March 23, 2008
Let us pray: O God, we live in the mystery of all that this day means for us and our faith. Give us curious minds to explore the mystery. Give us believing minds to live in the mystery. Give us open hearts to accept the mystery. Give us hearts and minds that focus on your will for us, your people. Amen.
is quite succinct when it comes to news of the resurrection. He
pretty much describes it in three short verses, a version of which
you heard a few moments ago, as follows: The angel spoke to the
women: "There is nothing to fear here. I know you're looking for
Jesus, the One they nailed to the cross. He is not here. He was
raised, just as he said. Come and look at the place where he was
placed. "Now, get on your way quickly and tell his disciples,
'He is risen from the dead. He is going on ahead of you to Galilee.
You will see him there.' That's the message."
At first, those verses seem to be a simple directive, asking the grieving, frightened and surprised women to pass on some information to Jesus' disciples. He's not here. He's raised like he said he would be. See. Now go and tell the others. He's in Galilee. That's the message.
But those final words are more than just the simple directive they first seem. In them is contained the whole story. This isn't just a straightforward bit of news. The whole of Matthew's gospel seems to be summed up in that short phrase that's the message. As if to prove it, this version of the gospel ends only a few verses later.
That's the message. For disciples unsure of their travel plans after an unbelievable week capped off by a horrible weekend. How could the apparent triumph of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem go so bad so quickly? How could one of them have had such plans for betrayal lurking just below the surface? How could another of them, the so-called Rock, be so scared and unsure that he would deny that he even knew this man who had meant so much to him. How could any of them, players in a cosmic drama, fall asleep so easily while the events around them were unfolding?
That's the message, for disciples of another age. We too, are players in a cosmic drama our own doubts, fears and brokenness beset us.
He's not here, he has risen. That's the message. And for Christians, for people who follow God's way as described and shown by Jesus, no matter where we fall on the christological or theological spectrum it is a central message. We wouldn't be here today without it. The Christian faith would not exist without that message.
For some, the centrality of the message is tied up with a literal interpretation of what happened. That literal interpretation is often translated into a personal salvation kind of message. That's one undeniable branch of the Christian faith. It gives meaning and purpose to many, many people. Who am I to doubt the message that these followers take from the message of resurrection? But for me, and for many others, there is another message, it is a message of mythical proportions, that is not so reliant on literal interpretations of what happened. The spirit is at work in these new understandings. The spirit is speaking to people in a new emerging way a way that is radical in the way that Jesus' teachings and examples are understood, a way that is demanding of Jesus' followers as people who seek justice and who practice inclusion, and who need to be called to new ways of practicing inclusion because our eyes are surprisingly opened by those who show us the ways we have excluded in the past. This emerging way calls us to seek justice not only for the people around us next door or next continent, but also for th earth itself. It calls us to live more justly in the ways in which we use the resources God has given us, to practice stewardship as the most faithful form of dominion. It calls us to speak out against systems that oppress. It calls us to a way of peace in the midst of a violent world. It calls us to see our individual brokenness and live out forgiveness and it calls us to see the systemic brokenness of powers and principalities that oppress us along with the millions in countries and places of the south.
This emerging way is also one that is open to new understandings of what it means to be faithful. It hears God's word from people who follow other ways. It sees parallel paths of faith sometimes with walls so thick between them, that nothing can be learned, but thankfully also with walls that are sometimes non-existent, so that we can see that others are walking the path of faithfulness just like we are. It also calls us to break down the thick walls so that we can learn more about faithfulness from others.
Maybe you think this is a new way maybe it is refreshing and inspiring for you to hear it described like this. But I believe it is the old way the way of Jesus, and even before that, the way of the prophets we find in the Hebrew bible and dare I say, the sacred texts of other faiths. I believe it took a resurrection for the followers of Jesus to have their eyes opened further to the way of God that Jesus had shown them. I believe the resurrection is open to all of us who want to live more faithfully the path that Jesus described and walked. Resurrection is about coming to life with a new vision of the way that we seek justice in the world, in the way we treat each other as God's precious gift, in the way we treat the earth as God's precious gift to our generation and the generations which come after us.
That's the message the angel said. That's the message, Matthew wrote. That's the message, we are told. It seemed such a simple one and it was and yet it said so much more and yet it says so much more and yet it calls us to so much more. Christ is risen. Risen indeed. And what that means continues to emerge within us just as Christ is within us calling us to resurrection in our relationships with the earth, with each other and with God. Amen.