Happy Easter, everybody!
First, a story….An older couple is driving down I-270 when the wife gets a call from their daughter who is frantic. "Mom, there's a car driving the wrong way on I-270 near your neighborhood!" The wife turns to her husband behind the wheel and tells him, "Did you hear that? A lunatic is driving down the wrong side of the road!
The husband says, "One lunatic? There are hundreds of them!”
From Rich Roegner, Dallas Texas
Clearly, what we see is determined by our perspective, our point of view. The same realities can be viewed by different people, who will see entirely different things. It matters what we are looking for.
So this Easter let’s LOOK! Let’s focus on what we see, and how we interpret what we see.
There’s a line from the Nicene Creed, which we often recite during our Sunday Eucharist. After we state many beliefs about God the Creator, Jesus the Christ, and the Holy Spirit, we get to the end where we state: “We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.”
“We look for the resurrection of the dead.” Interesting. It doesn’t say, “We believe in the resurrection of the dead,” or “We hope for the resurrection of the dead.” It says, “We look for the resurrection of the dead….”
In fact, Jesus’ resurrection story is all about looking and seeing. The women – Mary Magdalene, Salome, and Jesus’ mother Mary - went and looked at the tomb, and they saw the huge disk-like stone rolled aside. They entered the small cave-like tomb and they saw a young man in a white robe. He knew they were surprised, and said, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised! …Look, that’s where he was lying. But go with the disciples to Galilee, there you will see him….”
Listen to those verbs: looked, saw, saw, looking, look, see….
Now, if we had been there and seen these things, we could have honest disagreement over what we had seen. Was the grave robbed and the body taken? Was this young man an angel or a deceiver? Was Jesus raised to life again, or was this an elaborate hoax?
It matters what we are looking for when we come to church on this Easter Day. If we are looking for disappointment, deception, and demoralization, that’s probably what we’ll find. There are plenty of cynics in this world.
But if we come here looking for the resurrection of the dead, well then, we’ll find it: we’ll find the tomb empty, we’ll see that the body has dematerialized with the shroud and turban lying empty…. We’ll see the joy in people’s faces, even when they have suffered a lot. We’ll meet people who have been through a death experience, and managed to rise up and build a new life, with God’s help. Maybe you are one of those people! I am.
This story of death and resurrection is in fact the deep, deep story of all creation; it is the archetype of our life journey with God. Look outside, we are (finally) seeing rebirth in nature itself, after the long deadly winter. If we go outside, feel the soft breeze, see the crocuses and forsythia blooming bravely, we can hardly help but be swept up in the joy of spring. If we look for the resurrection of the dead, that’s what we’ll see….
Sometimes, life and death come and stand very close to us…
uncomfortably close…and we know we are in the presence of the great mystery. I spent Monday morning with the O’Brien family at Children’s Hospital, while little 3 month old Keely O’Brien underwent surgery to patch up her tiny heart – the size of a walnut! It is wondrous – miraculous! – what medicine can do these days, but there are never any guarantees. Thanks be to God Keely came through with flying colors and is recovering well!
Then on Tuesday, I read an amazing story of death and resurrection in the Health and Science section of the Washington Post. “When two Maryland children got lifesaving liver transplants from deceased organ donors in January, the children’s diseased livers were not discarded, as such organs usually are. Instead, they were donated to two Virginia adults in an unusual domino series of transplants at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. Their gift opened a whole new avenue of treatment for adults who might have otherwise died waiting for a liver transplant.”
This is amazing news! The same liver that is diseased in a child’s body can sometimes be transplanted and function as a healthy organ in an adult’s body…saving a life. Talk about resurrection.
I asked Steve Evans, a member of St. Dunstan’s and a physician in leadership at MedStar, about this astounding development, and he said:
“The dominoes in transplant is a great example of really defining who your neighbor is. . . . all men and women. Gifts come in all shapes and sizes, and this particular gift becomes very special for both parties. From a hospital leadership perspective, we are all very proud simply to be in healthcare and to touch so many lives, especially in such lifesaving moments as these.”
“As a parent, I hope those around us will love and support us when we are at our time of greatest need ([and] we will all have those moments), being so vulnerable.”
“I will say, [my wife ] Karen and I never take for granted how lucky we are to be trusted with others’ care. Warmest wishes, Steve.”
Organ transplants are amazing enough. But here, someone looked at this situation and thought, “How can we help not just one person, but multiple people, with a new liver? How can we give life to more sick people?” These folks may or may not be Christians, but it seems to me they “looked for the resurrection of the dead.”
We all know how different people can have very different perceptions of the same situation or event. It’s been said that two persons can observe the same set of facts, and one can find despair there, and the other can find hope. It’s a matter of what we look for, what we believe is possible.
Now I’m not saying that everything always works out fine in this life…clearly it doesn’t. Bad stuff does happen to us. Death is very real. Sometimes we make really bad decisions and choices. People hurt each other. All true.
But what I am saying is this: we have a choice how we look at life: we can look at life “from the underside,” see all the grief and suffering around, and find reason to despair. But God invites us to look differently – to look for resurrection, even when we see death. What will resurrection look like? How will we recognize it? How can we live and work on the side of resurrection, and not on the side of death?
That’s what Jesus did: he threw the weight of his whole being on the side of life. He gave himself up to die at the hands of sinners, to show that his love was unconditional, unlimited. And God brought new life – even out of that, even out of the cross, an ugly instrument of torture and death. If God can redeem that, God can redeem anything. God can certainly redeem us. ….
Sometimes, it may seem that we are swimming against the current, driving like a lunatic in the opposite direction from everybody around us. But the Christian life is like that – we are countercultural, we are daringly compassionate, we are freely forgiving, we give without counting the cost, and we find joy there.
So maybe today is the day – a day to look for the blessings in the mess that is life; a day to be a lunatic for Christ, a day to look for the resurrection of the dead. Who knows what we’ll see.