Easter 2013: Fasten Your Seat Belts

by admin on April 1, 2013

John 20:1-18
Reflections for 31 March 2013

Fasten Your Seat Belts
[[[prayer]]] Lord Jesus, fasten us in for the ride of our lives…the ride to resurrection power and glory. You are alive, you are free, you are here. Invade us now and bring the truth of your life to us.

Three little boys were arguing over the meaning and truth of Easter….
First pumpkin pie, turkey, pilgrims…..
Second jolly fat man down the chimney and brings presents….
Third It’s about Jesus and the tomb….six more weeks of winter if he sees his shadow.

What’s your idea of Easter truth? Is it an answer for which you’re unprepared?

I’m thinking we should cancel meeting here some Sunday and go to Cedar Point and ride roller coasters all day. Easter is about that—the ride of your life.

I take as my Easter text that one line from All About Eve, spoken by St. Bette Davis: ”Better fasten your seat belts; we’re in for a bumpy ride.”

Is Easter about bumpy rides, fastening seat belts, twists turns and unexpected endings?

Maybe we should issue a warning at the door. Beware; life threatening if you enter here.

It is Annie Dillard who writes: “Does anyone have the foggiest idea of what sort of power we so blithely invoke? The churches are children playing on the floor with chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT…..It is madness to wear ladies straw and velvet hats to church; we should all we wearing crash helmets! Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us into our pews! … For God may draw us to where we can never return.”

Here is the Gospel truth about Easter…..and why Ms Dillard is right.

Easter is about something more. John’s gospel says that three people made it to the cemetery that day. Mary Magdalene; John, and Peter. They all saw the same thing and all had different reactions, different versions, different parts of the story. Important to note all three only got part of the story. Mary Magdalene is filled with remorse and grief; John gets generic belief, and Peter goes back home scratching his head. They all need something more.

Several moths ago I received an email from a young woman, on the search for something more. She had heard about our place here and sent an inquiring note.

“I’m sure, even for clergy, it is a little strange to get an email like this from someone you don’t really know, but I promise I’m not some crazy stalker. I’m just someone who feels like something may be missing from my life, like something is making my life just a little incomplete. I’m so busy—I have a wonderful family, nice friends, a sweet and loving boyfriend, and a job I really enjoy—yet I don’t feel like I have a handle on complete happiness, and it scares me to even admit that…Help me settle this indecision in my life.”

That led to some conversation about it. The something missing I proposed was Jesus—not a nice idea Jesus, not a theological problem, not the founder of a religion, but Jesus the roller coaster.

I haven’t heard from her since. Maybe my idea of Easter was too hot to handle. The Jesus I’m speaking of is the man for whom not even death can hold him down. He is the one who breaks all molds, all thinking, and all rules of religion to invite us into the living presence of the eternal God. Jesus comes to comfort the troubled, and trouble the comfortable. Crash helmets and seat belts indeed.

Some time ago I had a most interesting conversation with a UT professor. She told me about a temporary stint teaching a literature class. She assigned the kids to write in a journal. Keep records of your thoughts, your activities, and some reflection on why you do what you do. Quite an assignment for gnawing adolescents. Most adults I know don’t want to do that. She read a common litany in the quite revealing self reporting: Went drinking, messed around. Drank, studied some, went to Arnie’s, bought a shirt at Kohl’s, partied all night, met up with my boy friend/girl friend, got blitzed…..hammered…..sloppy drunk….

She was mortified. She made a decision based on her own personal history and her Jesus faith. On the last day of class she thanked her students for the opportunity to learn with them, for having a good time, and for enjoying the company of a budding generation. And then she shared her own desperate history of being a child in an alcoholic family, of how frightened she was most of her childhood, of how she endured abuse, pain, neglect.

And then she offered a challenge. She said how afraid now she was seeing some of these very bright kids going down the path of self destruction; and how their habits of alcohol abuse were already being formed and what pain that could cause down the line.

