Monday, April 16, 2012

God Is Still Speaking

This week I was at Starbucks and I saw someone that I knew from around town.
I was making small talk and asking him about his Easter.
He was telling me he had a very nice Easter.
They had an egg hunt and a big dinner with his family.
I asked if he had gone to church.
He told me that he didn’t because Easter was not really a religious holiday.
It wasn’t like Christmas.
I was shocked.
I think he noticed that I was surprised and said, “Well I guess originally Easter had religious meaning.”
It was surprising because I always feel that Easter is much more of a religious holiday than Christmas.
One of our members said to me the week before Easter, “If there was no Easter there would be no Christmas.”
Easter is the biggest day on our church calendar.
Without it there is no such thing as Christianity.
Jesus dies on a cross as just another prophet who brought God’s message and is killed for it.

Easter is everything for us because all of our faith is based on the idea that Jesus does not die but overcomes death.
How did we get to the point where people don’t think that it is no big deal?
How did we get to the point where people just think Easter is about eggs, bunnies, and having a great meal with family?

For us as Christians Easter is not a one day holiday.
In fact the season of Easter stretches on for the next seven weeks.
We will hear stories of Jesus appearing and being with people.
In fact, Easter never really goes away.
Every Sunday, no matter what liturgical season we are in, is a celebration of the resurrection.
Every time we gather and worship we celebrate that Jesus overcame death and sin to rise above it all.

I suppose that of all the things that Jesus did this one the resurrection is the hardest one to believe.
That is why we can understand Thomas.
We can understand why he desires to touch the wounds on Jesus hands.
We too are skeptical about the claim that Jesus rose from the dead.
But this morning in our Gospel reading from St. John we are told that the whole reason he wrote his Gospel is so we would come to believe.
“Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book.
But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and through believing you may have life in his name.”
John is most concerned that we might believe.
Perhaps we have done a poor job at helping others to see why this story matters to them.
Perhaps we have not done a good enough job of taking it into our own lives to show that believing in Jesus resurrection does give us true life.

For me a Jesus without the resurrection is just not a complete Jesus.
This week I also had a friend visiting.
He was saying that perhaps the divinity of Jesus is too much for modern people to believe in.
That most people agree with the moral teachings of Jesus and that the Church should be more concerned about teaching the way that Jesus taught us to live.
We should be trying to get people to understand about compassion and mercy.

I believe deeply that Jesus taught us about the model of the Godly life.
I believe in practicing mercy and compassion towards others in the world.
The problem is it gives an incomplete picture of who Jesus is, because what about all the times I fail to live up to that very high moral test.
I am not always merciful and compassionate.
I have my moments.
I bet that all of you do too.
I have moments of great selfishness.
Not only that but most Christians would agree that Jesus taught about mercy and compassion, but they would disagree how that gets lived out in our lives.
There are a whole host of modern day moral issues that good Christians simply disagree on.
So Jesus as a moral teacher is certainly part of who he was, but if that is all he is, than it leaves a rather big whole that is incomplete.

The resurrection shows that Jesus was something more to us.
Jesus rose so that we might have life.
We might have a life in all of its fullness.
What does that look like and what does that mean?
I think of the Christians that I have known in my life, the ones whose faith has touched me deeply.
I can say this about that faith.
It is not of this world.
It goes beyond what passes as common sense.
They were people who gave of themselves far more than most people.
They were people who lived knowing that although they struggled on this earth their destiny was far beyond here.
They were people who forgave well beyond what we would think is necessary.

Maybe it was not so much in the way that they lived, but even more in the way that they died.
They died without fear.
They died in peace knowing that death would not be the final word.
I don’t know if they could have done that without knowing about the resurrection.
It wasn’t that they were “good people” it was that they were people of extraordinary faith.

You see there are lots of “good people” in the world, and a lot of them have no faith at all.
They are people with a strong moral compass that leads them to do very good things.
People of faith are different.
First of all they don’t know that they are good people.
They don’t do the things they do intentionally to earn points or make themselves look good.
They just do good things…well just because that is who they are.
Also, when they don’t live up to those high standards they are not afraid to admit it.
They are humble enough to know that they don’t always act with compassion and mercy.
But they believe that God is bigger than their mistakes.
They know this God through Jesus who forgives the one who denied him, and his disciples who fled from him.
The resurrection sets our sights above this plane.
It lifts our eyes to the heavens and beyond.

I don’t know if I can believe in Jesus without it.
I am sure this morning that what happened in Greenland, NH this weekend is on people’s minds. (Police Chief Michael Maloney was killed and four other officers wounded while executing a search warrant.)
I don’t know how to make sense of things like that in the world without the resurrection.
How do we make sense of a man who had given 26 years of his life to defending the public good, a man who by all accounts was a beloved member of a community, a man who was only days away from retirement, and for some unknown reason he still went to issue the warrant.
He was still doing his job.
How do we come to terms with a man like Police Chief Michael Maloney being shot to death over drugs and guns?
I can’t without knowing that this is not the end.
That God is rising up to new life Chief Maloney right now.
That God is comforting all those grieving hearts in Greenland.
One of the signs held up at the candlelight vigil in Greenland said, “God is still speaking.”
The resurrection helps give us perspective in a world that is out of control.

Today we celebrate Easter.
Today we hear the story so that we might believe in life.
So that we might believe that it is about more than eggs, bunnies, family, eating, or even morality.
It is a story that helps us to live in world where a great servant of the community is killed days before his retirement.
It is a story that tells us that God is still speaking, and God is telling us that death and sin are not the final word.

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