New Life. Who doesn’t want it? Love triumphing over destruction and death. Who wouldn’t welcome that? Seriously, is there anyone who wouldn’t leap at the chance to peer into the tomb of fear, hatred, and death to discover its startling emptiness? We should be running after those women and begging them to tell us what they saw. Or following Peter to the tomb to have a look for ourselves. We say we want to. We say we want New Life. We say we believe Love always wins. We say that the tomb was empty and that the women were telling the truth. Where is the evidence in our lives?
Flint still doesn’t have clean water. Three churches were burned to the ground in Louisiana last week. There was a fire in the Al Aqsa mosque at the same time Notre Dame was burning. The sacred sites of Native Peoples are destroyed without most of us noticing. The number of children and teens with suicidal thoughts and behaviors has doubled in recent years. There is still gender disparity in wages. People of Color are incarcerated at a higher rate than white people. Immigrants are imprisoned and deported daily. White supremacy informs everything in this country from politics to news to religion. Are we in danger of being swallowed by the betrayal, destruction, and death that preceded the Resurrection?
Yes. Yes, we are in danger of getting caught up in a cycle that moves between betrayal and burial. We have forgotten that Jesus spoke out against religious authorities who served the empire first and neglected to care for the vulnerable among them. Jesus sought to empower those who lived under the oppression of Rome by teaching them how to love as God loves. Somehow, though, in our rush through Holy Week to the Good News of Easter, we have heard only that God might love us. Or that salvation is only available for those who are like us. It’s possible that today’s church isn’t all that different from the religious authorities Jesus openly challenged.
What we say we believe doesn’t matter if there is no evidence of that belief in our lives. If we say we believe in the Resurrection and there is no trace of it in our lives, what does it matter? If we say we have New Life yet continuously participate in systems of destruction and discrimination, are we the disciples we claim to be? If we say we love as God loves and do nothing to save the lives around us, are we really the Body of Christ? If we claim to be Easter people and remain trapped in Good Friday, where is the power of the empty tomb?
Jesus called people to repentance first, and then to the task of bringing the Realm of God into the here and now. In other words, Jesus challenged all who would be disciples to move from death to life. This is a full transformation. Yes, it can take years, a lifetime really, but it isn’t a half-way kind of thing. We’re either trusting in God to work in and through us or we are trusting in ourselves far too much. Whenever we think we are better than others, more deserving than our neighbors, we are not embodying Christ. Whenever we participate in the white supremacy that allows us to weep for Notre Dame and dismiss the intentional burning of Black churches, or not even hear about a fire in a significant mosque, or think about the destroyed sacred sites of Native Peoples, we have to ask whom we are serving. When we believe the lies that justify the status quo and ignore how they influence religious practice, we are caught somewhere between betrayal and burial; we have not found the empty tomb yet.
This year, I want Resurrection to mean more than chocolate bunnies and jelly beans. The power that took Jesus from death to life, can do the same for us. If we believe that Love is stronger than fear or hatred or the distorted perception of empire, then we must repent and leave the ways of death behind to embrace New Life. Jesus was pretty clear that those who want to be his disciples must love with God’s love which means that no one gets left out. Isn’t it time that we freely share this lifesaving Love? Let’s get busy bringing the Realm of God into the here and now for everyone, without exception. Seriously, who couldn’t use a healthy dose of Resurrection if all it really means is to live a life with Love that leaves no one in the hands of a destructive empire? After all, God shows no partiality. Why should we?
RCL – Year C – Easter – April 21, 2019
Acts 10:34-43 or Isaiah 65:17-25
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
1 Corinthians 15:19-26 or Acts 10:34-43
John 20:1-18 or Luke 24:1-12