Faith, Doubt and Playing Possum

My brain feels like a whirling dervish this week with all the scandal, intrigue and assorted craziness in the news. I feel like I’m living in a bad soap opera with FBI raids on the President’s lawyer, Speakers of both the US House and the Ohio House stepping down unexpectedly and military strikes on Syria that put us closer to a nuclear showdown with Russia than any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment but I can’t seem to stop watching and reading the news like the proverbial train wreck. I have managed to get engrossed in a couple of good novels as a respite from the 24-hour bad news cycle. One is a book on tape I listen to while driving, James Patterson’s “Woman of God,” and the other on my Nook, Dan Brown’s “Origin.” But of course both of those are full of conflict and profound theological questions about human suffering and human nature itself. And in my spare time I’m wading through a weighty and rather depressing tome entitled “What Are We Doing Here?” by Marilynne Robinson for a book club I’m in.

Mingled in with all that drama has been a personal struggle with guilt. On Wednesday of this week I had the painful task of dispatching a possum whose only offense was making his domicile under our deck. I’ve been trying to trap him or her for a few weeks and until this week had only managed to feed chipmunks who are too small to trip the trap and catch a stray cat. Every morning that the trap was by our deck I was relieved to find it empty, but Wednesday it was fully occupied by a sleeping possum who seemed quite content. It had finished off the apple that I used as bait and unlike the cat seemed quite content and even trusting when I carried him/her to a watery grave in our pond. It would have been much easier on me if she/he had hissed and growled at me, but that is not the way of the possum.

The possum’s capital offense was invading turf that belongs to us – we have a deed–but then I guess possums can’t read; so posting a no trespassing sign would probably not have done any good. Fearing he/she would attract or produce more furry friends that could do damage to the foundation of our house my wife and I felt justified in this dirty deed. I used to take such critters a few miles away and release them, but that is actually against the law of the land and increasingly impossible as urban sprawl takes over more and more habitat for our four-footed friends.

On this second week of Eastertide I couldn’t help theologizing a bit about this experience, and it occurred to me that there is a parallel here between my possum and what we did to Jesus a couple millennia ago. Their offenses were much the same– invading someone else’s space and making them/us uncomfortable. Just as the possum created conflict for me about his/her right and mine to occupy this space on Brock Road, so Jesus created such a degree of discomfort and cognitive dissonance by proclaiming a higher ethical standard of God’s reign that threatened the Jewish and Roman homeowners in Jerusalem that they set a trap for him and executed him on trumped up charges of blasphemy.

The big difference of course where these two tales of death diverge is in their outcome. And no I’m not suggesting Jesus was just playing possum in that tomb for 3 days. He was just as dead as my possum – ask his mother who watched him be nailed to that cross. Ask the centurion who ran a spear into his side to make sure he was dead. Jesus was dead!

But Eastertide is the season of resurrection – even in chilly Ohio where spring has been delayed. I saw a meme on Facebook that said “Mother Nature was late delivering spring because Father Time was driving and refused to stop and ask for directions.” But better late than never we had at least a teaser of spring this week. The daffodils, hyacinths and forsythia are blooming, the crocuses are croaking, and the robins are digging up earthworms in my yard.

I had an hour between two appointments on Thursday, our first warm day; so I went for a walk in one of Columbus’ lovely metro parks. I took exception to a sign that told me the trail I took was 1.1 miles. I know it had to be longer than that because it took me much longer to hike it that it used to. I was also struck for the first half mile or so by how dead everything looked. Dead trees and limbs were all over the woods, everything was the barren brown of winter. And then I looked a little closer and saw that there amongst the detritus of winter’s death there were tiny green leaves quietly emerging from some of the branches. When I walked by the lake there was a young couple facing each other on a picnic bench and staring into each other’s eyes as only new lovers can do.

Signs of new life are there even if they aren’t obvious to a casual observer. Even my poor departed possum will provide nutrients to the soil and food for some birds of prey. Even in the news there are signs of hope, but we may have to work to find them. Today’s headlines were all about the bombing of Syria and the most recent scandals in Washington. But back in the metro section was an editorial that gave me hope. One of my heroes in days gone by is a local preacher here in Columbus, Ohio who is often called the father of the Social Gospel.

