Sunday, June 7, 2015

Prisoners of Hope: an open-door policy

Easter 3 B        April 19, 2015
Acts 3:12-19 
Psalm 4 
1 John 3:1-7
Luke 24:36b-48

Have you ever seen that bumper sticker: “Had a rough week? We’re open on Sundays.” The disciples, in these early days after the resurrection of Jesus, have had a bad week; a lot of crazy and frightening things have been happening. Like the disciples, we are all capable of being scattered, undone, confused. Come to think of it, who has not had a rough week this week, what with one thing or another: cleaning, cooking, taking care of your family, driving in bad traffic, having so much to do that you do not know which end is up. Had a rough week? We’re open on Sundays.

We do not have to dig down deep in our lives to find places that resonate with what the disciples must have been going through. In what must have seemed like a mission very quickly going out of control, Jesus is arrested and killed, and the disciples lost their beloved friend. He was a wonderful teacher -- he was kind, exciting, charismatic -- it was a thrill to be in his presence. He held people -- physically and spiritually. He knew the right thing to say every time, and he made each one of them feel important. He gave them hope for the future and they knew they were involved in something important enough for them to turn away from what was important in their lives just to be with this person, Jesus. A couple of his disciples were convinced that he would become the King of Israel, unite what had long been separated, and throw out the Roman oppressors.

Then it was over. He was dead. He had talked a lot about suffering; he quoted scripture about it. He said every prophet suffered, and that his time would be fulfilled, but it was just words to them -- until it happened. Then none of it made any sense at all: he wasn't King. He wasn't teaching anymore. He wasn't healing the sick. He could have done so much more if this horrible, confusing thing had not happened. They could have followed him all their lives. They could have grown old together, but now he was dead. Because when death happens, isn’t that all we have ever known?

It took some time – years, even – for the disciples around Jesus to begin to see what had happened, to begin to feel the power, the hope, the possibility, what it meant that God had brought someone back from the dead. That’s why every Easter season we read passages from the Acts of the Apostles: those stories tell us how the disciples incorporated this astounding Good News into their lives some years later. The Gospel accounts tell us what happened in those first few days and weeks. We see the
progression from confusion to clarity, from a scattered disbelief to a confident assurance.

We come to church to hear these stories. When we hear these stories, we see where our story – our confusion, our confidence – fits in with God’s story. We see that we are part of that great stream of the people of God, witnesses to the Good News, prisoners of hope, even during those rough weeks when we are scattered and confused and too tired even to sleep. We’re open on Sundays because that was the day Jesus opened the tomb, and this whole Good News began.