This was preached on April 23, 2017, at First Congregational Church of Granby
God, may the words of my mouth be pleasing to you.
It is a very scary time in the world right now. I think that’s important to say out loud, although I hate admitting it. I go to work every day to make the world safer for people- and it’s infuriating to go to bed every night with the knowledge that it’s getting more and more dangerous.
I’ve lived my entire life with an anxiety disorder, which I’m now on life-saving medication for- but my medication doesn’t save me from this fear. It doesn’t save me from crying at night, from being exhausted during the day, from anxiously reading headlines to see if our president has started the war that will end it all. Aside from the threat of nuclear war, climate science gives us four years to radically transform our global civilization- and I can feel the days slipping away from us with each sunset.
Climate change and nuclear war form the core structure of my fears. There are more than 7 billion people whose lives hang in the balance of what we do next, not to mention all the generations to come. We live at a time of immense danger, and our commercial media lulls us into a daze of inaction, through constantly telling us that either “everything is fine” or “this is the only way it can be”.
In this space, nights are hard, sleeping is impossible, inner peace is hard to come by, and joy is hard to find.
We are missing stories of radical transformation, of miraculous hope, of light bursting forth in the darkness. Without those, I don’t know how to imagine a future worth fighting for.
When Jesus was alive, Jerusalem was in a similar place of darkness. Numerous Jewish sects were declaring the end of the world was here- an apocalyptic fervor gripped the land, and the oppression of Rome was crushing the life out of those who lived under its rule.
In that apocalyptic environment, Jesus showed up, and started sharing stories of a better life- a paradise where everyone was fed, where the mighty were cast down, where the rich got rid of their wealth, and those who lived in fear and despair were the primary recipients of god’s grace.
I think, in so many ways, our society is there again. We are frightened, and suffering, while our government attempts to rip our health insurance away from us. We have automated work without distributing the wealth it produces, we have destroyed our rivers and our air, and people who are already living on the margins are bearing the weight of this injustice. The climate is spiraling out of control, drought and floods are destroying growing seasons, and food riots are being violently suppressed by militarized governments. We are standing on the edge of a knife, and there is darkness and despair all around us.
What does it mean, in this moment of intense fear, to speak of justice and hope? When Jesus was crucified, the disciples were left reeling. The apocalypse was still upon them. The darkness was still great. They must have howled into the night as I have, attempted to drown their sorrows in wine, facing a blackness so complete it threatened to consume them.
But despair be damned because 3 days later Mary Magdalene met the risen Jesus. For a few incredible hours, the entire church on earth existed in the heart of one woman who understood that darkness, no matter how all-encompassing it was, would never swallow the light.
After that, the disciples got to meet Jesus, or were told of the risen Christ, and were given their mission – “feed my sheep”, Jesus told them. In a time of great darkness, against overwhelming odds and mass crucifixions, the instructions for the disciples were clear- feed people. Love them. Care for their souls and their bodies. Visit them where they are imprisoned, make sure no widows or orphans or children go hungry. Tell them they are loved by god, no matter what the world tells them. Fight for justice, no matter the odds.
The miracle of the resurrection didn’t stop with the ascension of Jesus. The resurrection wasn’t a one-time thing that we think about fondly and then leave in the bible. The resurrection is a thing we experience in our hearts, and an impossible world that we make a reality through our love and through our efforts. Our hearts and souls are resurrected when depression lifts, when grief withdraws, when we begin to believe we are deserving of love after years of being told that we are not. Communities come back to life when we commit to feeding one another. The darkness is beaten back by the light that we shine forth, and the light we shine forth calls other people to let their light shine, as well.
You are a light in the darkness. You can help bring this world back to life. Jesus gave his disciples the power to go work miracles in the world, and that’s real power we still carry in our bodies. It is a miracle to bring life back to barren fields, to call forth an economy not fueled by capitalism or fossil fuels, to make sure that all the children of god have medical care and food and housing.
So much needs to come back to life- and our God is the God who makes that possible. We are the body of christ on this earth, and we have *work* to do.
So what are you called to resurrect in this world? What is dead that needs life?
Our healthcare system?
Our nuclear non-proliferation treaties?
Resurrection isn’t easy. Jesus never talked about how it felt to force air back into lungs that were 3-days dead, but it must have hurt like hell. This work isn’t easy, and it is exhausting to keep doing it, but it is our holy duty, and we never do it alone.
In the face of so much death and fear, remember who our God is. Remember that we carry the legacy of resurrection in our bodies and in our souls and in our work.
You have the power to create miracles, and we need this power- now more than ever! So go create miracles! Share your wealth, call your representatives, continue the anti-nuclear movement, work for local solar initiatives, speak out against racism, protect women, make sure nobody ever goes hungry- there are so many miracles we need, and you were given the power to make them real.
This darkness doesn’t end anytime soon- we know that it will take generations of work and miracles for this earth to be more secure. But we bear witness to the light, and to to resurrection, and to a world worth fighting for. In this time of great anxiety and uncertainty, we, like an astonished Mary leaving the garden, and as disciples sent forth by Jesus, carry the church forward into the future.