Rev. Washington Gladden died 100 years ago this year after a long and illustrious career of championing social justice causes as the pastor of First Congregation Church on East Broad St. just a few blocks from the state capitol. Today’s editorial was about a memorial garden that the church is building on property next to the church to honor Gladden. The park, to open in August, will include “exhibitions on social justice issues, an artist-in-residence program to teach children about social justice, along with art, lectures and forums, community dialogues and performances.” Current Sr. Pastor Tim Aherns says plans call for “a refuge of waterfalls, public art, green space, trees and a pathway of quotes about the pursuit of justice.”

Gladden himself was an early advocate for ecumenism and church engagement in political reform. He was friends with Theodore Roosevelt, Booker T. Washington, and every prominent public figure in Columbus. “At the time of Gladden’s death,” the editorial concludes, “The Ohio State Journal—which regularly had published his social justice sermons on Page One—called him the ‘First Citizen’ of Columbus.” The full editorial is at http://www.dispatch.com/opinion/20180414/editorial-new-park-to-honor-columbus-social-justice-champion

My take away from all of this disjointed rambling is that there is always a spark of new life hidden in the darkest days. That’s what resurrection is all about. God is not playing possum. Spring may not arrive when the calendar says so, but it will arrive. Justice will roll down like waters, maybe not today but someday. Easter didn’t end two weeks ago, it just began, and that liturgical season lasts until Pentecost when God saw that even showing the disciples Jesus’ hands and side wasn’t proof enough and sent the mighty wind of the Holy Spirit to light a fire in those believers that no one, no thing, no how has or ever will extinguish. We believe Lord, help our unbelief.

Advertisements

Encouraged and Inspired: Signs of Resurrection Living

IMG_1150
I’ve been thinking about this topic for a long time and ironically the reasons for my reflections are also the obstacles and excuses for not getting my thoughts and feelings written down. I am at that awkward age when most topics of conversation veer automatically to aches and pains. My list is not unique: arthritis, back pain, glaucoma, neuropathy—nothing noteworthy. Just this week I found a medicated pain patch that helped my nagging back, and I was feeling optimistic about tackling some yard work and playing some golf; and then in one innocent move I twisted my knee and the simplest of tasks became a new challenge.

So, as the final installment in this Eastertide series on the enemies of living resurrected lives I give you “discouragement.” God knows there are far more major issues to be concerned about in the world than a few minor aches and pains. Yes, I know they (whoever “they” are) say, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” St. Paul expresses that positive spin on suffering in Romans 5: “We also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope. “ (Vs. 3-4).

Maybe in Disney movies, but not always in real life. Sometimes suffering just beats us down. The 24/7 news cycle bombards us with such bad news around the clock that I hear many people saying they can’t bear to watch the news, especially before retiring for the night. I won’t add to the bad news by reciting the litany of CNN headlines, but you know them, from Nebraska to Nepal the very foundations of the earth and of our faith seem to be on shaky ground.

It’s almost impossible to turn off the news in the information age. Even when I want to watch a recorded sporting event I almost always get an alert or see a post on Facebook telling me the outcome before I want to know it. And even if we could unplug ourselves, the only way to escape tales of suffering would be to disengage from all personal relationships. Friends dealing with unexpected cancer diagnoses, families dealing with substance and physical abuse, mental health issues, and at the same time caring for a loved one wasting away with stage-4 cancer.

One definition of sin that I learned in seminary was “to be turned in on oneself,” and though it didn’t make the church’s top 7 list it is one of the deadliest sins. It is sneaky deadly because focusing on my own problems depletes me of energy needed to care about the personal needs of others and the larger systemic problems of the world. Most people would agree, at least in theory, that compassion is one of the unique and greatest of human virtues. The word “compassion” comes from the Greek words meaning “to suffer with,” and it is almost impossible to be concerned about the problems of others when I am wallowing in a pity party about my own pain.

There has been much wisdom written about human suffering. The first of the four noble truths of Buddhism is that “Life is suffering.” (The second by the way is that our suffering is caused by attachment to the temporary things of this world, but that’s a topic for another day.) Translated into the language of the human potential movement, those two truths are summed up in the catch phrase that “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” Simply put, pain is part of the human condition – physical, emotional, spiritual – they all go with the territory. None of us can control things that happen to us in life. Bad things do happen to good people. What we have a choice about is how we respond to the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” of life, as Shakespeare describes them in Hamlet’s famous soliloquy.

