Preached at Christ Episcopal Church, Seattle on April 15, 2012.
Alleluia, Christ is risen!!
How disruptive is that? For most of us, not very. I mean, it happened a long time ago. We live in a post-resurrection world. To ask what significance it has may be a bit like asking what’s the significance of having running water? We have no way of knowing what it was like before the resurrection. Regardless of what one believes about it – what Jesus’ body was like, whether the resurrection was quite literal or more metaphorical, or even that the whole thing is a hoax or simply a fairy tale of sorts – even atheists live in a post-resurrection world, after all. It simply doesn’t have the power of an event that truly disrupts our lives.
A total game-changer.
You’ve probably had those experiences though; if not, you will eventually. For many, 9/11 was such an event. It changed their understanding of our place in the world; their sense of personal safety and risk they face every day.
Many disruptive events are more individual and affect us on an intimately personal level. Events such as:
- The birth of a child into the family
- The loss of a close family member
- A medical diagnosis
- Loss of a job or starting a new one
- Even getting a new boss can be a disruptive event.
- Moving out of the house for the first time –
or the last time.
There’s a sense that life will never be the same again. And it won’t.
Now try to imagine the disruption Jesus’ resurrection caused for the disciples. Their lives had already been disrupted by their decision to follow Jesus in the first place. Here we see them and it’s still that very first day. Already an awful lot has happened. The day began for them, when that crazy woman, Mary Magdalene, came and told them that Jesus’ body was gone; the tomb was empty. Right. Except Peter and John went back with her to see and sure enough, it was empty. The guys came back and told them so. But Mary stayed a little longer and then came back and said she had actually seen him!
Can you imagine trying to wrap your head around all that? And now, night has fallen and they locked themselves in the house – all except Thomas. They were afraid. What would happen next? They were afraid they may be next on the cross. They may have been afraid that Jesus would confront them – after all, they abandoned him in the garden when he was arrested. At his darkest hour, they were nowhere to be seen. So much for all their bravado at dinner just hours before.
On the other hand, if he was alive, where was he? Why hadn’t he come to them? Maybe that’s where Thomas was, looking for Jesus. Would they continue where they left off; traveling the country preaching, teaching, healing?
They probably were not expecting what happened next.
Jesus showed up, dispelling their doubts (all except Thomas). And he said, “Peace be with you.” Now that was the standard greeting, but it also offered them forgiveness and reconciliation. He wasn’t holding it against them that they abandoned him. Ok. Sigh of relief.
Even more unexpected. No, they weren’t just going to continue what they were doing before. Jesus sent them to continue. He told them to forgive and if they retained sins, they would be retained. He sent them to reconcile people to God. And then, to make sure Thomas was included too, Jesus came back a week later. Now all the disciples’ doubts had been answered.
Now. Imagine Jesus’ resurrection disrupting your life that dramatically. Imagine Jesus breathing on you and saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit. As the Father sent me, so I send you. If you forgive, sins are forgiven; if you retain sins, they are retained.”
What will you do? Those of you who were here on Maundy Thursday may remember that I said we’re not pretending to be disciples. We already are. What are we going to do about it? What will you do about it?
What if the resurrection is about practicing forgiveness? And I’m not talking about saying “I forgive you,” or “Your sins are forgiven.” I’m talking about actually forgiving; no longer keeping accounts, so to speak, but letting go of the injury and all that goes along with it. There’s a commercial on the radio that features a woman talking about the day her doctor told her she had breast cancer and how her life has changed. Her cancer is gone, but she sees things differently. As she points out, when the barista gets her latte order wrong, it’s no big deal anymore.
Imagine how light we might feel if we quit carrying the burden of others’ sins.
And now imagine how that might spread. It reminds me of an online video that was making the rounds awhile back. It started with someone doing something kind for someone. That person turned around and did something kind for the next person. You should have seen the kindness and the smiles spread.
Imagine if we treated others as fully forgiven. Everyone. All the time. And if that forgiveness spread.
Alleluia! Christ is risen.