Sermons on resurrection
I’m wondering, if you were to imagine the cairn, this mound of rocks or pebbles, which indicate the way deeper into God for you, as a metaphor for your spiritual activities, for that through which you order your life to reach God, what would you put together to form the mound? What would you pile together? Where would you gather the rocks from? How would you arrange the stones so there was balance in your spiritual life? Perhaps your stones would be your prayer life, times of meditation, scripture study, listening to or playing music, listening to the giggles of your grandchildren, moments of silence during church, or walks in the woods. What are the pieces you need to gather, so the “cairn” of your soul can keep you pointed to the place of God? Jacob found the knowledge of God to be the gateway or portal into God’s dwelling. How do you come upon the knowledge of God that brings you into God’s dwelling? We learned in our story today that it was God’s initiative that led Jacob into this knowledge of God. We can trust that God is taking the initiative with us, in this moment as well.
Laughter can mask all sorts of hard emotions: shame or embarrassment, and also injury. Maybe the words of the visitor stung her deep inside, broke her heart once again, his words awakening in her the passionate yearning she had for her own baby, and it seemed like the visitor’s words were mocking her, for she was 90 years old and knew that she could no longer bear children. How often do we hear God’s call and almost wish we didn’t, for once awakened, we know we must respond, and sometimes that just doesn’t seem possible? We almost wish the yearning had not been placed in our heart, when we don’t think we can give It birth.
And Peter exhorts them not to give into fear. He suggests rather, in the midst of trials and persecutions for “doing good”, for living as Christ did, to prove themselves faithful to the essence of Christ, with the deep belief that people will recognize that, and lives will be changed. His model for evangelism was, in my summary, “live a good life, by a quiet and steadfast witness to what you believe to be true, and people will want it too and people around you will be changed.”
It is noteworthy that Jesus does not come back looking as he did before death. Mary didn’t recognize him until he called her name. Coming back to what we were before is called resuscitation, or being restored to a previous state. That’s not what Jesus was or is about. Jesus is about that continual process of being made anew. This means not changing for the sake of change alone, not changing only to circle around and return to a previous state, but to continually allow to die that which is not of God within us. A spiritual death that leads to spiritual resurrection. For Peter that might have been the shame, or guilt, or anger at himself, which is so easy to hold onto. Peter needed that to die in order to see the new path Jesus was placing him on, of meeting him again, and being filled with a renewed sense of purpose. He wasn’t ready to see or embrace this when he ran into the tomb, but the story didn’t end there.
Jesus had to make a very hard choice four days ago: he could have come to Bethany. He wanted to come, he wanted to heal his beloved Lazarus, he wanted to give this family who had taken him in as a brother the gift of health, but he chose the gift of delay, for now. With the death of Lazarus, he entered into grief in a way which means that he knows our depths of grief, and that means everything to us. It is what makes our tears and heartache holy, the fact that Jesus knows it too, and is inseparable from it.
The criminal’s words seemed scant, insufficient, and almost pitiable. Yet they were all that was needed. The request was minimal, merely that Jesus remember him. The response was extravagant. Jesus gave him the kingdom, then and there. Jesus gave him peace. Jesus gave him love, and Jesus died doing the one thing he was called to do all along: offer forgiveness. In his last exchange with humankind, Jesus fully lived into his vocation of bringing reconciliation to all humanity. For, like the king or the father in so many of Jesus’ own parables, Jesus offers the ones most unworthy the entire feast, the whole garden of God, the state of shalom or wholeness. The criminal’s reward was abundant because, in the moments before he died, he began living and acting as though Jesus were king.
Some say that the psalms serve as mirrors for our souls, for just as a one looks into a physical mirror to see one’s outward state, when we read a psalm, we can often discover our inner state. When we hear the psalm today, perhaps we can hear it as an invitation to more deeply examine when, where, and how have we been moving toward God, and when, where, and how have we been moving away from God.
Resurrection begins in our darkest moments, when God can do God’s best work, when the light of love bursts through the darkness, when we realize we yearn for the change it brings about in our lives, and then we go out to tell the world, as Mary did. Let us be a part of the ongoing resurrection in our world. Let us be the proof to others that in the end, love wins.
You are Loved for who you are, exactly as you are, unconditionally.
We must sit in the tomb for a bit first, allowing our silence to stretch the space within us, where the voice of God can resonate. To sit into the tomb, we must first answer God’s invitation to allow God to remove the large stone at the entrance of our heart. The women in our story spent a lot of time wondering about how they were going to move the large stone from the tomb entrance, without bringing along resources to help with its removal. Perhaps they knew God would open the entrance for them. Our stone, at the entrance to the tomb of our heart, must also be removed, so that we can walk ever more deeply into the place where the unimaginable will be revealed to us. The unimaginable peace which can enter our hearts when we’re dealing with a difficult situation; the unimaginable resolve to forgive someone who has deeply hurt or betrayed us; the unimaginable release of someone we love to her physical death so their spiritual resurrection can be with us now.
Lent is a time of repentance and decision. Let us decide to offer the worst of ourselves to the healing love of Christ, so we may be made whole; so we may life into all which God created us to be, for we can trust, that as God’s beloved was put to death upon the cross, beneath it all is the pulsing of God’s steadfast love. We are saved from our sins FOR life, not from death, but for life. Let us see the face of Christ peering through our brokenness, showering us with love, inviting us into all goodness, and making us whole
Some of us may be on our road to Emmaus, walking in that darkness, waiting for the light to shine. Our horizon may be very bleak at the moment. And yet, our story reminds us that even in, or especially in, those gray and black places of our lives, Jesus walks besides us.