Here’s how St. Paul describes his own struggle with being turned in on his own problems. “Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.” (II Corinthians 12:7-10).

We don’t know what Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was, and we don’t need to know. We all have personal problems, challenges, aggravations, misfortunes that we have no solution for. When it comes to physical ailments we are tempted to think that modern medicine should be able to fix any problem our bodies throw at us with just the right pill or procedure. The undeniable truth that becomes clearer as our mortal bodies age, however, is that we are all “dust and to dust we shall return.” (Genesis 3:19).

And that brings us full circle in the Lent to Pentecost cycle. Those words from Genesis are traditionally used as ashes are imposed on Christians on Ash Wednesday –not to be morbid, but to give us a wakeup call. When Paul says “Take this thorn from me,” or Jesus says in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Take this cup from me,” God’s reply is, “Sorry, this is the hand you’ve been dealt, deal with it.” Prayers are always answered, but sometimes the answer is not the one we are hoping for.

The best cure for being turned in on oneself is to be more aware of the needs and lives of our fellow human beings. And that won’t happen if we cut ourselves off completely from the bad news in the world. We need a healthy balance of reality and inspiration from others who truly live resurrection lives. Those people can encourage us so we can be encouragers for others, witnesses to the power of faith that overcomes every thorn, every tragedy and every temptation to give in to the suffering that the world throws at us.

To that end I offer two stories of inspiration that humble and encourage me to trust and believe in the Gospel of resurrection:
download
The first was a simple post on Facebook from the Blue Street Journal. “Against all odds, both of these women survived gunshot wounds to the brain. One of them at the hands of the Taliban and one of them at the hands of a mentally ill mass-shooter. Malala Yousafzai and Gabrielle Giffords inspire and give me hope.”

The second is a great story from Robert Fulghum about a critical life lesson we don’t learn in kindergarten. During his early twenties Fulghum used to work for a countryside resort. He had to do the night shift as a receptionist and mind the stables during the day. The owner was not the most likable or the kindest person on the planet and Robert was getting weary of eating the same lunch every day. In addition, the cost of the lunch would get deducted from his paycheck. It got on his nerves.

One night, he could hold it no longer, especially when he found out that the same lunch was going to be served for another couple of days. One of his colleagues, working as a night auditor, was Sigmund Wollman, a German Jewish guy. A survivor of Auschwitz, Sigmund had spent three years at the concentration camp. He was happy and contented in the same hotel where Robert was mad and upset. Finding no one else around to share his frustration, Robert spoke to Sigmund and expressed his anger against the hotel owner, he was mad because of eating the same food day-in-day-out and for having to pay for it. Worked up, he was really cross.

Sigmund, however, listened patiently before saying: “Lissen, Fulchum, Lissen me, lissen me. You know what’s wrong with you? It’s not the food and it’s not the boss and it’s not this job.”

“So what’s wrong with me?”

“Fulchum, you think you know everything but you don’t know the difference between an inconvenience and a problem. If you break your neck, if you have nothing to eat, if your house is on fire — then you’ve got a problem. Everything else is an inconvenience. Life is inconvenient. Life is lumpy.”

Robert Fulghum had a realization and he further wrote in his story, “I think of this as the Wollman Test of Reality. Life is lumpy. And a lump in the porridge, a lump in the throat and a lump in the breast are not the same lump. One should learn the difference.”

LIVING RESURRECTION: EASTERTIDE WEEK 3

As I continue to ponder what it is that keeps me from living into the power of resurrection, fear and doubt keep bubbling to the top of my list. And the Gospel post-resurrection stories speak directly to both of those experiences. John 20:18-31 is perhaps the best example of how fear and doubt can be transformed into faith and belief.

Fear and doubt are like the proverbial chicken and egg question; it’s hard to decide which comes first, but the two certainly seem to usually come in tandem. John’s Gospel tells us that the disciples are hiding in a locked room on the night of Jesus’ resurrection because they are afraid. Earlier in Chapter 20 Peter and John have seen the empty tomb, but we get conflicting reports about what that experience meant to them: “Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.” (20:8-10). Verse 8 says they believed, 9 says they didn’t understand; and 10 says they were so unmoved they simply go back home.

