The Way 3-27-16

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; I thank you, YHWH, for your goodness! Your love is everlasting! 2 Let Israel say it: “Your love is everlasting!” 14 God is my strength and my song; God has become my salvation! 15 Raise shouts of joy and victory in the tents of the upright: YHWH’s right hand is doing mighty acts! 16 YHWH’s right hand is winning; YHWH’s right hand is doing mighty acts! 17 No, I will not die—I will live to proclaim the deeds of YHWH; 18 though YHWH has disciplined me often, I am not abandoned to Death. 19 Open the gates of justice for me, let me come in and thank you, YHWH! 20 This is the gate of YHWH, and only the upright can enter! 21 Thank you for hearing me, for saving me. 22 It was the stone which the builders rejected that became the keystone; 23 this is YHWH’s doing, and it is wonderful to see. 24 This is the day YHWH has made— let us celebrate with joy!

Each Sunday in Lent for the last six weeks, we have been talking about Jesus’ Third Way – how Jesus’ teachings always have a surprise ending, a surprise teaching, a surprise to get us to think a different way, or to act a different way. He gave his followers alternatives to fighting or fleeing, alternatives to despair or naiveté, alternatives to oppressing or being oppressed.

Well, the ultimate surprise comes today – the ultimate surprise is what we celebrate in the Festival of Resurrection. This surprise – Jesus resurrection after the crucifixion has led people to live differently ever since. We can call it Jesus’ Third Way. We can call it the Way of Life. We can call it the Way of Easter. The followers of Jesus in the first century simply called it “The Way.”

Luke 24:1-12  On the first day of the week, at the first sign of dawn, the women came to the tomb bringing the spices they had prepared. 2 They found the stone rolled back from the tomb; 3 but when they entered the tomb, they didn’t find the body of Jesus. 4 While they were still at a loss over what to think of this, two figures in dazzling garments stood beside them. 5 Terrified, the women bowed to the ground. The two said to them, “Why do you search for the Living One among the dead? 6 Jesus is not here; Christ has risen. Remember what Jesus said to you while still in Galilee— 7 that the Chosen One must be delivered into the hands of sinners and be crucified, and on the third day would rise again.” 8 With this reminder, the words of Jesus came back to them. 9 When they had returned from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and the others. 10 The women were Mary of Magdala, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James. The other women with them also told the apostles, 11 but the story seemed like nonsense and they refused to believe them. 12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. He stooped down, but he could see nothing but the wrappings. So he went away, full of amazement at what had occurred

March 27, 2016

Jesus’ Third Way: The Way of Life

“My life would not be the same if I hadn’t come to this church.”

“Being part of this LIFE group changed my life.”

“”I’m a different person because of my community of faith.”

I hear people say things like this or hint at things like this pretty often. I’ll change the names to protect the innocent, but I’ll give you a hint that the people who say things like this the most often are the people who take the most leadership in the church. I don’t know which comes first, taking leadership or having your life changed. I guess they’re pretty interwoven.

I don’t mention these claims to brag, though I am sinfully proud of our little congregation. I mention them to make a point. People used to make those same kind of comments in a different way. In some churches and in some times, people would say that Jesus saved their life, or that they’re a different person because Jesus was raised from the dead.

Those people might at times mean something different by those statements than what we mean when we say “I’m a different person because I’m part of this church,” (I’ll  talk about some of those different ways in a moment) but not always. Sometimes it’s just a matter of a different way of talking and a different way of thinking.

I know we post-Enlightenment Christians have trouble proclaiming the resurrection. It’s not easy for some of us to even say it in church sometimes, “Christ is risen!” except maybe on Easter. We like our faith to be practical and rational. That phrase in the Apostle’s Creed about believing in the “resurrection of the body,” that’s pretty hard to say or believe for us modern Christians.

But let me tell you something – it wasn’t so easy for first century Christians either. We know because Paul had explicit arguments in his letter with folks in the church of Corinth. He argued with them that in a time when people were suffering and dying for their faith, a Christ who is not resurrected offers no hope, that the Way of life is the way of the resurrection. He insisted that they were part of the body of Christ and they were part of the resurrection. [Christian Century, p. 22]

Theologian John S. Whale once said that “the Gospels don’t explain the resurrection; the resurrection explains the Gospels.” This mystery of Christ resurrected is at the core of our faith.

Walter Brueggemann suggested in this vein that we consider Easter a verb, that God is in the business of Eastering. This notion is similar to the way the resurrection gave the early Christians hope. If the dead aren’t going to remain in their tombs, then maybe the poor aren’t going to stay poor. Maybe the sick aren’t going to stay sick. Maybe underfunded schools will get the funding they need. Maybe the empires of this world that seem to be as sturdy and dominant as ever -maybe they’re not going to last.

What would it take to challenge our fears about the changes that are going to come when Christ’s resurrection is complete. What would it take to follow the Way of Life, the way of Easter, to have that kind of hope – that God really is in charge of our lives and our world, that God is Eastering our world today?

Somewhere along the line, some Christian churches started talking about the resurrection and eternal life as though it has nothing to do with this world. When I was a kid I went to Christian summer camps where they talked about the One Way, and One Way about what God is going to do when we die. They said that One Way involved God’s plan to kill Jesus so that God could feel better about humanity. They said the only other Way was the way of sin and death.

 

That is not what the early Christians were about. That’s not what Jesus was about. They talked about the Way, which was the way of love and hope for the whole world. That’s what Paul was trying to teach the Corinthians – the Way, not a way of fear and violence, but a way of forgiveness and healing, God Eastering the whole world. Resurrection is not just about what happens when we die; it’s about what happens when we start to live, when we claim God’s presence with us as an Easter people. Alleluia.

Sisters and brothers, this is a community of hope and love, changing lives through the Eastering of each other and the Eastering of the world, through the Way of Christ. This is God’s invitation to us this Easter – to trust in resurrection power to raise us all from the dead. Having been Eastered ourselves, learning that trust and that hope, we are called to Easter others, to take this good news into the world, to make new friends and build a powerful Easter community.

Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed. Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed. Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed.

The tomb is empty, life is available, the Way is before us. God’s transformation is for our church, and for everyone and everything. Let us follow the Way, as we await the resurrection in all of its forms.

Responsive Hymn: 304  Easter People, Raise Your Voices