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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Crazy, the Lord

Easter Day, 11 AM
4/24/11

Alleluia! Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

That's the good news, my friends, in all its simple glory: Christ is risen. Do you notice how there are no modifiers attached to that? Not "Christ is risen for the folks who successfully stuck to their Lenten discipline." Not "Christ is risen for men and women who filed their taxes on time, mow their lawns and mop their floors weekly, and haven't had a traffic ticket for at least 5 years, and for students who get A's." Not "Christ is risen for the people who are good." Not even "Christ is risen for people who are trying their best." Just "Christ is risen!"

Christ is risen for every single one of us. Every. single. one. of us., with no "them" to contrast with "us", no inside and outside to separate and stratify our common humanity. Ph.D.'s and dropouts, tax scofflaws and tax collectors. Those who've tried to follow Jesus and those who've failed. Foolish and wise people, kind and mean people, law abiders and rule breakers. I'm not saying that I don't think our behavior matters, just that it doesn't matter in this, the decisive act of God that draws us into eternal life. God has chosen not to distinguish among us and instead bridges the chasm of death with a love that includes us all. So whatever you brought in here today—whatever burdens or delights, fears or secrets, joys or sorrows, successes or struggles—you are in the right place, because the good news is that Christ is risen!

It was good news to Mary Magdalene, the first one to see the risen Christ and tell others of this great joy…but not before she mistook him for the gardener. It sure was good news to Peter, that most human of disciples, who in one moment was drawing his sword to defend his Lord and in the next was denying even knowing him. It was good news to Mary of Bethany, who had washed Jesus’s feet with her tears and anointed him even before his death, not afraid to act in the present on the future she foresaw. It was good news to Thomas, who doubted the witness of his friends when they said they’d seen the risen Lord; a stalwart skeptic, he was determined only to believe when he touched the wounds of Jesus for himself. It was good news—even though I doubt they realized it then—for Pilate and Caiaphas and all those complicit in Jesus’s crucifixion, and for the guards at the tomb who were frozen with fear. It was good news to Nicodemus, who had come to Jesus secretly, fearful but wanting to believe, and who in the end found a new boldness, publicly helping to prepare Jesus’s body for the tomb. It most definitely was good news to Mary, his mother, whose heartbreak and agony were beyond measure.

Their names show up in scripture; they achieved fame for acts both marvelous and horrifying…but they were, as the hymn reminds us, “just folk like me.” Ordinary people, remembered because they were thrust into relationship with an extraordinary God. We, too, are those ordinary people, and by Jesus’s resurrection, we also have been called into a relationship with that extraordinary God.

In the human economy of worth and reward, an unmodified, unqualified "Christ is risen!" doesn't make sense. Wouldn't God be better off choosing the best people, the most worthwhile people, the talented beautiful people for eternal life? Wouldn't a little selectivity make heaven a little more...well, heavenly?

Apparently God judges worth rather differently than we do, and thank God for that. God claims us as God’s own based not on where we stand, but where God stands…which is right here with us. If we move, God moves too. God weighs our value not in how lovable we are, but in how much God loves us. God sees us, not with shame or disappointment at where we’ve been wrong, but with steadfast hope in our very being.
Not long ago, I was talking with a school mom. Her kindergartener had been discussing with her one of our favorite chapel songs: "Allelu, allelu, alleu, alleluia, praise ye the Lord." Despite her certainty that he'd mixed up the words, he kept insisting that the final line is "Crazy, the Lord." The more I've thought about it, the more I've realized that he, at 6 years old and in 3 words, has summed up the better part of our faith:
• Crazy, the Lord, who spoke into being a world of free will which breaks God’s heart over and over and over again, and crazy, the Lord, who still declares that it is good.
• Crazy, the Lord, who knows us, who sees us like Adam and Eve—naked, foolish, and vulnerable--and calls us beautiful.
• Crazy, the Lord, whose Spirit descends upon us in baptism and names us princes and princesses in God's realm.
• Crazy, the Lord, who to save a people sacrificed a son.
• Crazy, the Lord, who stretches out his arms on the cross so that every last one of us is within the reach of his saving embrace.
• Crazy, the Lord, who, on the threshold of heaven, so delighted in us that he burst forth from his tomb to be here, with us, ensuring that one day we would be in heaven, with him.

Blessedly crazy.

Alleluia! Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

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