Easter Sunday March 31, 2013
As the sun was just coming up one fall morning in 1970, an Iowa-born, Minnesota-educated agricultural scientist named Norman Borlaug was in his laboratory fields in Mexico, working with research assistants, as he did every morning, testing varieties of wheat that would produce greater yields.
The fields were a good 40 miles away from the city where he and his wife were lodging at night, so when he looked up to see his wife running across the fields toward him, he knew it would only be for big news.
He turned to his assistant and said, “That’s my wife, coming to tell me that my other has died.” Why else would she have hired a ride to come all this way?
But when his wife arrived, she called, out, “Norman, . You’ve won the Nobel Peace Prize!”
Those who were present at the time confirm that his first reaction was, “No I haven’t” Not that he didn’t believe his wife, but he thought maybe it was a prankster with a Norwegian- accent. The peace prize for a botanist? Death would have been much easier to believe.
I suspect Borlaug didn’t really believe the news until he’d talked on the phone himself to the committee, until the reporters started calling, until he got on the plane to Oslo and actually was called away from his rice fields and research long enough to see his work from a global perspective. In fact he said later that he finally understood the prize as being not about him so much as about the “ the vital role of agriculture and food production in a world that is hungry, both for bread and for peace".
We are so accustomed to the story of Easter morning that we perhaps don’t even notice any more that NO ONE reacted to the resurrection with an alleluia. Or even joy, right away.
No one said, WOW! Or Yay! OR “yes, I knew it!” or “Oh yeah, all right”
At best the reaction was “Wha??” or stunned silence. Some of the gospels report people running away, afraid. In Luke’s gospel the men who first here from Mary and the others react the way people have for centuries—nonsense.
Our translators have protected us. nonsense, “bullshit” drivel, garbage. A hoax.
Here they were the people who had been closest to Jesus, who had been with him almost constantly for years, who had seen him feed the hungry, and cast out demons, and still a stormy sea, and heal the sick and even raise Lazarus from the dead
These people who seemed to believe that Jesus was from God, they heard the news and said – no way. No way. We know what crucifixion does and no one was survived it. We know that Jerusalem is the city that kills prophets, we’ve seen that headline. The dead stay dead, that is just reality.
the people we have held up as heroes of the faith for generations, and when they hear the news they say, that’s a bunch of crap.
No one responded right away with Alleluia – that took a while. It took going to see for themselves, it looking living into it.
It took a little while to get to alleluia, and in most cases it meant people had to go see for themselves.
Because, honestly, what good is resurrection if it’s just something in a news report; what good is that? We read news every day, and most of it doesn’t stop us in our tracks. We might hope for news on the scale of Borlaug’s stunning announcement – maybe that’s why we can’t stop checking our email, why we jump when the phone rings, why we worry that we have missed some vital message if we are out of touch for even a few moments.
We hope, maybe, that the news we will hear will be someone offering us a stunning opportunity, and you, only you, are the right person for the job. Or the news of a miracle drug being discovered that will save your loved ones life, or someone coming to say that our property is sitting on vast mineral rights and could we please sell it to them for a billion dollars.
But most of the time it isn’t that. The emails are a long succession of mostly the same things, headlines are full of awful news – another shooting, another head-on collision, another war, another 100 jobs lost, another celebrity break-up. We scan them and occasionally shake our heads, but really what do we expect?
And the truth is, in day to day living, it’s awfully hard for us to see anything other than the reality of death as well – one day after another, another . . .
We accept this reality all the time until it hits home, until death comes to our house, our neighborhood, our family, and then some deep part of ourselves protests. Some part of ourselves has an inkling that this is not what God intended.
This inkling, this risky sense that the story is not over is what Flannery O’Connor meant when she said faith is what you know to be true, even if you really can’t believe it.
St. Vincent Millay
I am not resigned to the shutting
away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.
Lovers and thinkers, into the earth
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains, --- but the best is lost.
The answers quick & keen, the
honest look, the laughter, the love,
They are gone. They have gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.
Down, down, down into the darkness
of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.
What happened on Easter, and what took everyone quite a while to come to terms with, was that Jesus story was not going to end the same way all the others did. That God, God was not resigned to seeing the message of the kingdom of God at hand just stop with another unjust death.
When God raised Jesus from the dead he joined us in saying, I am not resigned
I am not resigned that Jerusalem will forever be a place of death instead of life.
I am not resigned that the ones with the most power and the most weapons will always win.
I am not resigned that children go to bed hungry
I am not resigned that history should be a list of one war after another, listing the winners as those who fought the most battles.
I am not resigned that death will always be the final word.
I am not resigned that the message of God’s shalom will always end in another dead prophet.
God was not resigned, and instead raised Jesus from the dead.
In Jesus God gave us a sign of a new creation, one which is so astonishing it first makes us fall silent, and then so beautiful we can only sing alleluia!
And as we live into this news, as we sing alleluia not just this Sunday but every Sunday, we learn how to live to look for that new creation everywhere we go.
Every Sunday as we gather at this table, even the most ordinary Sundays, we say “It is our duty and delight at ALL times and in all places, to give you thanks, because on THIS day, you overcame death and the grave.”
Every Sunday we say those words, because on THIS day – and next Sunday and next Sunday again and again on the 8th day of every week we celebrate that God has begun something new in Jesus, and we are witnesses to that reality that everyone longs for but hardly anyone can fully take in.
We come here again and again because this news is not easy to take in, And even though we know it to be true we can’t quite believe it.
and also because we will never believe it until we go out and experience it for ourselves.
In this community,
We go and see Christ risen ourselves as we take 800 pounds of food to VEAP from our food drive.
We see Christ risen as we build relationship with our sisters and brothers in El Salvador, and see to it that not only our children have chairs to sit in but they do as well.
We Christ risen when all families eat together at this table and then go out together to advocate for equality together.
We see Christ risen as we promise to create supportive housing for homeless youth in this part of our city.
We see Christ risen as we will join with Lutherans from across the state to advocate for cleaner energy.
We see Christ risen even when we hold one another in grief, and we pray for one another when they cannot pray for themselves when we bury our dead,.
We move back and forth from nonsense to alleluia,
and we come back again and again to get a glimpse of that new creation, where where there is abundant bread and peace for everyone.
On this day Christ overcame death and the grave, and we shout Amen and alleluia with those on another shore and in a greater light.