven.
The Good News
In June 1971, I went to Mangwende’s kraal to celebrate the anniversary of Bernard’s death. The place is marked not by a basilica, but by an altar under a circular thatched roof. There were about 5,000 communicants, most of whom had camped in the fields overnight.
The good news in this story of brutal death, is that the descendants of Bernard Mizeke, and of Chief Mangwende, had been reconciled.
Enemies had become friends, and the blood of a martyr had become the seed of the Church.
Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.