Good Morning, Christ Church!
“Surreal” is a word that often comes to my mind in these unusual days. All kinds of ideas and images are mixing together in strange, and in certain instances, irrational ways. For example, the most recent debate about whether or not it is time for some of our citizens to risk their very lives for the sake of “the economy” seems surreal to me, especially as those most vocally in favor of moving in this direction tend to be multi-millionaires, heavily invested in the stock market and safely sequestered, who have no intention of going into the hospitals, or working in the warehouses, or taking their places on the factory floor. Yes, we have neighbors who are desperate. They have bills to pay and no means of paying them. But let’s be clear. The motivation is entirely different here. It is a matter of survival.
For some reason, this reminds me of Jesus’ teaching concerning the Sabbath: “The Sabbath was made for humankind and not humankind for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27 NRSV) Perhaps I am wrong, but it seems to me that the economy is meant to serve all of our neighbors fairly and equitably and not vice versa. Actually, I think that we are here to serve God first and foremost, not the economy, which means we are to love and care for our neighbors as Christ loves and cares for us. Should we be willing to send others into dangerous circumstances if we are not willing to go there ourselves?
On a more joyful note, I have found our online liturgies wonderfully surreal! I will admit that, when it comes to the various social platforms available online, I am way behind the curve. However, while I continue to wish we were together in the pews, I have found these recent services moving and powerful. At one point during the Easter celebration, I turned to Janie and said, “That’s beautiful!” All of a sudden, the computer screen was filled with floating red hearts and blue thumbs! “What’s going on?” Janie patiently explained to me that people were showing their love and appreciation by way of “liking” the moment with these symbols. I will admit that, as a life-long Episcopalian born well before the Internet, it was at first a bit jarring and, yes, surreal. But the more I experienced this new way of giving thanks during the service, the more wonderful it became. So please and by all means, keep those red hearts and blue thumbs flying!
Happy Easter! Keep safe and we will “see” you on Sunday.
Faithfully in Christ,
P.S. Over the next two Sundays, at 10:00am, I will be leading a discussion comparing and contrasting the resurrection accounts found in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. You are welcome to join me. Just remember that I am a novice when it comes to this online technology, so be gentle! Thanks.
Friday, April 17, 2020 RCL Daily Office Readings, Year 2
AM Psalm 136
“Why do you seek the living among the dead?” This is the question the two men in “dazzling apparel” ask of Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary, and the other women in this morning’s reading from Luke. They have come to anoint Jesus’ body for burial. The agony of Good Friday is still much too real. Jesus is dead and it is time to lay his body to rest.
But when they get there, the great stone has been rolled away. They go into the tomb, only to find it empty. We can imagine their surprise and consternation. We can further imagine that, as the two men reminded them of Jesus’ teaching that he would be betrayed, crucified, “and on the third day rise,” they were completely overwhelmed. Talk about “surreal.” And, according to Luke, when they reported back to the apostles what they had experienced, their words “seemed an idle tale, and they did not believe them.”
We might be tempted with hindsight to criticize those unbelieving apostles. But we had better be careful. Because we too often either consciously or subconsciously seek to reduce the resurrection to a moment in the distant past and turn Jesus into an historical figure, a great figure to believe in, certainly, but nonetheless an historical figure, now dead and gone. We tend to forget the words of the psalmists: “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in princes” (Psalm 118:8), and again, “Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help. When their breath departs, they return to earth; on that very day their plans perish.” (Psalm 146:3-4)
In other words, why is it that we so often go looking for the living among the dead?
The theologian Hans Kung once wrote, “How did a community emerge in the name of a crucified man? How did a new beginning come out of such a disastrous end? Where did his followers gain their strength? How did the condemned heretical teacher come to be exalted as the Messiah, the Christ? How did the unmasked seducer of the people become the Savior, this rejected blasphemer the Son of God? How did they come to proclaim, not only the Gospel of Jesus, but Jesus himself as the Gospel?”
I would offer this as an answer to Kung’s questions: Because on that first Easter morning, the tomb of Jesus stood open and empty. Jesus had died. And God has raised him to new and eternal life. Fully. Completely. Really. In that moment, the grip of sin has been broken. Death has been vanquished. As he had promised, the Son has risen and we are now invited to follow him into a new way of life and a new way of being. Of course, we must be willing to believe in the eternal truth of that morning if we are to fully experience that life right here and right now.
Why would we continue to go looking for the living among the dead? It is a question to think about and pray about as we continue our journey through this Easter season.