But Mary Magdalene, who was the first one at the tomb remains behind and personally encounters the risen Christ (vs. 11-17), and in verse 18 she goes to tell the disciples, “I have seen the Lord.” They must not have believed Mary’s tall tale. Women are still often ignored as being overly emotional in such situations. So that evening all the fearful disciples (except Thomas), even though they heard the amazing news of the resurrection, are still locked away in a self-imposed prison of doubt and fear. Jesus comes to them, brings them the peace of the Holy Spirit, shows them the proof of his scarred hands and side, and they see, believe and rejoice.

My friend and colleague, Mebane McMahon, pointed out in last Sunday’s sermon that even though “Doubting Thomas” gets a bad rap for his lack of faith, at least he was out somewhere in Jerusalem while the other ten were in hiding. There’s some evidence of Thomas’ bravery earlier in John (11:16) when Jesus puts his own life in even more danger from his powerful enemies by raising Lazarus from the dead. It is Thomas who says to the other disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

But courage is not the same as faith. When told by his friends later that they have seen and touched the risen Christ, Thomas says, “Sorry guys, unless I see this with my own eyes I cannot believe this impossible story.” His rational doubt is stronger than his hope, bolder than his experience of seeing Lazarus resurrected. He, like us, wants evidence, tangible take-to-the bank proof.

Don’t we all? In life’s darkest moments don’t we want certainty? When I was a very naïve college student a co-worker of mine learned of my decision to finally accept my call to ministry. Thinking that one small step gave me insider theological information, she asked me a tough question one day at lunch. Her husband of many years had died suddenly several years before, and even though she seemed to be getting along well as a widow, she was still troubled by something that her pastor had said to her when her husband died. She had asked the pastor an honest doubting question, namely would she see her husband again in heaven. Like all of us, no matter how strong our faith, she wanted some assurance about what happens when we die. The pastor gave her an equally honest answer which was, “I don’t know.” I’m sure he said some other words to comfort her, words of hope and faith in what he believed the answer to her question was, but what she heard and remembered was the doubt.

Of course, unless one has had a near-death experience, “I don’t know” is the only honest answer to that question, and I admire that pastor for his honesty. I do, however, have serious questions about whether he picked the most teachable or pastoral moment to demythologize my friend’s concept of heaven. But the point of the story is that knowledge cannot be the solution to theological doubt. Knowledge about God is important, but living into the power of resurrection requires more than facts to empower a leap of faith.

I am still learning that lesson. I remember walking into my first intro theology class in seminary many years ago thinking, “Finally, I am going to know the answers to all my nagging questions about God!” Remember I said I was even more naïve back then. I had been educated in a system where there was always a 1:1 ratio between questions and answers, not in the mysterious realm of theology where ambiguity is the normal state of being. I wanted concrete answers and instead was taught to seek a faith in things unseen. I felt like Einstein’s teacher the day she asked him “what letter comes after ‘A?’“ His reply was not the “correct” answer she expected. He said, “They all do.”

Like that teacher we want one correct answer to our faith questions. We want faith to eliminate our doubt, but in this life we must learn to be content and trust God when we barely “see in a mirror dimly.” (I Cor. 13:12). Part of our humanity is living with the paradox expressed by the man whose son was healed by Jesus and proclaims, “I believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). Jesus has his moment of doubt on the cross, Peter’s doubt sinks him when he tries to walk on the water; the women at the end of Mark’s Gospel are scared into silence about the resurrection. So how do we live in the power of resurrection, even when doubt threatens to overwhelm us in fearful situations? Is the answer information and education and knowledge, or is it faith and belief? Is it a matter for the head or the heart?

It is, of course, both/and. From the perspective of 68 years of life experience, I am now much more afraid of dogmatic certainty than honest ambiguity. Dogmatic religious certainty in any form results in the kind of bloody conflicts we see all around us today between Sunnis and Shiites, Jews and Palestinians, and yes, the ideological wars between different factions within Christianity. Dogmatism declares exclusion for those with different perspectives and experiences of God, and that exclusion threatens the security and survival of the human race. Paul O’Neill, former Secretary of the Treasury under President George W. Bush, described that danger by comparing philosophy with ideology. The former he said is open to dialogue, change and growth, but ideology is impenetrable by new ideas or facts. Questions of faith belong in the realm of philosophy, but we too often turn them into matters of ideology.