She said these things, she told them, because she felt compelled by her own religious conviction that there was more to life than killing the pain through self medication.

You know what happened? The kids, the whole class gave her a standing ovation. Even the guy who sat in the back the whole semester, in a black hoodie, ear buds permanently attached. He put them down and listened.

Why did her students do that? It wasn’t because she didn’t give a final. I believe it was because they sensed something more in her story. Something more than the boring lives they were already constructing. That something more is authenticity and hope. You get that with Jesus.

With Jesus there is not going back to the way it was. ⇒ we should all we wearing crash helmets! Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us into our pews! … For God may draw us to where we can never return.

It’s John’s gospel that tells us that Mary Magdalene is beside herself, franticly trying to find the missing Jesus. She is not even impressed by seeing two angels in white….They have taken him away.

Then she spots that gardener in blue jeans with a rake. When he calls her by name she is stunned. “Rabbi Jesus…it’s you.” She lunges to embrace Jesus only to be told to “Stand Back.”

You know, if I were writing this story I sure would have put in a long tearful hug and words of Jesus something like: Mary, go find the guys and tell them I’m back and then let’s get out of Dodge ASAP. Jesus doesn’t say that…much to my dismay…instead….”don’t cling onto me.”

Following Jesus is a never ending process of losing him the moment we have him captured, only to discover him anew in an even more unimaginable form. Every expectation of Jesus is only another futile attempt to get him back inside that tomb, But Jesus won’t stay there.

The question of Easter is not “Do you believe in the doctrine of the resurrection?” That’s not particularly hard. Doctrines bend under pressure and it isn’t long before our beliefs are reduced to sentimental claims about the spirit of Easter, or some drivel about “new beginnings” or even the caustic claim that rain or snow will spoil Easter.

No,….what the Gospels ask is not “do you believe?” but “Have you encountered the living Jesus Christ?”

Miracle is not the tomb but the encounter with the living Jesus.
Now you got to admit that this is a pretty fragile way to begin a movement that’s lasted over 2000 years. And yet there is where so many Christians focus their energy: on that tomb, on that Sunday morning, on what did or did not happen there and how to explain all that to someone who doesn’t share in that belief. This resurrection thing doesn’t square with anything else we know about physical human life.

Barbara Brown Taylor The resurrection is the only event in Jesus’ life that was entirely between him and God. There were no witnesses whatsoever. No one can say what happened inside that tomb, because no one was there. They all arrived after the fact. Two of them saw clothes. One saw some angels. Most saw nothing because they were still in bed that morning, but as it turned out that did not matter because the empty tomb is not the point. The point?

Jesus has outgrown his tomb. It was just too small of a focus for resurrection. Jesus Christ risen had people to see and things to do. The Living One’s business was among the living; to whom he appeared four times in John’s Gospel. And every time he came his friends became stronger, wiser, kinder and more daring. Every time he came to them, they became like him.

A couple of years ago I met up with a friend over at Anderson’s–sort of just bumped into him—another wise guy. Roman, what’s up with that “Jesus on the loose” business? Why can’t you be normal and say Christ is risen? Maybe that’s because I’m not normal….at least not since Jesus.

After resurrection, things do not return to normal. That’s the good news. It is basic to everything else in the NT. After seeing the risen Jesus there is no normal.

The good news is that unless your problems are worse than Jesus—dead for three days, wrapped in grave clothes, sealed in a Roman tomb with armed guards protecting it—He probably can help you. This is the truth about Easter

Jesus can handle your problems so why don’t you give them to him today so that he can begin working on that Easter sunrise for your life. God can take all the messiness you can give, all the rotten deadness of your life and within three days He has the power to literally resurrect your life [[stand you on your feet for the living of your days]] So chances are he just might have something to say to you about your need.

Your need? About having something more in life. About never going back to the way it was. About encountering the living Christ. About living in authenticity and hope.

Better fasten your seat belts….you’re about to begin the ride of your life. Jesus is on the loose…now you be on the look out.

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