Monday, April 19, 2010

Anything and Everything. Today and Tomorrow. Oh, The Possibilities!

We all know what it feels like to be deeply disappointed:

My friend Staci graduated from NYU, and her boyfriend of two years didn't show up for the ceremony or the celebratory dinner afterwards.

As a five year old, my friend Kristen would wait on the steps for her dad (parents were divorced) to pick her up on Friday evenings while her mom was already at work. He often didn't show.

People break our hearts all the time, not intentially even, but because they themselves are broken. Quarrels. Break-ups. Lonliness even in another’s presence. Abandonment.

There are other kinds of disappointments as well:

Not getting accepted into a certain school or program
Not being hired for a certain job or getting the promotion
The house deal falling through
The bills continually mounting too high
Eating right and exercising faithfully but still not reaching your optimal weight or
Lowering your cholesterol

Disappointment leads to disillusionment, which leads to doubt.

First, You didn’t get the one job you really wanted. Then you start thinking, You probably won’t get any of the other jobs you applied for either. Until you finally reach the point where you wonder if you’ll ever find a job that you are qualified for and is meaningful and you enjoy doing/like.

Kristen, the girl who lived across the street when I was a kid. The first couple times her dad didn’t pick her up she was just disappointed. Then, she stopped making plans to go to his house. When he said he was coming to her college graduation, she smiled and said, “Great,” but there was a part of her who seriously doubted if he’d show up.

Disappointment also leads to sceptiscim, which leads to suspicion.

I can easily picture Mary Magdalene at Jesus tomb. Can you? It’s dark still. She’s consumed with sadness. She can’t sleep so she goes to the tomb where her Lord is laid, and when she gets there, the stone has been moved.

The mild disappointment that Mary Magdalene felt a few years back when some of the Jewish leaders rejected Jesus has escalated and grown into full blown suspicion and fear of what they’re capable of doing. She runs back to Peter and John and proclaims, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have [put] him.” Suspicious. She thinks someone stole the body.

Peter and John fear the worst as well. They run together to the tomb and find it empty as Mary said.

That moment. The moment of fear. Of seeing through weary and doubtful eyes…What does it take to restore hope? For the disciples. For you and I. For the parents in Haiti and the children in Africa. What does it take to give hope to the poor and the sick?

To restore hope people have to experience an outcome that is good for us. They have to see their needs being met and their God-given dreams coming true.

If all you’ve ever known or predominantely known is losing, then you think of yourself as a loser. That is, until you win. Then, the possibility that you’re a winner comes into your mind.

Perhaps you’ve always wanted to write or paint or sing, but the blocks have been greater than the inspirations. And then one day, beautiful work just flows out of you. And maybe its not just one day, but becomes the new you.

Or perhaps your child or grandchild has made a mess of his life up until now. But then, he acts in a new way or accomplishes something you never thought he could do. It’s then the possibility of a new future is reborn.

Yes...Hope is reborn when we start to see happening what we know is possible. Where as perfectly as you can dream it, it appears. Maybe even better.

Restoring hope is one of the prime messages of resurrection.

Jesus was murdered. We know from watching many others die that he’s gone forever. But maybe that night after the crusifiction, Mary or John or Peter laid in bed dreaming, praying, hoping, what if he comes back?! God bring him back! Didn’t he say he was going to come back?!

And then, he comes back. He’s alive! God, an amazing, loving, awesome God, has risen him from the dead!

The Gospel of John says that John and Peter believed first. They looked in the tomb and the linen wrappings that had been on Jesus were in one spot, and a different cloth which had been on Jesus’ head was in another spot. And it was rolled up carefully, like someone had done this purposefully. Thieves are hardly likely to roll up the cloths and linens. They probably would have stolen them. Between the cloths and the missing body, and even moreso, all the things that Jesus told them were going to happen, Peter and John figure it out. It’s just what they had been dreaming about, hoping for last night. Jesus is not dead and gone forever.

He is not in the tomb.
He has risen!
Hope is reborn!

Mary takes a few moments longer than they do to start believing in something so unfathomable, so monumentous that it will change the history of humanity forever (Can you imagine if there was no Christian message?)

Mary is in the garden crying. Even when she sees two angels, her disappointment, her disillusionment, her doubt blind her to the message the angels bring. She says to the angels as well, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”

Doubt has the power to do that. Doubt has the power to blind you to all the good things that are going on around you. It has the power to make you blind to God’s encouragement and signs and wonders that blessings and abundance are all around you.

Mary is so dismayed she doesn’t even recognize Jesus when he’s standing there before her. This happens to us all as well. We are in that negative, doubting place and we don’t see God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit guiding us along, walking and talking to us.

When Jesus calls her by name though, then Mary finally sees. (Jesus calls all of us by name.) Her hope is reborn. In that moment, she knows in her heart that God has done something miraculous. God has defeated death. Mary thinks, Just because everyone else who has died has remained dead doesn’t mean that Jesus can’t be raised from the dead. But wait a minute, even as she’s thinking that last though, she remembers Jairus’ daughter and Lazarus who were both raised from the dead by Jesus himself. Now she’s getting excited. Now she’s starting to believe. Maybe this means other people will be raised from the dead! Maybe it means death will be no more.

Brothers and sisters, today I proclaim to you that in the resurrection of Jesus Christ there is hope for you, for me, for all of creation. Anything and everything is possible. It could happen today or tomorrow or the day after that. Just do not doubt. Believe.

The implications of resurrection affect every aspect of our life together. Anticipation and excitement replace dread. Regret gives way to peace. Cynicism vanishes before joy. Self-control conquers addiction. Purpose usurps futility. Reconciliation overtakes estrangement. Well-being calms anxiety. Creativity flows freely. Death gives way to life, darkness to light, fear to confidence, and despair to hope.

On this day, Jesus wins. God wins. Life wins. We win.

Now you know why we say, Thanks be to God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen,

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