“Easter Meditation”

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Rev. Jocelyn B. Gardner Spencer

April 1, 2018

Luke 24:1-12; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25

 

Their words struck the apostles as nonsense, and they didn’t believe the women.

Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and the other women had gone to the tomb, very early in the morning, on the first day of the week.  They had brought with them fragrant spices, thinking they would be anointing the three-day-old body of their beloved teacher.  But instead, they found the stone rolled away, the tomb empty.  They were startled by angelic messengers in dazzling clothes, who reminded them of what Jesus had said.  Returning home, they reported what they had seen and heard to the other disciples.  But, the scripture says, their words struck the apostles as nonsense.

If you put yourself in those other apostles’ shoes, you can’t really blame them, can you?  We all know that there are rules by which the world operates, and the women’s story did not fit.  Dead people stay dead.  There’s no such thing as a free lunch.  You have to read the fine print if you don’t want to get taken for a ride.  If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.  Emails that promise millions of dollars if you just send in your bank account information are always phony.  Cars always break down when they’ve just passed the limit of their warranty.  Anonymous online comments are always awful.  The guy with the biggest weapon wins the fight.  If you make a mistake, you have to pay the consequences.  There are some stains that never come out.  Dead people stay dead.

An empty tomb?  A risen Christ?  Nonsense, said the disciples.  Hogwash.  Claptrap.  Horse pucky.  Tomfoolery.  Hokum.  Bunkum.  Hooey.  B.S.  Humbug.  April fools.

Yes, Jesus had taught them another way, a way that sounded so appealing.  That sins could be forgiven.  That afflictions could be healed.  That those who were despised could be welcomed.  That those who were scorned could be loved.  That those who mourned could be comforted.  That prodigal sons could be welcomed home with open arms.  That true power looks like weakness; that true leaders are those who serve.  That they need not be afraid, because the universe is undergirded by a current of love stronger than anything else on earth or in heaven.

It all sounded so good, and they wanted to believe him.  But then he ran headlong into the might of the Roman Empire, whose power was rooted in force, and that power was not turned aside by love.  Jesus’ friends sold him out, then ran away to save their own necks.  He was wrongfully convicted and put to death on the cross of shame like a common criminal.  And now his body lay in a rough-hewn tomb, and their hopes lay dead with him.  All those promises they had wanted to believe lay shattered in pieces on the ground.  In the face of all that, the words of the women struck them as nonsense, foolishness, idiocy.

But it turns out that a little nonsense is exactly what is needed.  For in the face of death, of loss, of betrayal, of grief, of devastation beyond imagining, all our human wisdom amounts to nothing.  The truth we thought we knew crumbles to dust beneath our feet.  But God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.  If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is—except on Easter.  For today, my friends, today we proclaim that there are truths beyond what we can see.  There are mysteries beyond what we can explain.  There is hope beyond what we can fathom.  There is beauty beyond what we can make with our own hands.  There is life beyond what seems to be the end.

Because if Christ was indeed raised from the dead, then maybe, just maybe, all those other rules of how the world works could be broken, too.

Maybe there is such thing as a free lunch, a place where hungry people can go to find food, where lonely people can go to find companionship, where strangers become friends and friends become family.  (If you don’t believe it, come tomorrow or any Monday at noon to Community Kitchen and see for yourself!)

Maybe we can trust one another after all.  Maybe we can believe that our fellow humans might have some good in them, might actually be doing their best to help, might actually have the common good in mind, even if they come at it from a different angle then we do.

Maybe we can believe that the forces that would divide us, that would pit us against one another, that would have us believe that there is not enough for everyone, and if we don’t get ours first, someone else will take it away—maybe we can recognize those forces for the liars they are, and believe instead in the truth of our common identity as children of God, bearers of God’s image.

Maybe the thing you long for so much it hurts, the thing you can hardly bear to hope for any more because that hope has led to disappointment too many times, the thing that has come to feel impossible—maybe that thing could come to pass after all.  Perhaps not in the form you thought it would take, but in a way that is true and good and holy and righter than you ever could have imagined.

Maybe the one you love who has died, the one you miss with an ache deeper than words, is not gone, but is somehow yet alive in the bright mystery of God’s love.  Maybe there is a presence that endures beyond absence, and maybe you who mourn truly will be comforted.

Maybe there is a way out of all the places where you feel trapped—broken relationships, lousy jobs, financial troubles, choices between rock on the one hand and hard place on the other.  Maybe there really could be a future of joy, even for you, even for me.

Maybe peace is possible.  Maybe swords really can be beaten into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks.  Maybe the wolf really will lie down with the lamb, and a little child shall lead them.

Maybe in spite of all the signs that sure look like the world is coming apart at the seams, God is knitting a whole new creation together.  And maybe, just maybe, we get to be part of it.  In all our bumbling and betrayals, in all our doubt and denials, in all our imperfection and regret—in all our weakness, all our foolishness—maybe, just maybe, God has chosen us to be God’s witnesses, God’s partners in the new life that is already breaking into this one.

If Christ was indeed raised from the dead, then maybe, just maybe, all the rest of it could be true, too.

Even when it looks like hate holds sway—love could triumph.

Even when it looks like war will never end—peace could prevail.

Even when it looks like cruelty will have the last laugh—joy could come in the morning.

Even when it looks like oppression is completely entrenched—justice could roll down like waters.

Even when it looks like sorrow’s grip is too tight to break—hope could emerge.

Even when it looks like death has the final word—life could spring up anew.  Beauty could bloom like daffodils, like lilies, like wildflowers—within us, among us, and across this whole earth.

May it be so.

 


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