A Word from Our Pastor 2016 April

What about the Resurrection????

It’s Easter! And along with millions of Christians across the world, I am happy to declare, “Christ is Risen!” In many traditions, people respond with “Christ is Risen Indeed!” However, we have a couple of generations of people who weren’t raised in the church – never set foot in a church – and so this joy-filled affirmation can be lost on them. Not to mention those who are put off by the miraculousness of it all. So, I thought it would be good to explain: just what are we talking about here?

Since very early on, the universal Church (there was ONE church, at least at the beginning) taught that Jesus really died (i.e., he didn’t just appear to be dead), was buried and three days later, he rose from the dead – was brought back to full physical life. About 40 days after that, he ascended to heaven to be reunited with God. Now, Jesus no longer has a physical body, but is present to us through the Holy Spirit. That’s the basic teaching that has been part of church dogma for almost two thousand years.

Many Christians believe that Christ physically rose from the dead. They may believe this because it says so in the Bible; and/or they may believe it because they have had an experience of Christ that convinces them that Christ continues to be spiritually alive and reaches us through the Holy Spirit.

However, there are many Christians, some of whom attend church every Sunday, who don’t accept the literal fact of the resurrection. It is possible to revere Jesus and his teaching, to believe that God healed/heals people through Jesus’ prayers and touch, to affirm that God still speaks to us through the words of the Bible, and still not accept the fact of the resurrection. These folks may have had an experience of Christ that convinces them that Christ continues to be spiritually alive and reaches us through the Holy Spirit.

So, who’s really a Christian? Some would say that you’re not a Christian if you haven’t been “saved,” if you don’t believe the traditional teachings of the church. But there are others who are deeply committed to the way of the life that Jesus taught, and who seek to live as faithful to the Gospel as anyone else, who understand themselves to be “saved,” but in a different way.

The Bible doesn’t always say what we think it does, even about the resurrection.

The oldest story about the resurrection is in the Gospel of Mark. . . and it is a cliff-hanger. Here is the original chapter 16. Notice what is says – and what it doesn’t say – about the resurrection:
16 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3 and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”
4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”
8 Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

That’s it. That’s the end of Mark, the oldest account – the one written closest in time to the events. It simply says that Jesus is “risen” – it does not try to explain if the resurrection is literally physical. Much later, verses 9-20 were added, possibly because people didn’t like the unresolved ending to the story. What is the point being made?????

I think the Gospel of Mark challenges us with a choice: will we flee and say nothing to anyone, or will we gather the followers, and go and seek Jesus in the places he told us to look? To me this is a much more profound point than making a list of things you and I have to believe. It is telling us to go and look for ourselves, to trust what Jesus told us – to leave the cemetery and get on with God’s ministry. It is there that we will find Christ.

–Rev. Naomi