"Humour, as always, was powerful medicine…. When the Dean preached what struck him as a Laodicean sermon one Easter, either Rowan or Oliver O’Donovan whispered, ‘Christ is risen: he is possibly risen indeed,’ as the two processed out of the cathedral. Each now ascribes the comment to the other."This perhaps does not tickle some of you because it is an insider joke. Anyway, I'm going to explain the joke here, which will inevitably diminish the humour.
(Rupert Shortt, Rowan’s Rule: The Biography of the Archbishop of Canterbury, p.137.)
There is a technical greeting which is used by the Eastern Orthodox Christians during Easter known as the Paschal Greeting. The practise goes like this. When you meet someone during Easter, you shall say to him or her, "Christ is risen," and he or she will reply accordingly, "Christ is risen indeed." And 'Laodicean' connotes 'indifference in religious matters'.
Here's the translation. After listening to the boring and passionless sermon, one of them turned to the other and greeted, "Christ is risen: Christ is possibly risen indeed," to tease the indifferent sermon. How could Jesus' resurrection, the ultimate climax of divine vindication, the absolute signifier of the transformed creation and the defeat of death, be preached so lifelessly?
Now, one is a prominent clergyman who is first among equal of a worldwide communion of 77 millions, while the other is a prominent Christian ethicist whose works have revived the discourse on political theology among Evangelicals. What interests me is not so much the humour but the remarkable friendship these two fellas share.
In case some of you think that both of them are closet liberals (worse, perceiving me as a liberal for posting this) who do not affirm the resurrection of Christ, you may want to check out their significant works on the issue:
Rowan Williams, Resurrection: Interpreting the Easter Gospel.
Oliver O'Donovan, Resurrection and Moral Order: An Outline for Evangelical Ethics.