Sermon: God’s Movement of Resurrection

Mark 16:1-8
Uncited/Unedited by J. Lavoy

Who here has a facebook? Don’t worry, I generally don’t friend people unless they friend me first. But I will say, I’m a pretty good “liker”, if I do say so myself. I don’t often post much on facebook, but I really like it as a listening tool. In a couple clicks, people tend to share their emotions, their thoughts on a variety of topics, and news articles or blog posts that are speaking to them. I love reading these things.

But – I’ve noticed an intriguing trend on Facebook these last few days. Especially with sensitivities on the rise about Indiana creating a law that somehow ensures their Religious Freedom at the expense of others, and Nascar and Walmart coming out and saying “wow, that’s a pretty close minded thing to do…”, you can imagine how peoples feelings toward general Christianity may not be so loving.

And, being a liberal Christian whose friends tend to be agnostic, empirical, liberal minded people, I’ve long been sensitive to how the Christian story sounds to skeptical ears. On facebook, a number of memes – which are sort of generic images with different words superimposed over them – featuring an image of Jesus, and poking light fun at Good Friday and Easter, have been making their rounds. In some cases, people are becoming downright hostile and saying very mean-spirited things about religion generally, and the resurrection in particular. “How can some people believe stone-age fairy tales?…” is the general sentiment.

And surely, we can all understand why people are skeptical of religion. For some of us, our doubt is stoked with reasons like, “how can we know if there is a God” or “how does the resurrection work?” For others, we become skeptical of Christianity, because Christians are often seen as a group of people who stand in the way of progress, of civil rights, of care for creation.

So, we may be tempted to regard Christianity with rational disdain, as we feed our spiritual impulses not through life giving practices, but religions of consumerism and consumption, where the almighty dollar reigns supreme.

This past Lenten season, I have heard the sentiment articulated that “Good Friday and Easter are, perhaps, the most difficult Holy Days for progressive Christians to deal with. For many of us, we assume that, if we can’t 100% get behind the scriptural accounts of Jesus’ resurrection, if we don’t read it literally, than we’re not welcome in the club. And there are some in our broad tradition, who would have us believe that. Except that the stories conflict with one another!

The Gospel of Mark, our assigned reading today, ends this way:

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.

As rational, generally liberal minded people, how are we to make sense of this? For nearly two thousand years, Christian thinkers have been trying to make sense of the resurrection. My theology books are rife with different theologies and ideas, often conflicting with one another! And it generally seems that the scripture accounts are the stumbling blocks, for people.

And so, on facebook, and more importantly, in life, as we encounter respectful, reasonable questions about the resurrection, we are tasked with responding. Some of us may say, “My faith doesn’t need to be explained, therefore I simply believe.” Some of us may spiritualize the resurrection, saying that it is a metaphoric invitation for new life. Some of us may respond in an altogether different way, and say that Jesus’ life was an example, and we come to Christianity seeking a better way to live.

And, no matter our reason for being here, allowing the scriptural story to stand in the way of our belief about resurrection, is a form of idolatry. By stopping at the scripture, we’re making the Bible God, rather than allowing God to be God.

What if, instead, we said this – that resurrection is the movement of God. And I don’t mean movement like a collective of people. I mean, resurrection is the way that God literally moves in the world. From our souls being reconciled to each other, to eternity; in the redemption of the dark and awful things of our lives; in the promise that we are each transformed in the seasons of our lives; in the perpetual invitation to love one another, God’s power of resurrection abounds.

Though there is nothing wrong with metaphor, we are invited to look upon the scripture lesson with discerning eyes. Instead of seeing it as something to be accepted indifferently, maybe we can look upon it as an arrow, pointing out for us God, who moves through the world in resurrection. In other words, with God, life comes from death, just as beautiful flowers grow out of manure.

What I love about today’s scripture lesson, is that, on the way to the tomb, is that Mary, Mary Magdalene, and Salome are trying to figure out who will roll away the stone to let them into the tomb. When they arrive to the tomb, they are surprised by the fact that the stone has already been rolled away. In fact, it was God who moved the stone.

Here is an important lesson. Being relatively rich people, compared with the rest of the world, we are used to our own autonomy. We have the power to make decisions for ourselves. In doing so, we are tricked into thinking that we can be gods, here on earth. “Who will move the stone?” we might often debate. And, on Sundays, we might make an addition, “Who will move the stone, that we might honor God?” Our scripture that we look upon as an arrow to God’s resurrecting movement reminds us, “God moves the stone. We are just witnesses.”

The three women, in their wondering, found the stone moved already – by God. But, if they didn’t flee from the tomb in terror and amazement, if they had just taken the stone being moved for granted, no-one would have been aware of God’s resurrecting movement. Mary, Mary Magdalene, and Salome were not tasked with moving the stone. They were tasked with witnessing it.

I want you to think, now, of a moment in your life, where you witnessed God bringing life from death. Perhaps it is some comfort in knowing your loved ones who have died, are in eternity with God. Perhaps it is an experience you had, where something had to die or be destroyed, in order for good to come from it. Perhaps it is a dark night of your soul, from which insight, clarity, strength and other “silver linings” came. Perhaps it is a world event, where reconciliation and justice were the theme, and where humility prevailed.Think, now, of a moment in your life, where you witnessed God bringing life from death.

(Pause)

I hate when pastors ask me these kinds of questions. I feel so “on-the-spot” and tested. Maybe you were unable to think of anything. Let me assure you that is ok – I am positive that some inspiration will occur to you, down the road. But, for those of you who have witnessed God bringing death from life, you have witnessed resurrection.

Now, here comes the facebook tie in. There is a term on facebook, and on the internet generally, called “going viral”. When something “goes viral”, it is being shared over-and-over again by people on the internet. Much like a virus, things that have gone viral are spread person-to-person.

Now, I am not inviting you to share your most heartfelt experiences with God on facebook. But I am inviting you to think of it as a metaphor. God moves whether we believe in God or not. God redeems, whether we are open to it or not (though it is far more pleasant to be open to it). God’s movement of resurrection permeates the space between every atom in the universe, whether we accept the scripture message or not.

Your task, from this Easter onward, is not to try and resurrect anything. Your task, from this Easter onward, is to resist the temptation to move giant rocks from tombs. Your task, from this Easter onward, is to wait in prayer: look, listen, taste, see, feel, for signs of resurrection. And when you see the great stone moved, you will be forced to witness, in amazement.

Let our job as Christians not be to control our lives, and others; but to witness the resurrection that God is already doing, and feel so compelled to respond with faith, hope, and love. And let it be viral.