Monday, April 11, 2016

The Consequence of Love -- Easter, The Resurrection of the Lord

Luke 24:1-12
March 27, 2016

"Why do you look for the living among the dead?"

The Dead Sea is a dead place. It is a hypersaline body of water.  Its intense concentration of sodium chloride and mineral salts make it perfect for therapeutic mud baths and peaceful floating, but it does not support animal or aquatic life. To go fishing in the Dead Sea would be as foolish as trying to sunbathe in Mammoth Cave or go water skiing in a mud puddle. The Dead Sea is a dead place. That's it. There 's no more to it. Except. It isn't completely dead. I spent a quiet hour walking the shoreline of the Dead Sea, and I never would have questioned it being anything but devoid of life. Until I met two Palestinian children who showed me that there were tiny creatures surviving at that point where the water and the shore met. The Dead Sea is a dead place, but at its edges, life persists. 

"Why do you look for the living among the dead?"

When the two dazzlingly dressed men asked the women this question, the women went from being terrified at their presence to understandably confused. After all, dead is dead. What are those two certainties of life? Death and taxes, and the women were certain that their Teacher was dead. They had watched his lifeless body placed in that tomb, so the question the men asked them was moot. Dead is dead. But the messengers knew otherwise. Jesus is risen. The tomb could not hold him. Death could not restrain him. He was resurrected. He is risen. He lives.

The women must have sprinted back to the disciples with this incredible news.  "He is alive! The Rabbi is alive! The stone is rolled away! The tomb is empty! Jesus is alive!"

But instead of jumping up and joining the women in their exultation, the disciples dismissed their story as "an idle tale." "Idle tale" is a translation of the Greek word, leros. But it is a watered down translation at best. We get our word, delirious, from leros. The disciples thought the woman's story was nothing more than hysteria, nonsense, foolishness, empty words, trash talk, garbage. Nuts!

The women's story about Jesus being alive was hysterical nonsense to the disciples. After all, dead is dead. Jesus was crucified. He took his last breath on that cross. They saw it all. They knew it for a fact. So what foolishness was this story the women told? What the women told them was nuts. Forget it. Dead is dead, and Jesus was dead. Except.

"Why do you look for the living among the dead?"

Except Jesus who had been dead was dead no longer. Jesus is risen. The tomb was a dead place, a dead zone, like the Dead Sea. But unlike that small creature persisting at life in spite of being surrounded by death, Jesus was resurrected into new life, a complete life, a life that swallowed up death. Death no longer had the final word. 

"Why do you look for the living among the dead?"

Jesus is risen. In his rising death was defeated. In Jesus' resurrection, we find our hope. The end. Except. You know the interesting thing about language is that the same words in the same sentence structure can take on entirely new meanings with just a slight twist in punctuation, or with a different inflection or tone. 

The question those men asked of the women, "Why do you look for the living among the dead?," conveys their incredulousness that the women did not already comprehend that Jesus is risen.  But change the inflection, modify the tone, and the intent of the question changes. 

"Why do you look for the living among the dead?" 

Try to explain to someone why your faith is grounded in the story of a fully human man who was also fully divine, was brutally executed, was really dead for three days, then was resurrected into new life, and because of that we have new life, and you might get asked this very question with this same tone? "Why do you look for the living among the dead?"

The angelic messengers were incredulous that the women didn't already get it that Jesus was resurrected. A whole lot of other folks are incredulous that we believe that he is. An idle tale indeed. But truth be told, there are times when I wonder the same thing. Couldn't this just be an idle tale? Why do I look for the living among the dead, because dead is dead. And death and its sorrow seems to permeate every inch, every corner, every shadow of this broken world of ours. Death seems to be the undeniable consequence of our brokenness, our violence, our hatred, our enmity, our sin; so it is a struggle sometimes to live as an Easter person, as a person whose hope is grounded firmly in the resurrection and its promises, because death seems to be as persistent as life.

In her book, Accidental Saints, Lutheran minister and writer, Nadia Bolz-Weber, writes, "And sin is just the state of human brokenness in which what we say and do causes those sometimes tiny and sometimes monstrous fractures in our earth, in ourselves, in those we love, and sometimes even in our own bodies. Sin is the self curved in on the self."

Our curved selves are broken, and death is persistent, and some days it is far too easy to dismiss the resurrection as an idle tale. It seems prudent and wiser to shrug our shoulders or change the subject when someone asks, "Why do you look for the living among the dead?"

With the terrorist attacks this last week in Brussels, with the terrorist attacks of this last month -- from Istanbul to the Ivory Coast -- I find myself feeling unsure about my answer to that question. "I don't know," is all I can muster. 

But here's the thing about the resurrection. We can't prove it. We can't explain it. We can't force or coerce others to believe it. Yet here is the good news. We don't have to. All we can do is witness to what we've seen, what we've experienced. When we are feeling most unsure about what the disciples dismissed as an idle tale, we need to search our memory for those times when we have witnessed life arising from something dead. When the messengers asked their question of the women who came to the tomb that morning, they remembered what Jesus had told them. They remembered the promise he had made. Faith is found in memory. So we need to remember as well. 

When have you experienced God's grace? When have you witnessed God's kindness in action? When you have felt God's hand on your shoulder? When have you most firmly and unflinchingly believed that Jesus is risen because you have witnessed that new life? When has God's love filled you so completely, so surely, that death and its consequences had no room to seep in? The consequence of our brokenness may be death -- death of hope, death of faith, death of kindness -- but the consequence of Love is what we proclaim this day. The consequence of Love, of God's Love, is that death does not win. The grave does not win. Love does. This day may the good news of the gospel ring out. The consequence of love is new hope, new joy, new life in abundance. Jesus is risen! He is risen indeed!

Let all of God's children say, "Alleluia! Amen!"

No comments:

Post a Comment