Go Home. Meet Jesus. Get a Life!

man sitting on a typewriter key
Photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/striatic/664713/">JD Hancock</a>

Mark 16:1-8

When the day of rest had ended, Mary Magdalene, James’s mother Mary, and Salome bought preservatives to go and embalm him, and early Sunday morning, at sunrise, went off to the tomb.

They’d been wondering amongst themselves who would roll the stone away from the mausoleum entrance. But when they arrived the stone, such a very large stone, had already been rolled back. And as they entered they saw a young man wearing a white robe sitting to the right, and they nearly jumped out of their skin.

But the man said to them, “Don’t worry. You’re looking for Jesus from Nowheresville, who was crucified. He’s been restored. He’s not here. Look, that’s the spot where they put him. But go now and tell his students, and especially Peter, that he’s on his way to Galilee ahead of you. You all will find him there, just like he told you.”

But they went out, fleeing in shock and awe from the mausoleum. They were so afraid they said nothing to anyone.

The First Gospel’s ending is the most difficult of the four gospel endings. So difficult, people tried several times to make up better endings for it.

The reason it’s so difficult, though, is that it’s the most realistic. The women come to the grave. Instead of Jesus, they find a stranger. They run away. End of story. No explanation. No angels. No lights or earthquakes. No other-worldly visions of Jesus or of anyone else. Just a man in a plain white robe saying, “There’s nothing to see here. Go home.” There is not a whit that is extra-worldly or fantastically magical about this. Nothing here that even a hardened skeptic would say is impossible.

It’s not difficult at all to affirm the plausibility of the story. What’s difficult is to come to terms with the hard truth that resurrection is emphatically not about some other guy coming back to life. It’s about whether we will get a life! What we want is a happy ending with all the loose ends tied together, all life’s questions answered, and salvation handed to us as a done deal. What the First Gospel gives us is an open question, and marching orders to go back home and meet Jesus.

For Jesus, “it was finished” on Good Friday, but for the rest of us, the story continues. The only guarantee is that if we will go home and look for Jesus, we’ll somehow meet him there. The whole First Gospel is the story of where the 2nd generation disciples found Jesus when they went to look for him, and what they found him doing.

So the question for disciples, then and now, is: Are we following orders? Are we going home to look for Jesus? And when we do, where do we meet him? What is he up to? What gospel (what good news) will you write with your life?

Orwellian Equality

two women, one traditionally dressed, the othre in modern clothes
Photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/adam_jones/3774290540/">Adam Jones</a>

Acts 10:34-43

 Then Peter told them:

“Now I get it. God doesn’t count some people as if they were better than others. Wherever you come from, if you do what’s right, you’re OK with God. You know, by sending Jesus, God sent the Israelis a message of peace. But Jesus is the same message to everyone. Starting in Galilee with John’s announcement that God had sent Jesus with a different powerful spirit, it spread through Judea. Then he went all over the place doing good and healing everyone who the devil had ground down. God was with him, and we are witnesses to what he did in Judea and Jerusalem. They executed him, hung him on a tree. But three days later God raised him up, and made it obvious, certainly not to everyone, but to us, whom God had chosen to see it, and we ate and drank with him after he’d risen. He ordered us to tell everyone that he’s the one God has appointed to judge everyone, whether living or dead. All the truth-tellers say that whoever embraces him is forgiven all their wrongdoing because of him.”

The message of Jesus is, at it’s heart, peace. At the core of that peace is the kind of “doing right” that embraces a radical equality.

Peter’s speech is set at the first meeting between the Israeli contingent of Jesus followers and the first followers of other races and religions. Each of these groups considered themselves “better” than the other. Each had a long history of hostility against the other. The question is, how will they become a community together.

Peter’s answer to that question is given in retelling the Jesus story, ending with Jesus as the cosmic judge over “the living and the dead.” Already, in this retelling of the Jesus story a generation after Jesus, the emphasis has moved from Jesus’ treatment of all people as equal to Jesus enforcing the principle of equality as a divine judge. The motive has moved from emulation from inner conviction to conformity to the requirements of an external divine judge.

Furthermore, we see that the exercise of the divine judgment is becoming located more definitively in the say-so of the apostles, who claim a special, more personal connection with Jesus. Ironically, this speech attempts to enforce the practice of equality in the community by establishing a special better class of people.

The treatment of certain people as equal in God’s sight may be a new revelation to Peter, but at least as he plays it out in this speech, he still hasn’t really “got it.” He’s still stuck in the Orwellian bind of some people being more equal than others.

Here’s God’s Vision. What’s Yours?

table setting
Photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/tracyhunter/133891501/">Tracy Hunter</a>

Isaiah 25:6-9

On the mountaintop, God will prepare a huge feast, with the finest wines and the best delicacies – the best of everything. And everyone is invited.

On the mountaintop, God will lift the pall that is over us all. God will forever banish death. God will wipe all the tears away. God will remove everyone’s shame.

Then people will say:

Look! This is our God. We relied on God, and God rescued us.
This is the God we were waiting for.
Let’s celebrate and enjoy our release!

All because God will be with us on the mountain.

People have parties all the time. You can read about them on the society page. You can get the “exclusive coverage” from the nightly entertainment magazines on the TV. How many millions did Kim Kardashian make on her wedding feast from the exclusive coverage alone?

If this were just another VIP occasion this feast of God would be completely unremarkable. Even in Isaiah’s time. Everyone knew the kings and merchants – the 1% of their day – had these kinds of parties all the time.

But the difference with this party is that everyone is included.

Everyone. No exceptions. That’s the goal. That’s the vision. Everyone gets to sample the $250-a-bottle Cabernet. Everyone gets a place at the table where the fillet mignon is being carved. At God’s table, nobody goes hungry, and nobody goes home at the end of the night in tears.

It’s not just a nice sign on the front of a church lawn.

That’s God’s vision, as Isaiah tells it. What’s yours?

Song 118 – Abridged (for Easter)

hands in the air at a concert
Photo credit : <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/marfis75/3272079115/">Martin Fisch</a>

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

Thank God, because God is good.
God’s love is always reliable.
Let Israel say:
“God’s love is always reliable.”
Let the clergy say:
“God’s love is always reliable.”
Let everyone who follow God say:
“God’s love is always reliable.”

God is where I find my strength.
God is my rescuer.
The doers of right
Are rejoicing in their homes:
God has won!
God is the best!
God has won!
I’m not going to die.
I’m going to live,
And I’m going to tell everyone
What God has done.
God was hard on me,
But God didn’t let me down.

Open the gates to what’s right
So I can enter through them
And thank God.
It’s God’s gate,
And those who do right will enter it.

I thank you for answering me,
And for helping me, and rescuing me.
The stone that didn’t pass quality control
Is now the stone holding up the whole building.
God did this. It’s amazing to see.
God made this day.
Let’s celebrate and live it up!