April 16, 2017

Pastor Tammy Sharp

Matthew 28:1-10
It is a great day to be a kid. You get to wake up to the idea that a bunny has come to visit and there are chocolate eggs and treats, and maybe even a big basket of goodies, and no one thinks you are crazy. Children don’t have to answer that question that gnaws at us adults….. Why is it that the Easter Bunny brings EGGS… Why isn’t it an Easter Chicken? Wouldn’t that make sense? As children, not only do you not have to answer that question; children don’t even think of the question in the first place. Why would you even ask that question? It just is. The Easter bunny brings sweets and treats and that is all. Childlike wonder acceptance is such a gift.
We think of ourselves as fortunate to live at this time in history. The idea that at one time, measles wiped out entire communities is so foreign to us. There is something that can prevent ever getting the measles. The idea that people had to go outside to an outhouse to use the bathroom is just yucky. We simply can’t imagine what took so long for people to get plumbing inside their homes. We, and by we I mean the really smart people of the world, have so much knowledge that it is easy for us to think that if we have a question, or if something happens around us, we can always find an explanation or an answer to any question that comes our way. Isn’t that what Google is for?
The older we get, or the smarter we get, the further we get from ability to feel that childlike wonder. The smarter we get the further we get from the ability to see something amazing and just say WOW, and just enjoy the wonder. It isn’t something that happens in an instant. It happens over time. We realize we can discover things; and if we personally can’t figure something out, then there is someone smarter and more experienced than us who can. The idea that we would see something amazing and just rest in the moment, and accept that there is no way to understand it is beyond us.
Why would Jesus use children as an example of great faith? Why is it that we are to have the faith of a child?
The tragic flaw in the creation story, at least the part where sin comes into the world, isn’t that Eve and Adam ate a pice of fruit in the middle of the garden. It isn’t the fruit that was the problem. The sin, the original sin, and the sin from which every other sin begins is the belief that we know more than God. It isn’t disbelief that does us in as human beings. It is the belief that we know better than God. The idea that there is some way for us to know everything is the problem. The idea that we can do better on our own than we can by relying on God. The idea that WE are all powerful; Our belief that if you work hard enough you can know anything; that is what gets us into trouble and pulls us further and further from God. We think that we can explain everything and so when there is no way to explain the God of the universe in concrete ways, then, there just isn’t a God.
Today we celebrate the culmination of what God did in order to deal with our inability to simply trust in God and be faithful to God. Through the life and death of Jesus we see what it means to live our lives completely for the Lord. The life of Jesus ends as tragically as any life could. He was abandoned by those who vowed to never forsake him. He was falsely accused of crimes he didn’t commit and he was tortured and killed because he looked at people and expected them to be selfless. He looked to the religious leaders and expected them to have the welfare and care of all people as their top priority. He looked at people in the community who had no problem casting out people who were not like them, or people who were sick or unable to care for themselves. People had long awaited the coming of the messiah. But this Messiah was not what they had in mind. They wanted the Messiah to be a person of power and might. A person who would stand for them before the giants of the world and proclaim that THEY were the ones chosen by God and everyone else needed to step in line. That is what they wanted. They wanted to be on top. They wanted to be in charge with the support of God to back them. Jesus wasn’t that Messiah, and so, once again, not unlike Adam and Eve in the Garden, the people chose their own understanding and power over that of God’s and they crucified Jesus.
The story of Jesus didn’t make sense to the people who lived it because it didn’t fit into what they KNEW, or at least what they thought they KNEW about the Messiah. Their knowledge, how minimal that was in comparison to what we KNOW about life and the universe today; what they thought they knew kept them from seeing the God of grace and love found in the Messiah; Jesus Christ.
Apart from faith, the story of Jesus does not make sense. In a world where we are worried about protecting what we have and making sure me and mine are taken care of, the idea of giving all you have for the sake of others does not make any sense. In a world where what I know about God leads us to exclude people who are different than us, a Messiah that welcomes the stranger and gets up close and personal with sinners and tax collectors and Lepers, doesn’t make sense.
When Jesus didn’t make sense in the limited realm of what the people of 2000 years ago knew to be true, they got rid of the crazy man who challenged them and all they believed in. They were unable to look at Jesus with childlike faith and wonder and accept that the God of the universe really could love the people who were the outcasts in the community. They were unable to see the value and the grace that Jesus brought for ALL people, not just the chosen, and they killed him.
Are we really any different? Are we really any better?
Our Gospel lesson tells us of the people who went to the tomb early on the first Easter morning. They weren’t going there to see something amazing. In fact, they were going there knowing that they would face the very real image of their friend, their teacher; dead in the tomb where they would finish the purification rituals. They knew what they were going to find. I wonder if some of those last moments with Jesus were going through their heads as they approached the tomb. I wonder if they had even a slight moment of anxious anticipation hoping that what he said about rising would be true. But who could believe such things? People don’t endure what Jesus had endured and live to tell the tale. So, they went with heavy hearts……. BUT THE TOMB WAS EMPTY. No, it didn’t make sense. People can’t die that sort of death and come back to tell about it. But he wasn’t’ there and the angels said he had risen. Could they explain it? Could they possibly believe in such a thing?
When there are no answers that make sense, childlike faith and wonder are all we have. On this day of resurrection, Jesus instructions to us to have the faith of a child become so real to us. Jesus didn’t make sense as a prophet and teacher. He wasn’t the warrior they expected. Jesus wasn’t the concurring soldier they had anticipated. But even greater than concurring armies; Jesus concurred death. It didn’t make sense. They couldn’t explain it, but look….. the tomb was empty.
Knowledge is a great thing. It really is. But when it comes to faith, sometimes we have to just rest in the knowledge that God is bigger than us. That sometimes, things of faith do not make sense but God is God weather I have all the answers or not, God is still God and that is enough.
The greatest mystery of all is why God would love us, as flawed and selfish, and stubborn as we are, why would God love us? I can think of lots of things about myself that give God reasons to be angry with me, or to give up on me, but God doesn’t do that. I don’t have to understand it. I only have to know that it is true. God’s love took Jesus to the cross and the most awful death imaginable out of love for you and for me and we have to take that with childlike faith. It is a gift. It is a holy surprise.
We can’t explain the resurrection, and we can’t explain how God can love the worst of us, but God does it anyway. That is the power of the resurrection. We do not have to have all the answers. We do not have to have explanations for every act of grace and mercy God gives to this broken, sinful world. We only need to know that God does. God loves you and me and the rest of this very messy crazy world and it doesn’t make any sense…….. But that is the power of God. That is the wonder of the resurrection.
Know that God is more than we can understand. God’s love is unconditional. You don’t have to understand that. You just have to let go of figuring it out and know that it is so. God’s love is the power to make the blind see and the deaf hear and the Crucified Christ raise from the dead. It can’t be explained, it can only be experienced. I invited you today, to experience the love of God found in the resurrection. Just sit back and let go of the need to understand, and bask in the wonder and mystery of God’s love for us.
Christ is Risen…. And that is enough.