Frederick Buechner says, “Doubt is the ants in the pants of faith,” it is what keeps us alive and growing. Faith and doubt are two sides of the same coin. As good as certainty may appear as a cure for doubt, the reality is that it also kills faith. As Buechner also says, it is not the presence of God in our lives that keeps us coming back to church each week but the absence, the need for assurance to balance our doubt.

But here’s the good news. When it appears that doubt and fear have the upper hand, resurrection comes to the rescue. God breaks through whatever barriers we have created, appearing in a locked room, not once but twice. The second time is a full week later but notice Thomas is still there – his doubt has not driven him away, nor has it excluded him from the Christian community. And Jesus comes right to Thomas and offers him the same peace and power he gave to the 10 a week before.

Does our search for information, for knowledge about resurrection keep us from experiencing it? One of my personal problems with spending much of my adult life in academic settings is that intellectual pursuits can become doors that lock God’s mystery and ambiguity out. Heavy doses of education can make one suspicious of simple childlike faith. When we sing the great old hymn, “In the Garden,” it’s comforting to walk and talk with Jesus, but then it says, “He tells me I am His own,” and my degreed self cries out, “No, I don’t want to belong to anyone, I am my own person. I can think and reason things out for myself.”

I value my education highly, but I also know the limitations of the human intellect. Jesus doesn’t send Thomas off to seminary or grad school to resolve his doubt, but neither does he send him to an extremely dogmatic faith community on the emotional end of the religious spectrum. Jesus knows Thomas. He accepts him and his inquiring mind that is not afraid to ask hard questions. He has experienced Thomas’ doubts before. In the famous “farewell discourse” in John 14, after Jesus says, “I go to prepare a place for you, and you know the way,” it is honest Thomas who raises his hand and says, “Wait a minute, Jesus. We don’t know the way.” And Jesus, to paraphrase, perhaps showing a little frustration says, “How long have I been with you? How many parables have I taught you? How many signs and miracles have I given you? But you do know the way Thomas because you know me, and I am the way.”

Jesus doesn’t want or need disciples who just know about him; he needs followers who know him so personally that we are willing to be like him, resurrected people who embrace fear and doubt and are not crippled by them. Academics would say faith is not simply about epistemology (knowledge) but about ontology (Being). God’s response to fear and doubt is not an on-line course in theology. God doesn’t text us the answers to life’s hard questions. God inserts God’s self into the very midst of our doubting, fearful world to transform our whole being—body, mind and spirit, to resurrect the church, the body of Christ, and through us to transform the world.

God’s peace in Christ finds us, not vice versa, in the midst of our doubt and fear, not after all doubts are resolved. That peace finds us behind locked doors, in classrooms, factories, offices, in churches and seminaries, and even sometimes in the halls of Congress.

But here’s the catch – God’s peace comes only in surrender and relationship with God, to the power of Being itself. “Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” (Vs. 21-22). Peace and faith come only when we get close enough to Jesus that he can breathe on us. That’s really close. But we don’t like anyone invading our personal space, not even and maybe especially Jesus. I sometimes wonder if the disciples were hiding not just from the Jews that day but also from Jesus.

If Jesus gets close to us, really close, there’s a good chance we will never be the same again. They say that a child dies from poverty and hunger somewhere in the world every 3 seconds. 700-800 children have died in the time it takes to read these few pages. If Jesus gets too close to me I might have to actually do something about that, about those 20 that died in the last minute!

If Jesus gets close enough to breathe on us we might have to get out of our heads and into our hearts and out into the world. Faith is a very personal issue, not an intellectual one. It is not what we know but who we know and who knows us. It is who we allow to know us, doubts and all. And if we let Jesus get close enough to get into our hearts, faith trumps doubt and even we who have not seen but still believe can proclaim as Thomas does, “My Lord and My God!”

Going with the Easter Tide

Eastertide 50 daysEastertide = the ebb and flow of the ocean level on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. Not exactly! But that’s a more likely answer than most people might give if asked for a definition of that word. Eastertide is in fact the liturgical season in the Christian calendar that begins on Easter Sunday and ends seven weeks later on Pentecost. (April 5 – May 24 this year). Just as Christmas doesn’t officially end till Epiphany, the season of Easter lasts much longer than the peeps and chocolate bunnies, but one would never know it to observe most Christians or most churches.

