Let me be honest.
I know the story.
I have heard it and read it my entire life.
But even with that being the case, I don’t really know what happened.
I don’t know what happened early that morning at the tomb.
Or. later that day on the road to Emmaus.
Or, sometime after that in that room somewhere in Jerusalem where, after watching Jesus be tortured and then executed, most of the disciples hid in fear. Or, even later still when the disciples were back home and back on the lake fishing.
I don’t know what happened.
Or, how it happened.
I don’t know what caused the women to suddenly recognize Jesus when they had not known him a moment before. Or, how Cleopas and his friend could walk with Jesus for a couple of hours and not know to whom they were speaking, and then suddenly recognize him. I don’t know what it was that eventually convinced those scared to death disciples to unlock the door and to step out into a still scary world and begin to do what they had seen Jesus do especially when they knew that what they were doing is what had gotten Jesus killed.
I don’t know what happened or how it happened, but something happened.
Something which the Christian community describes as resurrection which is something different and something more than just resuscitation and which, with experience and over time, led and leads to the Easter affirmation of Christ alive.
The stories are far more than just made up tales or wishful thinking.
At it’s deepest and best, resurrection makes the startling affirmation that love wins. That all that is of God – love and light and life itself – along with the best of what we can imagine for ourselves and for those whom we love and for the world entrusted now to our care and keeping… All that will ultimately prevail over hatred and darkness and even death.
And, resurrection is more than just what happened, but is in fact what happens. Resurrection, I think, is best understood in the present tense and not just in the past tense. In my reading this week I came across this which echos what I understand to be true:
“We preach resurrection because the marchers in Selma needed to know that life and liberty, not the vicious billy clubs of local police, would be victorious. A family recovering from the shock of a daughter’s suicide can be reassured that there is life after death for their family. And as we work to end the need for the world’s 50 largest refugee camps (all but five of which are in Africa and the Indian subcontinent), we are confident that life and liberty will triumph over current injustices.” (John Wimberly, Presbyterian Outlook – March 30, 2015)
Easter, in a sentence, declares that the last and truest words are not hatred and injustice and death which we have heard so often before and which the world around us does its best to make us believe. But, believe it or not, the last and truest words are love and justice and life.
Which brings me to this story.
Bonnie Gordon, who lives in Masaya, Nicaragua and who works in surrounding communities doing what she can to improve the circumstances of some of the poorest families in Central America, tells this story.
She was invited to her niece’s destination wedding which was taking place at one of the resorts in Cancun, Mexico. If you have ever been to Cancun or know of it or have been to some place similar you know those places are famous for their luxurious resorts and beautiful beaches. What you may not know about are the impoverished communities which surround many of these resorts. Anyway. Bonnie and the other wedding guests were met at the airport by the resort shuttle. While on the bus the young adult from the resort who had met them begins to talk over the bus’ sound system welcoming them to Cancun and telling them about all the resort has to offer. In the middle of her welcome, as the bus is about to go through the poorer part of the community before getting to the resort, the resort host says, “For a minute I am going to ask you to put your blinders on and not look out the window and just pay attention to me. I’ll let you know in a minute when it is okay to look again.”
Bonnie tells the story because she encourages those who live and work with her in Nicaragua to take their blinders off and to see…to really see..to fully see…the world around them. Not just what you want to see or what expect to see or what are told you are to see, but instead to see fully and deeply and honestly. And, when you do that, she says, your world suddenly turns right side up.
Beyond what I have already said, I think that is a bit of what the Easter message is about. Or, at least one way to think about it.
Taking our blinders off.
Seeing beyond what you expect to see and beginning to see what just might be. Taking our blinders off and seeing the world not only as it is, but also seeing it the way God intends it to be. The Easter way of saying that is that when we take our blinders off we begin to recognize Jesus when and where he stands in our midst whether at the tomb or on the road or in the office or among the forgotten and, when we see Jesus and recognize him for who he is, we find the vision and the courage to be and to live and to practice resurrection a midst the wonder and complexity of the world as it is.
The woman went to the tomb expecting to see only death.
Mary Magdalene mistook Jesus for the gardener.
Cleopas and his friend mistook Jesus as just another talkative traveler on the road to Emmaus.
Peter and the other disciples thought they had seen a ghost.
All of that until….
There is something about Easter;
Something about resurrection;
Something about the affirmation of Christ alive;
That calls us to see our world differently,
And to see our lives differently,
And to live our lives differently,
Which, when we do, turns our lives and our sometimes crazy, upside down world right side up.