So, here we are. Easter Sunday morning.
Spring has come early. The daffodils and Scilla are blooming.
The sanctuary is beautiful. The music inspiring.
And, the real life juxtaposition is stark.
Bombs explode in Brussels.
And in Ankara. And in Beirut. And in Baghdad.
Just as they have exploded in Oklahoma City and Birmingham, Alabama.
In the face of all that…
The violence of the cross and the violence in Brussels, and beyond the beauty of daffodils and lilies, we dare to gather to be reminded and to claim the astonishing promises of God wrapped up in the witness of the resurrection. That even in the face of all we see and read and hear about in the news, despair and death do not have the final word. Hope and Love and Life prevail.
However you understand resurrection or read the narrative of the women and the tomb and the angels and the stone rolled back and the incredulous, barely believing disciples. However you understand what it means to say…
He is not here.
Christ is risen.
Why do you seek the living among the dead?
And, whether you understand resurrection as something which happened to Jesus or something which happened to the disciples. Or the narrative as historical event or as a living parable.
Maybe it doesn’t matter.
At least, if you don’t stop there.
Maybe it doesn’t matter as long as you take the risk of asking the next two harder, more provocative, more turn the world right side up questions. The Biblical narratives of the resurrection of Jesus are incredibly nuanced, but the questions they leave for us to ponder and to answer are utterly simple.
Is it true?
And, if it is, where do you expect to meet Jesus?
So, first questions first.
However you understand the story, is it true?
Did something happen?
Did something happen between crucifixion and what came next.
Between scared to death disciples unwilling to leave the room where they were hiding to you and me here today.
If you answer yes, even if you are not sure exactly what happened or or how it happened or what it means, then you can also say Yes to the underlying witness of the story which is that even in the face of the torture and violence of Jesus’ death and the power and the ruthlessness of the Roman Empire to inflict that violence, all of that is not the end of the story and does not have the final word. For somehow beyond that ruthlessness and violence is the stone is rolled away and the angels who appear in the middle of what feels like the most desperate, heart-breaking situation and Jesus who meets us in those most common places and those most unexpected moments.
The witness of the resurrection…
The witness of Easter is that…
Life, not Death, has the final word.
And, if you believe that is true, then that is how you are called to live. And hope and mercy and humanity and life are the values around which you are to orient your life. If, that is, you believe it is true.
And, the second question follows up on the first.
If it is true, all of what the Gospels bear witness to, then when and where do you meet Jesus? For even the empty tomb is not the end of the story. As I said last Sunday, for me, the witness of Jesus’ life is more parable than historical. More meant to show us who we are and how we are to live rather than a news account of where Jesus went and what he did and what he said. Because I think about Jesus that way and read the Bible that way, as I was reading the narrative again this week, I was struck by Jesus’ sudden appearance to the disciples as they hid huddled together in some forgotten room in Jerusalem.
“See my hands.” Jesus said.
“Give me something to eat.” Jesus said.
What if what he said is less about crucifixion wounds and being hungry and more about Jesus’ reminder to his disciples and to us of who he was and what he taught and who he included in the circle of God’s love? A reminder that “whatever you do for for one of the least of these you do it to me.” Whatever you do for all those who are wounded or abused or broken or endure violence in whatever form the violence takes. Whenever you meet the need of those who are hungry whether for food or respect or shelter or understanding or hope or courage or direction or forgiveness. “Whatever you do, you do to me.” And Jesus is present.
Could it be?
I think it is.
We meet Jesus out there amidst the wonder and the complexity, the breathtaking beauty and the heart-breaking brokenness of the world as it is when we find the courage to live and to respond with hope and mercy and to say yes to and to work towards God’s promise of new life. If, that is, you believe it is true.