Hope Rises from the Dead

Transcribed from the sermon preached April 16, 2017

The Reverend Max Lynn, Pastor

Scripture Readings: Jeremiah 31:1-6, Acts 10:34-43, Matthew 28:1-10

It was noted on RevGalBlogPals that Archaeologist Joanna Harader has uncovered evidence that Pontius Pilate was on Twitter, and tweeted several times during the week of Passover in Jerusalem in AD 33.

At 5:28PM on Sunday, AD 33 before Passover he wrote: I rode into Jerusalem on a big horse, Huge! Best Horse ever. Thanks to all who cheered me on.

5:40PM: Dishonest media reporting a bigger precession into the city. Some guy on a donkey. Nobody cares about him.

10:06 AM Friday: “Unbelievable, this Jesus guy is such a fool. Won’t even defend himself. Total lightweight.”

10:10 Can’t even handle their own courts.

Sunday 7 AM Body Stolen! These leakers proclaiming resurrection will be bought to justice.

10:21 Friday – What is truth?

Our president is not the appointed dictator of an occupied state, but this was too funny not to share.

Welcome to all, I am happy that you made it to celebrate this most important day in the history of the world.

Today is the day we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, when we discover that love never dies, that grace of God is more powerful than our sin, that despite all the apparent reason for despair, hope still rises.

  1. Scott Fitzgerald said, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise.”

Paulo Freire notes that the struggle for justice itself generates hope. We may not see the possibility of success, but as we allow the spirit of God to empower us to live and work for what is good and right, the possibility of success becomes real.

Rebecca Solnit, in her book, Hope in the Dark, notes that “There are people with good grounds for despair and a sense of powerlessness: prisoners, the desperately poor, those overwhelmed by the labors of just surviving, those living under the threat of imminent violence.” It is to just such people that Jesus comes and gives hope.

Becoming active in community, working for good, is also tied to a sense of our own power, a sense that what we do matters to a community of which we are a part. Hope is rooted in a sense of belonging. Thus, alienation and isolation are often reasons why we have trouble finding the energy to live and act out hope.

The Spirit of God, the same Spirit of the Risen Christ unites us with the church through the ages, and with the Israelites who were liberated by God from slavery and brought to the Promised Land.

Many of us may also be hindered by the realization that we are less than perfect, that we have flaws and weaknesses. Maybe it is our less than perfect family that are fearful critical at least as much as they are positive, supportive and hopeful.

Or maybe it is a bully or the mean girls at school, or the bias in the system itself which tells us that people of a certain nationality, race, class, age or gender should have more say, freedom and power, while others should have less. Yet it doesn’t matter what nationality, race, class, age, gender or political party, we all fall short of the glory of God. We are all fallible and finite. With the extreme vetting of heaven, none of us are accepted yet God loves us with an everlasting love.

We find in our passage from Jeremiah that the Israelites had blown it. The temptation of the foreign powers and their gods, the wealth of international business, excites the ruling elite of Israel and they neglect the poor and justice. Yahweh feels cheated by this idolatry, the social version of adultery. The affair turns sour and they get dragged off into exile. Finally they repent and have the opportunity to return. Our passage then shows Israel as a refugee. She is not perfect, that is for sure. But here she is, fleeing violence and under danger of dehydration in the wilderness. But God goes out to the wilderness to bring her water. God can’t help himself. He loves her with an everlasting love. “The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness…I have loved you with an everlasting love.”

We could easily switch the gender of both Israel and God. No need to anthropomorphize God so much that we literally try to attach genitals. It is not the gender of God that saves, but the grace of God. While God could leave us out in the desert to die of dehydration, with a gracious and everlasting love She comes out to give us life saving water.

The point is that even after we realize that God has plenty of reason to reject us, we find God is gracious and loves us with an everlasting love. Hope regenerates. Solnit helps us understand the power of hope in her reference to the playwright Vaclav Havel, who writes of hope, while imprisoned in the Soviet satellite Czechoslovakia in 1986, 87, before there is any real sign that the “Velvet Revolution” will succeed and that the ominous Soviet Union will fall apart. He writes: hope “is a dimension of the soul; it’s not essentially dependent on some particular observation of the world or estimate of the situation. Hope is not prognostication. It is an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart; it transcends the world that is immediately experienced and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons. Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously headed for early success, but rather, an ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed.”

 

Christ is Risen! The eternal hope and power of God is alive and well even and precisely where we might think it most absent. As the soldiers and the two Mary’s experience, this resurrection of Jesus will cause an earthquake that shakes the philosophical and ideological foundations of the world order.

Jack Miles in his book Christ: A Crisis in the Life of God writes: “One of many implications of this epilogue to God’s life story has been that in the West no regime can declare itself above review. All power is conditional; and when the powerless rise, God may be with them. The motif of divinity in disguise is not unique to Christianity; but the Christian motif of unrecognized divinity judicially tried, officially condemned, tortured by his captors, executed in public, buried, and only then rising from the dead and ascending into heaven is, if not literally unique, then at least unique in the breadth of its political influence…As his executioners nail him to the cross, Jesus prays: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Wherever lines like these or the ideas behind them have spread, human authority has begun to lose its grip on unimpeachable legitimacy. In the West, any criminal may be Christ, and therefore any prosecutor Pilate. As the abolitionist poet James Russell Lowell put it: Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne – Yet that scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim unknown, Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.”

With the divine hope risen within us, let proclaim together: Jesus Christ is risen! Jesus Christ is Risen! Jesus Christ is risen indeed!