Confronted by the Resurrection Matthew 28:1-10

At a time when…

….researchers race to find a vaccine and treatments for Covid-19, we are confronted by the resurrection….

….we still are looking for the first signs that Covid-19 deaths are starting to decline, we are confronted by the resurrection….

….the hot debate is when to open up the economy while not risking a second wave, we are confronted by the resurrection….

….New York is digging a trench to bury the many bodies unclaimed, we are confronted by the resurrection….

….the many mourners are not given the normal opportunity to grieve at the funeral, we are confronted by the resurrection….

….churches are not gathering for worship in buildings filled with Easter lilies, we are confronted by the resurrection….

These past couple months have been anything but normal.  So much of life has changed that we are left with the question is what will the new normal be?  Yet, this Sunday is Easter and this is what the resurrection has done – it changes everything.  We may want to go back to what we consider to be normal but the resurrection confronts us with a new normal.  Our ongoing race for a cure, our mourning and our burying of the dead has come to an abrupt confrontation with the love of God in Jesus Christ.  He entered our death with his cross but his resurrection has opened up life for all creation that death no longer touches.

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to Jesus’ tomb.  They were doing the normal act of grieving.  Don’t we also approach the grave of a loved one to remember and to grieve their important place in our lives that death has taken away?  Matthew tells us that guards were posted to protect against the “fake news” of Jesus being alive.  Do we really want to have our normal power structures upended by the news of love being stronger than death?  The two Mary’s were confronted by such love as an earthquake opened Jesus’ tomb and an angel told them that Jesus wasn’t there, he was raised from the dead.  They were to go to Galilee where they will see him and along the way the risen Jesus met them.  He told them to tell the disciples and go to Galilee.

A couple important items that Matthew highlights.  The two Mary’s came to the tomb on ‘the first day of the week.’  Creation began on the first day.   The resurrection of Jesus is the beginning of a new creation.  The old ways of pain and grief and dying and Covid-19 will be no more.  They have been confronted by the love of God in Jesus Christ risen.

A second point is the importance of Galilee.  This is where it all started.  Jesus began his work in Galilee where he announced to turn life around because the kingdom of heaven was now at hand.  The same message is for us to hear as well – turn life around because the reign of God bringing life out of death has now begun in Jesus crucified and risen.  So whether we are ready for it or even if we prefer the old normal, the love of God is bringing life out of death.

So in our grieving…our struggle to find a new normal…the race for a cure…worshiping at home online, we are confronted by a love that entered into the old to bring a new creation that will be filled with life.  This good news of the resurrection is what greets us this Sunday.  Jesus Christ be praised!!

Peace.

Are We Really So Blind? John 9:1-41

The past week has been a wild ride with the Covid-19 leading the way.  Millions of people are in a lock down type situation.  Traveling outside of the country is restricted.  Toilet paper, guns and ammunition are selling out (interesting how these are the items we consider the most critical).  Retired, I haven’t had the guts to look at my investments and savings.  Political leadership has ranged from bold to fault finding, denial and the usual lies.  A few senators have shown an uncanny ability to time the market sell off.  Depending upon your ideology, the virus is a great threat or nothing to worry about in the grand scheme of things.  Conspiracy theories are making unsubstantiated claims about the cause of the pandemic.  Stores and business are closing down to reduce spread of the virus while people are partying on the beaches in Florida (only to increase the spread of the virus when they return home).  So the question for this morning is about blindness and having the sight to recognize the truth and ultimately perceive what God is asking and calling the church to be in these times.

The Gospel reading from John is heavily into the contradictions of light and darkness, blindness and sight.  Jesus gave sight to a man blind from birth.  The disciples wanted to know the cause of the blindness; what sin had he or his parents committed before his birth.  The focus quickly shifted to Jesus and his identity since only God could do this kind of miracle.  The Pharisees got involved because Jesus did this on the Sabbath which made him a sinner.  The healed man was questioned as well as his parents.  Insults were hurled and accusations of being a sinner were made.  The healed man was thrown out of the synagogue and lectured over who he called a sinner.  Jesus came to the man and revealed his identity as ‘Son of Man’ and the man worshiped him.  Pharisees questioned Jesus of their blindness.  He responded, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, “We see,’ your sin remains.

