We Had Hoped — For The Past Luke 24:13-35

The past week has been a wild ride.  Some states are going full steam ahead with opening up the economy against the caution that too much too soon will only make things worse.  Crazy and deadly comments (sarcastic or not) were made about injecting disinfectants to get rid of Covid-19.  Protests are happening against stay at home orders.  After a few weeks of staying at home, we are all getting a serious case of cabin fever and as Spring is blooming the fever is only going to get worse.  We want to get back to what life used to be like: full bars and restaurants, sports stadiums filled with cheering fans, hanging out with friends and hair cuts.  There are a few voices that are saying we should just let the Covid-19 chips fall where they may and if it means some folks die as a result that is better than letting the economy tank.  I personally don’t want to believe that we have become that callous, lacking empathy to place money over the value of life.  We might want to hope for a return to what used to be but Covid-19 has happened and the future will be different as social distancing and face masks will be in that future.

The reading for this Sunday out of Luke has two people walking and talking about the events of the past couple days.  They had hoped…they had hoped that a prophet mighty in word and deed…Jesus of Nazareth would redeem Israel.  However their hope had been betrayed by the religious leaders who handed Jesus over to be crucified.  Women carried the news of an empty tomb and angels announcing Jesus was alive, the tomb was empty with no Jesus to be seen.  Hopes were reignited but were once again crushed because it was the third day – it was too late.

The risen Jesus joined them but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.  Despair can do that to us.  We become so focused on what is bad that we can’t see the good.  We become so focused on the unfilled hopes of the past that we can’t see a new future coming into reality.  When Jesus joined them at the table and in the blessing and breaking of the bread their eyes were opened, Jesus disappeared from their presence.  Suddenly eyes focused on unfulfilled hopes were able to recognize a resurrection future.  They ran off to tell others that Jesus was indeed risen and that in the breaking of the bread he and a new hope filled future was revealed to them.

These days we’re hoping to bring back the past.  Our eyes and focus are on what used to be and our frustrations are the result.  There is another reality that invites us to look and see the risen Christ joining us in these days.  The resurrection reveals a new creation (where the death and despair that the likes of Covid -19 bring are no more) that is becoming in Christ and this is our new hope.

This new hope is not for the past nor letting chips fall where they may, but focused on life for the future.  Frustrated because we still must struggle with Covid-19 while hoping for what is to be in Christ?  Absolutely!  So we wear the masks and practice our social distancing because they are defiant acts against Covid-19 and what it represents.  So we protest not to bring back the past but appeal for Christ to bring the future to completion.  Our new vision is for what brings life to our neighbor and world that God so dearly loves.

This new vision is not easy to stay focused on but in breaking of the bread – Holy Communion – we declare a holy love so great that Jesus Christ would die for us.  His resurrection is our life and future.  This holy love lived out in Christ is our hope instead of despair.

Peace.

Resurrection, Doubt and Fear John 20:19-31

A week has now passed since we celebrated Easter behind the closed doors in fear of Covid-19.  Easter was different this year.  It was more introspective.  Without the usual activities surrounding the day and filled churches, we were left to wonder what does the resurrection say to us behind the closed doors?  If we are willing to allow the Spirit to speak in our wondering, we just might discover a greater depth to what we believe and a hope that goes far beyond hurrying to open up the economy and get life back to normal.

On that first day of the resurrection, the Gospel of John tells of the disciples hiding in fear behind closed doors.  They had good reason with fear of Roman soldiers wandering in the streets making sure peace was being kept along with the fear of what will the future hold with Jesus’ crucifixion.  However, earlier in the day Mary Magdalene had told them that she had seen the Lord and passed on the risen Jesus’ words to them.  Perhaps their greatest fear was facing Jesus whom they had abandoned and denied.  Then he appeared, wounds and all.  Their fear was suddenly changed to celebration with Jesus’ words, “Peace be with you!”  The Lord who beat death and was ushering in the reign of God with the start of a new creation appeared to them, not for revenge or to judge but to forgive.  The disciples were sent out by Jesus with the Spirit and a message of forgiveness.

On that first day, Thomas was missing.  Even though he got the news, he wouldn’t believe until he had proof – he wanted to physically inspect the wounds for himself.  A week later he was present when Jesus appeared and this time Jesus gave Thomas the invitation to go ahead and even stick his fingers in the wounds.  Thomas replied, “My Lord and my God!”  I think that we would all like the opportunity for our doubts and fears to be replaced by physical proof and to have God stand before us and announce “Peace.”  What we do have in these days is the witness of others, the belief of parents and friends.  They tell us that God has not abandoned us and this world but has taken on its wounds and death giving forgiveness and life instead.  They show us that the statement “My Lord and my God” is more than a formula to be recited but an intense hope of healing as a new creation is brought into being.

