A huge thanks to Rev. Mindi at Rev-0-lution.org for this year’s Lenten theme, which I’ve slightly reworked under the title: “Advancing the Kingdom, Resisting the World.”
A New Boy
Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, a boy was born. The circumstances of that birth were only noteworthy on account of the misfortune that tainted that supposedly joyous day.
The mother—pregnant out of wedlock.
The location—forced to travel 70 dangerous miles on account of a ridiculous political decree.
The parents—so shunned by family members that they were forced to sleep where the animals were kept at night.
There would be visitors later—after the birth of this boy—but their arrival would be more unsettling than joyous. I mean, what do you do with the promises and predictions of vagabond shepherds and Iranian astrologers?
The childhood of this boy also bears no particular mention. It was a typical childhood for one born into a blue-collar family in that time and place. There was one peculiar event when he was about 12 years old. The family was traveling back from a festival, and it appears the boy did not get on the bus home with the rest of the family. When they saw he was missing, they called the police and went searching—but he was at a church (of all places) doing some Bible study. Certainly atypical for a teenager who runs away. But then again, maybe it was just a mix-up, right?
The life of this boy does not gather much attention until he is a man. But even then, one wonders. It was a turbulent time and place—and itinerant preachers were pretty common. I’m sure it was hard for his father and mother when the boy-now-man failed to continue the family business. But I suspect they came around—especially seeing the way people came to seek him out.
The man taught a back-to-basics type of religion. Be kind. Care for each other. Do good. Wash behind your ears……that kind of stuff. But he had some radical notions too.
He said that following God involved self-sacrifice: “take up your cross and follow me.”
He taught an inversion of the social order: “the first will be last and the last will be first.”
And—most radically—he taught that we are to love our enemies.
Like many of us in the exuberant days of our youth, the man had a flair for bucking authority. He didn’t keep the Sabbath the way he was taught—that attracted a lot of negative attention. But what made it worse is that he’d break the Sabbath by doing remarkable and incredibly good things.
Somehow, he’d heal someone’s blindness……but it was on the Sabbath.
Somehow, he’d cure someone’s sickness……but it was on the Sabbath.
Sometimes, it almost seemed like he was giving the middle finger to the religious authorities.
And people in power will usually do anything to keep their power. That’s the way this story goes, too. Our fellow upsets the wrong people. A plan is made. A betrayal is bought. A trap is set.
His life ends as a footnote: just another would-be messiah, crucified by the Romans as a rabble-rouser and insurrectionist. Just as in the beginning, there are those who saw something more as he died, yet they proved unsettling too: a crucified thief, a Roman centurion……
But death was not the end for our Jesus. The morning after the Sabbath, two women go to the grave. They are tasked with the dirty, stinky, tainting job of attending to a decomposing corpse. But instead of a fetid body, they discover an empty tomb. Instead of the corpse of their teacher and friend, they receive word from an angel. And as they run away, afraid, they meet their risen Savior, who proclaims “Do not fear.”
A New World
Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far, away, a new world was born—a Kingdom “not of this world.” It’s birth, too, went largely unnoticed by the world at large. It’s advent, too, appeared more unsettling than joyous in the moment.
Jesus, having “descended to the grave” (as the Apostle’s Creed and 1Peter 3:19 tell us), is raised by God to new life.
His resurrection conquers death and paves the way for abundant life—eternal life.
His resurrection breaks this world open so that a new creation can emerge.
His resurrection is a taste of the resurrection that awaits us all.
For in Jesus’ resurrection, the power that this world has wielded against us—the power of death—has been rendered impotent, for all time.
In Jesus’ resurrection, the very fundamental realities of how life works have been altered. It is as dramatic as though gravity no longer applies, or the earth no longer rotates around the sun.
In Jesus’ resurrection, the Kingdom of God is birthed into this world.
And now we—who were so lost to sin—can find rescue.
Now we—who were so broken by the world—can find healing.
Now we—who were so devastated by grief—can find comfort.
Now we—who were so afraid—we can find love.
In the resurrection of Jesus, what is of this world has been broken open. A new day has dawned. A new beginning has started.
Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, the End was decided. And life, peace, joy, and hope……and love……love wins.
Christ has died!
Christ is risen!
Christ is coming again!