Thursday, April 7, 2016

Resurrection Eyes

One of our members Phil Joseph works the night shift at the Red Roof inn on route 106.
Phil will often come into church on Sunday morning with some tale of what happened at the hotel the night before.
And I was thinking of maybe sharing one of these stories with you, but they would not be appropriate for Sunday morning.
Phil will often say to me, “Unfortunately it makes you cynical about people.”
It is true.
I had a member of my last congregation who was a police man for 25 years in New York City who said the same thing.
We all feel this way at times.
Here we are on another Sunday morning after another horrific terrorist bombing.
How can we not be cynical about the world when people will blow themselves up to kill 31 innocent people?
How can we not be afraid of what is going on all around us?
How can we not hate the people that did this?
How do we stop from being cynical when all around us we see the underside of human behavior?
How do we continue to have hope?

I believe the answer lies in shifting our perspective.
The answer is seeing life not through hope in people that they might change or be better, but in seeing life from the lens of the resurrection.
That is what I want us to consider this Easter morning.
What does life look like from this side of the resurrection?
The resurrection can help us to see life differently.

I want to start by saying that the resurrection does not deny the reality of life.
It does not deny the ugliness of it.
The story of the resurrection includes violence, hatred, and vitriol.
It includes all the worse part of who we are as humans.
But the resurrection transcends our human ways.
It takes all of our worst and says that it is not enough to hold back God’s love and grace.
The one who denies Jesus is the one who goes to the tomb, and the one who becomes the leader of the group.
The women, who were initially terrified, become the ambassadress for the truth of the resurrection.

I will admit that seeing life from resurrection is difficult to comprehend.
The story the women tell seems like an idle tale.
Peter is amazed but maybe not convinced of what just happened.
There are no easy answers.
Are we not the same?
This whole resurrection thing is hard to believe, hard to understand.
What is important within the story we hear this morning from Luke is that the women who went to the tomb keep remembering what Jesus told them.
Faith is the act of remembering again and again the things we are told by God.
“You are my beloved”
“Love your neighbor as yourself.”
“For God so loved the world.”
“Nothing can separate us from the Love of God in Christ Jesus.”
“The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want.”
But it is also a constant experience that we have with a God who is not dead but alive.
It is God who raises us up to new life.
It is God who changes our hearts, heals our hearts.
We don’t have faith in people, we have faith in God.
That is what helps us to not be cynical but hopeful.
We believe through faith that God’s love will win even if we can’t see it.
That is what happens when we see the life through the lens of the resurrection.

If we can see people through resurrection eyes it can change our perspective on them.
Earlier this week I was at a retreat.
Part of that retreat was some of my colleagues sharing their stories of recovery from alcohol.
I am always amazed at those stories because they really are miracles.
When we see an addict through resurrection eyes we see someone not as an addict but someone who has the possibility of new life.

I was reading this past winter about two women.
Both of them have experienced great tragedies in their lives.
They both share the experience of having someone they love kill other people.
One of them is Sue Klebold.
Her son, Dylan, was one of the people involved in the Columbine Massacre.
Dylan killed 12 people, injured 29 before taking his own life.
As a parent I can’t imagine what it was like to find out that your son had done this horrible thing.
I can’t imagine having to try to understand why her son did this.
I can’t imagine the guilt I would feel.
The hurt for all those people my son hurt.
It must have been the worst thing in the world.
Sue has written a book and has been speaking out about what she went through.
She wrote in a article for OprahMagazine, this paragraph.

“Since the tragedy, I have been through many hours of therapy.
I have enjoyed the devotion and kindness of friends, neighbors, coworkers, family members, and strangers.
I also received an unexpected blessing.
On a few occasions I was contacted by the parents of some of the children killed at the school.
These courageous individuals asked to meet privately so we could talk.
Their compassion helped me survive.”
People who her son did irreparable damage to offered her a moment of grace.
In an interview she gave on television she said this about her son,
“The one thing I have hoped for again and again…That I must see him again.”
Through it all she still holds out hope that on the other side she will see her son who she loves again.
This is what life looks like from the other side of the resurrection.
It sees a killer as a son.
It is neighbors who forgive.
It is hope of resurrection to new life.
It is hope Dylan through it all might be redeemed and loved.

The other story was of the wife of Charlie Roberts, Marie.
Charlie was the man who killed 5 girls and injured 5 others in an Amish schoolhouse in Pennsylvania.
Marie talks about what happened to her the minutes after she found out what her husband had done.
She was standing in her house thinking about all the implications of what had happened.
How would she tell her children?
How would she explain it to the world?
How would she make sense of it herself?
She stood there for a minute in her house staring at her ceiling fan.
This is what she says happens next, “I could choose to believe that everything written about God in the pages of the Word were true, and that he was going to rescue me and my family.
Or I could choose to believe that we were going down like the fastest sinking ship.”
She saw this from the resurrection lens.
She saw what was awful, horrible, and unspeakable and trusted God to transform it into something else.
Many of you know some of what happens next.
The other people in her community gathered around her, they came to the funeral of her husband.
They brought her food.
They told her not to leave the community.
They offered her grace.
She says it best, “God takes the most broken and destroyed situation and brings beauty and life out of it.”

That is how we stop from being cynical.
We turn it over to God.
We trust God will find a way when we cannot.
The disciples could not fathom that God would find a way to make Jesus’ crucifixion a beautiful and wonderful thing.
God does.

God turns addicts into pastors.
God turns victims of shootings into ambassadors of forgiveness.
God turns death into life.
God turns brokenness into beauty.
That is what life looks like from this side of the resurrection.

Truth is that Phil knows this, because he has also told me stories where he has been put in positions by God to help people at the hotel.
But it is not about Phil or you and me, it is not about how we save people, it is about what God does through people and situations.
When we have faith God turns even the worst possible thing we can imagine into something beautiful.

That is why we are here this morning.
That is why we come on Easter morning.
To see life through the prism of the resurrection that helps us to get through life by seeing new possibilities.
To see that God’s love wins.
That God has the victory!
That truth changes how we see life and all the people around us!
Yes…even the people at the Red Roof Inn.