Now we still huddle behind doors for fear of the pandemic.  Now our hopes may be on returning to normal and reopening the economy.  Now we worry about toilet paper shortages, masks and social distancing.  What Easter tells us is that God has shown up in this world and taken on our sickness to bring forgiveness and life instead.  What Easter instills in us is a hope of a new creation healed in Jesus Christ risen.

As Jesus said, “…blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Peace.

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.

A Different Vision of Life Luke 20:27-38

How does the idea of resurrection affect the way we live out our lives?  Maybe we look only to a future life and overlook the here and now.  Maybe we don’t believe in a resurrection and the whole idea seems ridiculous.  However if we are willing to rethink our concepts of God and the power of God, life is given a new perspective.  Jesus tells us that God is a God of the living.  In the power of God, even those who have died are alive to him.  This power of God has the capacity to not only change thoughts of life lived in the future but also in the present as well.

Jesus was being challenged by the Sadducees about the resurrection.  They were closely aligned to the Temple in Jerusalem and held firmly to the Torah – first five books of the Bible.  Since no mention is made of the resurrection, then it isn’t a possibility.  The Sadducee saw the work of God to bring justice as limited by the parameters of the Torah.  Jesus challenged them to widen their views on the power of God.

The Sadduccees tried to show the concept of resurrection as ridiculous.  They used the teaching that if a man died childless, his widow was to marry the man’s brother.  A child born would then carry on the name, the life, of the deceased man.  If this man had seven brothers who all died without a child with this woman, who would she belong to in the resurrection?  While this arrangement did help protect the widow in a male dominated society, it also highlighted the understanding of a woman’s life from a purely biological value.  Her purpose was to produce children that carried on the man’s life.

Thousands of years have gone by and women are still looked upon in many ways from a biological viewpoint to serve men.  Not having children is looked down upon.  Choosing not to have children is thought of as strange.  So Jesus’ teaching about the resurrection is radical.  God is a God of the living and we are children of the resurrection which means our relationships are based upon this God of the living.  Jesus’ death and resurrection changed everything.  Relationships are more than biological arrangements.  A woman has greater purpose than to carry on a man’s name through a child.  A child is of greater value than the mere continuation of a legacy.  Serving God in ways that foster and enhance life to flourish in God’s good creation goes beyond human reproduction.

So Jesus’ words with the Sadducees about the resurrection left them either praising him for his wisdom or reluctant to challenge him again.  How does the idea of the resurrection affect the way we live out our lives?  If we have children we are blessed to be children of the resurrection.  Raise those children for who they are, children of the resurrection.  If we don’t have children because of choice or infertility,  we are blessed to be children of the resurrection.  The resurrection really does have a way of changing everything.

Peace.

An idle tale? Luke 24:1-12

We have come to Easter and we know what that means for the day.  We gather with the family and enjoy lots of food.  The couple pounds lost from denying ourselves chocolate will be replaced with a couple pounds more to spare as we devour the Easter candy.  Sometime during the day, we need to contend with the message of Easter.  Is the resurrection an idle tale?  Or, has the resurrection of Christ set creation on a new path to be made new?

On the first day of the week, women went to the tomb of Jesus.  They went there like we all do when going to a cemetery.  We go to tell stories.  We weep.  We grieve.  We seek to find a new normal without the person we loved.  However on this morning, the tomb was empty and two men in dazzling appearance asked, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”  The two men reminded the women of Jesus’ words of being crucified and raised on the third day.  The women ran to tell the disciples who considered their words nothing more than an idle tale.

The resurrection of Jesus is God’s judgment against the darkness of the world.  The likes of Herod and Pilate denying justice to the innocent and who give in to mob rule for political peace are judged.  The chief priests and the mob crying for the death of Jesus while preferring the release of a criminal are judged.  Our world where Jesus walked among the outcast and poor was judged.  Our world where death is granted ultimate power is judged as a fraud.  The real power is in God the Father who raised Jesus from the dead.

The resurrection of Jesus happened on the first day of the week.  The first day which goes back to the start of creation when God spoke and light shined in the darkness.  The resurrection of Jesus is the beginning of a new creation.  All creation is now to be set free from sin and the darkness.  Light is shining.

The women were asked, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”  Why are they still looking for the old ways of death when a new creation has now begun in Christ risen?  The disciples called the message delivered an ‘idle tale’ because their thoughts were still on the old ways.  This Easter the message confronts us as well.

If we are content with leadership that allows injustice to reign, where the innocent are allowed to suffer, where political peace is preferred over the truth then the resurrection is an idle tale.

If we are content with the hungry not being fed, the sick refused care and the outcast to be shunned and condemned as unworthy, then the resurrection is an idle tale.

If we are content with creation being exploited for profit rather than protected and cared for, then we are pushing the darkness upon it and the resurrection is an idle tale.

The message for this Sunday is, “Christ is Risen!”  Will we receive it as the good news it is for all creation?  Will we treat it as an idle tale?  The difference is to be in the past’s darkness or live in the light of God who raises the dead to a new life.

Peace.