Sermon by Rev. Todd Weir
Cantata Sunday, April 19, 2015
Scripture: Luke 24:36-48
The first Easter did not have any good music yet, no trumpets or handbells or “Hallelujah Chorus.” Jesus arose without a sound track, no “selfies,” no PR firm coordinating Youtube videos, showing Jesus smiling with the common people of demographic significance. So obviously there would be lots of confusion, skepticism and rumors, and wild speculation, sort like watching Wolf Blitzer on CNN.
Here is a quick summary of post-Easter reactions displayed by Jesus’s disciples.
Mark 16:8 “So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”
Really inspiring isn’t it? Nice work disciples. Carpe diem!
On several occasions Jesus’s disciples do not recognize him. Mary thinks he is the gardener, and asks Jesus if he knows where his body was taken. (That’s a bad Monday morning. More coffee please!) On the road to Emmaus, two disciples do not recognize Jesus.
“17 And (Jesus) said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?”
This is like the TV show where the CEO dresses in jeans and a hoodie to find out what his workers are doing, an episode of “Undercover Boss.”
Since everyone is confused, I don’t know why John’s Gospel has it in for Thomas, the rationalist who said he would not believe in the resurrection until his autopsy was complete. Jesus says, “Thomas would you like a stethoscope, you want an EKG, CAT scan, whatever you want, ask me to turn my head and cough.”
Here’s my favorite line from today’s Gospel reading when Jesus appears to the disciples. “41While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering.” What a great description of the emotional impact. You could use that line for falling in love – “While in my joy I was disbelieving and still wondering…” When the Boston Red Sox came back from three losses and beat the Yankes in Game 7 of the 2004 World Series, you could say, “While in their joy, Red Sox fans were disbelieving and still wondering.” If Bernie Sanders won the Iowa primary, progressive Democrats, “in their joy are disbelieving and still wondering.
So if you have any trouble with doubt, understanding, believing the meaning of the resurrection, welcome to the club. What club, you ask? Church! Church is the one place you can have your joy and disbelieving wonder too! When did we start editing out the very human doubts and confusion and replace it with a misguided and destructive quest for certainty and proof?
In most spheres of life there is a level of faith and trust that exists without certainty and proof. Take the financial crisis and the state of banking. Does the Federal Reserve know what will happen next to our economy? Will it be prosperity or hyper-inflation? Who knows, just keep putting money in your 401K and have faith. Despite scientific sophistication in forecasting the weather, we cannot predict with certainty whether you will get 2 inches or 2 feet of snow. It’s an educated estimate. As Rob Bell pointed out in the book we read over Lent, physicists have found it is impossible to predict the exact path of an electron. There is a degree of randomness and unpredictability in the very nature of existence.
If you only believe and act upon things with proven certainty, what are you going to do? Martin Luther King, Jr. warned activists against “analysis paralysis.” At some point more data will not help, you need a plan. Just do it. Certainty is a dangerous and misguided concept. Certainty is a tool of repression of all our fears of the unknown, and this repressive reflex creates three problems, 1) it blinds us to reality, 2) separates us from one another when we need to be right all the time, and 3) the desire for theological certainty is at the roots of religious violence, which has become the major threat to Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Faith, hope and trust are not a sign of a weak mind, it is realism in an unpredictable world.
So here is my main point. Don’t let your doubt get in the way of the joy of disbelieving wonder. Life is a leap of faith, every act takes faith in something. Getting in your car to buy groceries takes faith in a few hundred drivers, plus the farmers and agribusiness who have produce your food. Every bite you eat is a faith in some beleaguered FDA inspector. But you are going to eat that sushi anyway aren’t you?
Faith is choosing to not live in fear or false certainty, but rather choosing gratitude for what is in front of us. Faith is a path of accepting forgiveness for our imperfections and mistakes, because who has it all figured out anyway. Faith gives us the desire to love when we don’t know what will happen next, the courage to enter the struggle for justice and peace, a trust in the steadfast love of God in whom we live and move and have our being. It is the hope in things unseen. How do we stand living in the uncertainty of the world? In our joy, we are disbelieving and still wondering. And all that is left is to sing our praises.