So where does the church and the Gospel begin to fit in all of this?  In the reading, Jesus was revealed as a source of healing as well as the presence of God in the world.  He also drew a line between light and darkness, blindness and sight.  What catches my attention was how the people responded.  Rather than celebrate with the man what Jesus had done for him, they protected power structures and searched for a sin to label and discredit Jesus.

The church is a place where light shines on human darkness.  In the light, truth needs to be held up against the fault finding, disinformation and false conspiracies.  Truth needs to stand against ideology and politics.  Covid-19 is a virus that we need to work together as a nation and world to stop in order to reduce the number of people who will die from it.  Truth is what will allow this to happen.

The church is a place that keeps its sight on Christ who brings healing.  Healing needs to be brought to our divisions.  The focus of healing needs to be brought not just for the well connected but to the weak and powerless.  The biggest sin in the reading was refusing to see Jesus at work.  Today the challenge is to understand that we are called to be different from the world so healing may be allowed to happen and not stifled.

Last week was a wild one.  Next week will be the same.  So let the light of truth be seen.  Keep the focus on Jesus bringing healing into this world.

Peace.

You are Light. You are Salt. Matthew 5:13-20

These days we take salt for granted.  It is cheap.  However, this was not always the case.  In ancient times salt was highly valued.  At times, it was even used by the Romans as currency to pay soldiers and other officials.  Light is also taken for granted.  Flip a switch on the wall and a room is filled with light.  A satellite picture of the world quickly shows how lit up the night has become.  However it wasn’t that long ago when a single lighthouse stood as a beacon between a cargo ship and crashing rocks.  If power is ever lost in a storm, the familiar house now becomes a place of pitfalls and stubbed toes.

Jesus is continuing his Sermon on the Mount and he calls those present ‘Salt’ and ‘Light.’  We may not fully grasp what he was saying because of light and salt being so much a part of modern life.  He was calling them highly valued and important in the kingdom of heaven.  Jesus is also saying the same about us.

The people in Jesus’ audience weren’t what we call celebrities, they weren’t adorned in luxury or religious leaders basking in the flattery of others.  Along with the disciples, the people included the poor, the persecuted (or soon to be), those who dared to speak the truth (put a light) to the world’s darkness and who desperately hoped for God’s righteousness to be known.  The kingdom of heaven belonged to people like these.  Jesus called them ‘blessed.’  He also called them ‘salt’ and ‘light.’  What is important to note is that Jesus was speaking in the plural, not singular.  As a collective whole, they were ‘salt’ and ‘light.’  Today, we call that collective whole the church.

So what happens when the church is no longer pure in heart?  Meaning, it is willing to trade a seat in the kingdom for a place of prominence in the world?  What happens if it is no longer concerned for the poor, the grieving or oppressed?  What if it no longer shines a light on the darkness or perhaps even helps in the coverup?  It becomes like salt that has lost its value.  It has done the absurdity of lighting a candle only to put a lid on it to protect the darkness.

Jesus was very direct.  He didn’t come to abolish the Law or the prophets but to fulfill God’s demand for righteousness spoken through them.  Jesus will go on in the following verses to explain what this involves as his sermon continues.  His teaching, life, death and resurrection has shown the God who comes to take an enslaved world and bring it to freedom.

The verses today conclude with Jesus warning that unless our righteousness exceeds the Pharisees and teachers of the law, we won’t be a part of the kingdom of heaven.  If anyone knew the Law and prophets, it would be the Pharisees and the teachers of the law.  Yet, there is a difference between knowing and being transformed.

There is the darkness of cynicism, division, manipulation, fearmongering, lies, etc., etc., etc.  At times, this seems so overwhelming.  Remember Jesus’ declaration: you are salt…you are light.

Peace.