The standing room only crowds last Sunday will shrink to a “low Sunday” attendance like that first big drop on a roller coaster, the lilies and Easter finery and decorations will be gone. It’s almost as if Jesus goes back into the tomb like the groundhog that sees his shadow on February 2nd.

The resurrection of Jesus is central to the Christian faith and ironically one of the hardest things for Christians and non-Christians to believe. St. Paul says, “But we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.” (I Cor. 1:23). The original version of Mark’s Gospel, the earliest one written, ends with the women fleeing from the empty tomb “because terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” (Mark 16:8).

Do we do the same thing by failing to move into Eastertide with no significant changes to our way of living? Do we struggle with the resurrection because it defies all scientific and logical experience we’ve had with death? We’ve all lost beloved relatives, even pets that leave a huge hole in our hearts, and no matter how much we wish it weren’t so, they don’t come back.

So often we approach Eastertide from that perspective, and it keeps us from being able to trust the unbelievable news that resurrection is real, that it can make a lasting difference in our lives. We want to change, we want to live by faith, we want to take that leap of faith; but we don’t want to look foolish, we don’t want to be disappointed.

I remember a day many years ago when I was a student at the Methodist Theological School in Ohio. I don’t remember details of what happened in class that day, but I remember the ecstatic feeling of something extraordinary being said or done that transformed deadness in my heart and soul to a new enthusiastic spirit-filled joy. As I was leaving class that day I came out the front door of the building where we had met onto a large front porch of one of the beautiful Georgian buildings there so excited and full of life that instead of going left and down the porch steps I ran forward and took a flying leap over the large hedge that grew along the length of the porch. As I was air-born I remember suddenly realizing I wasn’t sure what was on the other side of that hedge.

So it is with death-defying faith. Faith is not intellectual belief – it is radical trust in a wild and crazy God who rolls away any boulder that keeps us imprisoned in doubt and fear, that keeps us from taking the leap of faith. When we play it safe, when we go along to get along, when we refuse to challenge political, economic, and environmental practices that kill dreams and perpetuate injustice, we are in effect rolling the stone back in front of the tomb and trying to keep Jesus from challenging the status quo of our broken world where fear silences faith. Just celebrating Easter Sunday and ignoring Eastertide is like locking the barn door after the horse has already escaped. It’s too late. God’s verdict has already declared life the victor over death and nothing we do or fail to do can ever put that genie back in the bottle.

One of my all-time favorite statements of what Easter living means came from the late Dwight Loder who was my bishop here in Ohio from 1976-1984. In a sermon he preached in the mid-1980’s Bishop Loder said, “Jesus was not resurrected by the church. Jesus was not resurrected for the church. Jesus was resurrected as the church.” Faith in resurrection is so much more than a personal assurance about our own salvation and eternal life. If we as individual Christians and collectively as the church, the body of Christ, fail to be changed by Easter, we are sending a terrible message to the world and to those longing for Good News that it’s back to business as usual after Easter Sunday.

Don’t believe it. Those frightened women at the tomb and Jesus’ other followers were scared into silence for a while, but God wasn’t finished with them. God always has the last word, and the stories in the Gospels during Eastertide are even more remarkable than the empty tomb. Skeptics could say the tomb was empty because someone simply came and took the body away. But the risen Christ appears over and over again to those who have eyes and ears to see and believe — on the road to Emmaus, in a locked upper room, on the beach. He continues to challenge his followers to be living witnesses that his spirit endures as the resurrected, life-giving, justice and peace promoting force for all that is good and pure in a world dying for Good News.

Easter Sunday is over, but Eastertide has just begun; and the life-giving Holy Spirit is waiting in the wings to blow into our lives with full force on Pentecost if we dare to believe. Resurrection is a spiritual event and how we live our lives in the crucible of the here and now is a witness to the world that we have either had our Easter fling and retreated back into the tomb, or we are boldly living as resurrected people. Easter people witness by every decision and act we take that the tide has turned and the light of the world has not and will never be extinguished by the darkness of death.

By the way, the landing on the other side of that hedge was nice soft grass; so it was OK to leap. And the message of Eastertide is “Go ahead, it’s safe to trust in Resurrection!”