Isaiah 65:17-25; Luke 24:1-12
If you came here this morning with more confidence in the Easter Egg hunt than the resurrection, you may appreciate the last line… “Some thought it was just an idle tale and did not believe them”. We’ve always had room in the Church for critical incredulity and we still do.
And you may be relieved to know that there is a solid minority of theologians in the church who remember every year that the heart of the Christian faith revolves around an unverifiable event that is not directly knowable. Perhaps the genuine posture of faith is to remain incredulous and expectant because there is still so much we don’t know about God and the world we live in.
These days you have to be aware of the very real limits of our imagination. Just a couple months ago, a century after Einstein speculated that time and space are malleable, we recorded a gravitational wave that emanated from two black holes colliding billions of years ago. It was the first empirical verification that time and space can be stretched and condensed- …. whatever that means. I say that, not that I don’t understand the concepts. I suffer from a different problem and so do you. Even those of us who took Physics in college, and generally understand the concepts of relativity, can’t really imagine this. When I try to really envision time and space warping, I can----….. but I really can’t. It is beyond my direct, lived experience.
Or when I try to comprehend the universe was once the size of a tiny dot that has exploded out for 13.4 billion years, expanding into this vast, vast cosmos, 60% of which is dark matter that we have no real understanding of, so that visible galaxies are only about 40% of the total universe. I can try to imagine it… but I really can’t. It is like loading 10 gigs of data into my ½ gig hard drive brain. It loads and loads and then I get a big crash.[ Cue Video] A friend of mine recently sent me this one little conceptual reminder of our limited imagination. When we all learned about the structure of our galaxy in 5th grade, we got these charts so that we could memorize the names of the planets in orbit around our sun. But that picture is stagnant, which leads you to imagine a kind of stagnant or two dimensional galaxy.
We now know that our galaxy is shooting through space more like a comet bursting out from the big bang. In fact, we can measure the speed. It is about 70,000 km/hr.
So the planets revolving around our sun actually look more like a vortex. All of us are moving through space, not just around the sun alone. We should be imagining it in three dimensional motion, not just two dimensional motion. [End Video]
When I try to contemplate things like this.... I am moved to the spiritual disposition of ‘wonder’. Astrophysicists also speak in the language of poetry when they step back from the immense calculations that fill the chalkboard. Because what we put into formulas is actually beyond our imaginative ability.
Even when we try to picture it, it is enough beyond our imagination that the only way we can genuinely respond is in incredulous wonder.
The resurrection is like that. We don’t actually have direct access to it. We only get indirect testimony about it. Even the scriptures just depict it in poetic images. And it was not overwhelming to the original witnesses. All of the gospels have some line like ours that “many believed… and some doubted.”
What we know is that Jesus was a man of noble moral purpose. We know that he was unjustly tried for sedition, upsetting the social order. He healed people. He had quite a following for his teaching about love, compassion, forgiveness, reconciliation, peace, justice, and tolerance. But the Romans were threatened by the size of the crowds, thinking Jesus would organize them into a revolutionary force that would overthrow Roman rule and usher in change in the form of the Kingdom of God.
He was tortured, abandoned by his disciples and friends to die alone, he felt forsaken, and cried out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” The Romans mocked and humiliated him, and killed him using the barbaric and ghastly form of execution they invented crucifixion.
In the contest between loveless power and powerless love, powerless love got crushed once again. Everyone was dejected, defeated, resigned. It is always thus, so the cynics sigh.
But what if loveless power does not have the last word. What if, death cannot stop the goodness of God?
What if we cannot reject God’s hope for us?
What if God is not done with us yet, quite in spite of ourselves?
What if Faith, hope, and love transcend indifference, cynicism, and hatred?
What if we don’t get off that easy?
What if there is a meaning to our lives whether or not we get it?
What if God is a bigger force than we can imagine? We don’t know the half of it.
We had goodness in our midst and we killed it. We thought we were in control of the situation. We thought we could stop God, so to speak. What if we can’t?
And some doubted. We can’t quite believe it could be that good… No we can’t. And it isn’t just the resurrection of one good man a long time ago. We can’t quite believe in the possibility of resurrection parables of goodness in our actual life around us either. We sort of get it but we can’t believe it is that good either.
Like that time you did something so stupid, so revelatory of your character that you couldn’t even make it look good, you were so embarrassed that your spouse now really knows how pathetic you actually are that you just want to run and you can’t, and you are just eating yourself up with your own anxiety… because you know your spouse should just move on to greener pastures, you would if you were in their place-
But they take this deep disappointment, and they help you to grow, work through your weak parts. They keep believing in you long enough that you grow up. It is too good to be true.
We can’t quite believe that our extended family might finally just accept our gay cousin Michael- and actually celebrate his spouse Peter and the life they have together and the love they share, at a big old family gathering-just like everyone else in the family. What if we could take a photograph and everyone could just be themselves, just be who they really are, and loved for who they are. If my people could really love each other? That would be too good to be true.
And I know we have neighbors who are African-American who can’t really believe that our country might truly transcend our racist past and make a genuine place at the table for them as equals. Maybe we can turn a heart here and a heart there, but really change the laws so that the percentage of black boys that end up in jail isn’t so high? Really change so that our whole society becomes embarrassed by the ghetto’s we have created? Really change so that refuse to let people languish there without the hope of the American dream…. Really do something about those zip codes? We want to believe it and it is also too good to be true.
I know we have way, way too many families that can’t quite believe that their kids can really stop using oxycontin and heroin and that they will come back to us again. We’ve watched how powerful those drugs have changed our people and we can’t really believe in a resurrection that would heal them and get them back to normal again. We just want normal. Normal would be good. We pray for it and it would be too good to be true.
We just want our daughters to overcome their eating disorders. We just want them to transcend their anxiety or whatever it is that makes them do what they do. We just want them to receive the love that we have in our hearts. We want them to see the beauty that we see and become loveable. We want them back to normal. Normal would be good. We pray for it and it would be too good to be true.
The Good News of Easter is that God just might bring unexpected resurrection whether you believe in it or not. God just might make a way, quite in spite of your anxiety, your incredulity and your resignation. The world is not entirely dependent on you, nor your limited worldview. God’s hope and love are not waiting for you to give them permission to do their thing. What you don’t know far exceeds what you do know.
So be free. Be open. Expect something new. Laugh. Stay in touch with the wonder of it all. The end of the story is good, good beyond your imagining. So love with abandon and live your life with adventure. Hug your friends in gratitude. What if it is going to turn out much better than you thought? “Behold, I do a new thing”, says the Lord. Do you not perceive it? Amen.