Easter Sunday - Year B
April 12, 2009
Let us pray: Alleluia! We praise you, O God, for Christ has conquered death! Make all things new in our lives this day. Dwell in us, that we may proclaim to the world the good news of Easter Day. Amen.
I am a news junkie. I canít go very long without my fix. Two weeks in Hawaii was just about enough. Now donít get me wrong. It wasnít bad to have a fortnight of withdrawal, and itís not like we couldnít have watched or listened to the news while we were away, itís just that the rhythm of our lives was different. Early to bed, and early to rise and of course none of the good old Canadian perspective - television or radio to watch or listen to. So, I was ready upon our return to get back into the swing of things and find out what is going on in the world. Letís face it. I missed the ďAt IssueĒ panel, and the stories of whatís happening in politics in the north - never too dull it seems. But there is also a lot of news that we wish we could miss. As many people lament, there is nothing good on the news anymore. That lament seems to have intensified since the events of last September, and in Canada intensified even more by the fact that the Global Financial Crisis slammed full force into a federal election campaign. There is no question that the daily news - whether it be on radio, television, in the newspapers or the online news portals is lately pretty bad. The distressing news of missing children, pirated ships in the Gulf of Aden, political turmoil in Fiji and Thailand, and the monthly jobless rates and news of billions of stimulus dollars injected and billions of dollars lost on the market and by formerly very solvent corporations is difficult to hear.
And so into this world situation comes Easter. Easter, the Christian holy day which claims the greatest news of all - the good news of resurrection. What are we to make of this? Good news when so much bad news is all around us? Good news for whom? Good news that outweighs the daily dose of stuff we read, watch and hear?
Just what are we to make of this? How does Easter speak to us in this time and place? Does it just gloss over what we all know to be a bad situation? Is it a veil that allows us to turn our minds and hearts away from what is happening all around us and blissfully ignore what is happening?
In one of the translations I read this week in preparation for this holy day of Easter, the passage from Acts says that Peter was exploding with this good news - that he had come to the startling and freeing realisation that God plays no favourites. And what is it that brought Peter to this remarkable and community transforming discovery? The message of Jesus.
Peter was there with Jesus all along. We know him as the petulant one - steadfast and devoted one minute, flying off at the handle another, and broken and unsure at a crucial moment in the events leading up to Jesusí trial and execution. But the story of Jesus stuck with him - beyond the personal charisma that Iím sure was part of the attraction for Peter, beyond the earnestness of following this teacher and healer, beyond the honour of hitching his wagon to this man Jesus. It took all that happened - the good times and the bad - to make the message stick. Nobody exemplifies transformation as a process rather than a once and for all event better than Peter - but once that transformation began to take hold - well, you heard what happened. Peter fairly exploded with this good news: God plays no favourites.
Itís not very often that you hear Jesus described as an economist. You hear about Jesus the good shepherd. Jesus the Master. Jesus the Christ or Messiah. Jesus as the reincarnation of Moses or Elijah. When asked ďWho do people say that I am?Ē, the disciples including Peter offered all of those possibilities. And even when Jesus made the question more personal by asking ďAnd who do you say that I amĒ none of them replied ďEconomistĒ. And yet, scholars have pointed out that Jesus said more about the economy than anything else. Perhaps you havenít heard it that way, but take another look at the gospel (might I remind you that the word gospel means ďgood newsĒ) and see if it isnít true. In fact, read the gospels with this question in mind, and see if it doesnít speak to you afresh. Listen to the stories of Jesusí teaching and healing and especially his parables with your mind attuned to hear what the stories say about the economy...and be prepared to be surprised!
Itís not easy to discern Jesus as the economist because he is not talking about stock markets and financial institutions (unless you consider the temple and synagogue as a financial institution - and I would suggest it should be more rightly considered a social service agency). But he does talk about economic issues. Almost constantly. But itís not about the TSX, Dow Jones or NASDAQ - I mean how could it be - nor is it really about the town and city markets and the thriving trade that was happening around the Mediterranean in his day and only briefly does he even talk about what might be called the money market when challenged by a Pharisee about the question of paying taxes to the Roman overlords. But he is an analyst and trader in a much different economy - Godís economy. Godís economy is completely different. Capital in Godís economy is denominated in love. Capital in Godís economy is measured by acceptance. You are rich if you love openly and freely. You are wealthy if you trust in Godís goodness, and if you love unconditionally.
You see, and the message is clear in both the Hebrew scriptures and the Christian scriptures, Godís economy is an upside down, back side frontwards, inside out and outside in economy. It is one which puts the last in the line at the front of the queue and sets the outsider, the outcast, the overlooked and disregarded as the example of faithful living.
There is nothing more demonstrative of Godís economy than the surprising, liberating, challenging and transformative event of Easter, namely resurrection. Godís economy defies the normal way of seeing, interpreting and understanding. Life is different. Values are re-evaluated. What counts is redefined.
Is this good news worth an explosion? I think so. Not to downplay the terrible turmoil that the economic crisis is causing around the world. Yes there are people hurting and hurting badly. But hasnít that always been the case? Even when economic times were good for those of us who live in the wealthy, privileged so-called developed world there were people and countries in the global south that knew what it means to know poverty, exploitation and oppression. But surely, the good news of Easter, the gospel of Jesus the Christ, the message of the scriptures - Judaeo and Christian alike - is that Godís way is different. God cares for the poor. The gospel is reassurance but it is also a call to action - to learn Godís way and live it. We are called to be people who live our lives in a way that follows Godís economic system - based on compassion, acceptance and love.
There is no better time, when all the seemingly tried and true givens, all the systems which once seemed impregnable, indestructible and beyond reproach have either given way, or are teetering on some kind of an edge, there is no better time to take stock and consider another way - a way which God is calling us to follow, a way which is based on values of a different kind.
Easter, the surprise and joy of resurrection - however we imagine it to be - is a clarion call to consider that new way. Listen again to this: Peter fairly exploded with his good news: "It's God's own truth, nothing could be plainer: God plays no favorites! It makes no difference who you are or where you're fromóif you want God and are ready to do as God says, the door is open. And might I add - the rock is rolled away. Happy Easter. Amen.