Monday, April 9, 2012
The Resurrection As Art
I once heard a definition of art as something that catches our attention and makes us come back to it again and again.
That is what the story of the resurrection is for us as people of faith.
It is art.
We fight a lot over doctrine.
What does the bread and wine mean, what does baptism mean, where to place the word from in the Nicene creed.
We even fight a lot over process.
How someone becomes ordained, who is in charge, what is the right structure of the Church.
It is interesting that the Gospel’s don’t address any of these questions.
And to make them answer those questions diminishes their importance.
The Gospel writers are concerned about theology, but even more so they are concerned about art.
They want to give us a picture of Jesus that we keep coming back to again and again.
They want us to hear the resurrection over and over and look at it from multiple angles.
To try to discover the meaning deeply imbedded in our human soul.
The Gospel is not something that makes sense, it is something that grabs hold of us and does not let us go.
This morning we hear the resurrection story from the Gospel of Mark.
And it is a strange picture that Mark gives us.
It is a picture of amazement, fear, and what will you do?
It ends without tying up all the loose ends.
Jesus never appears to the woman, or the disciples.
It ends with the woman telling no one.
My wife and I have this discussion about movies all the time.
She likes a movie that wraps everything up neat and tidy.
You know where there is no doubt that all the plot points have been resolved.
That everyone lives happily ever after, that the boy and girl get together.
She likes to leave no stone unturned.
In fact, her favorite movies are the ones with the words that appear on the screen even after the movie is over telling us that the Steve and JoAnn got married had three kids and died in each other’s arms at the age of 85.
I suppose if you like that kind of ending then the Gospel of Mark is not for you.
Mark’s picture does not wrap up all the loose ends.
Mark ends with a question.
What will you do with the story of Jesus Christ?
Since we are talking about the Gospels as art let me ask it in another way what will you add to it?
What picture will you paint?
The Gospels are just the beginning of the story.
The women who first experience the resurrection don’t know what to do with it.
Fear and amazement overwhelm them.
Fear that people won’t believe them, and amazement that it could be true.
Obviously this story does not end.
It is told over and over again throughout the generations.
It is so great that it continues to fill us with fear and Amazement.
Like a great piece of art we keep coming back to it.
We keep looking at it trying to understand all of its complexity.
I think it is because we desperately need this story.
So much death creeps into our lives.
We need to hear, to see, to experience again the resurrection.
After my Dad died my mom and my sister, and I were in the basement cleaning out some of my Dad’s things.
We came across some slides that he had taken of our trip to Disney world when we were kids.
Along with the slides on the inside cover of the carousel was my Dad’s commentary on each slide.
We watched them and read his commentary and then we laughed until our sides hurt.
It was healing,
It was cathartic.
But we needed to remember in that moment when death was so close to us that life goes on.
That is the heart of our faith.
That even when death is near life goes on.
That is the picture drawn for us on Easter.
It is what we come back to again and again.
As one of our members said to me the other day, “Without Easter there is no Christmas.”
Without this day we are not here this morning.
Jesus death is just another senseless death.
Instead it is the central picture for our faith.
This morning on this Easter morning we need the picture of the empty tomb.
Jesus is not there.
We need the picture of the sun coming up just over the horizon when the story seems over it is just beginning.
We need that picture because it reminds us of life in all its fullness, that God has overcome death and grave.
It reminds us that life goes on.
This is why I love movies that really don’t end.
Movies that leave it open for the audience to decide what the ending will be, because that is real life for me.
Our problems are not neatly tied up in a two hour movie.
The hero doesn’t always win; the boy and girl don’t always live happily ever after.
But life does go on.
That is the resurrection.
It means that for us even death in this life is not the end.
We need to hear the words “Do not be alarmed.”
Look to the place where you thought there was death and you will see that there is nothing there.
The tomb is empty.
Jesus has gone ahead of us.
Jesus is going to meet us in whatever we face today.
When we say that this is the day the Lord has made we acknowledge that God is already involved in our day.
It is amazing.
It is incomprehensible.
And that is exactly the point.
We can’t quite figure it all out and put it all into some nice final doctrinal statement.
We can’t make a perfect doctrine that explains it all because it is not about the head, it is about the heart.
It is about us being so moved by the art that we forget that it does not all fit perfectly.
The story goes on and we will come back to it again and again.
(We had the children draw a picture of the resurrection during the sermon at this point I had them come forward and show their pictures to the congregation.)
Our children have drawn us pictures of the resurrection.
They know the story even though they don’t know what it all means.
Even though they don’t know how all the doctrinal statement works out.
This is what the Gospel is about art.
It is something that grabs us and it is a story we need to come back to again and again.
In our lives we need to remember that the tomb is empty and that Jesus has already gone ahead of us and there we will see him.
I hope that all of you here this morning continue to come back to the story again and again so that you will remember that Jesus is alive.