Sunday Soul Seeds: "Christ Is Risen; Let Us Rise"
by Rev. Helen Nelson 4.21.2019
"...'Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples - and Peter - that he is going before you into Galilee; there you will see him, as he said to you...Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons. She went and told those who had been with Him, as they mourned and wept. And when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe." Mark16:6-11
Sometimes it is hard to know what to believe. We are told that certain factual accounts are actually fake news and that outright lies are the truth. Sometimes it is hard to tell who is telling the real truth and what the real truth is.
Sometimes it is hard to believe because a report is too difficult to bear, like when a loved dies, and we instinctively cushion our shock and grief with denial of the reality of their death.
Or, we choose to deny the reports of 99% of scientists who offer tangible evidence and historical data to verify their claims that the alarmingly rapid rise of the Earth's surface temperature over the last century or so is due primarily to human behavior. It is less challenging if we just deny that the disastrous climate disruption occurring across the planet is not of our doing, or not that serious, or that God will destroy it anyway to create a new heaven and a new earth, so we might as well carry on as usual. It is hard to believe what we would rather not believe.
And then there are things we have trouble believing because of the person who is reporting them. We are learning that we should take seriously the reports of women, children, and men who report having experienced abuse. We have not always done that. In the past we have accused persons of making up such stories, or of having behaved in ways that seemed to invite abuse, as if that somehow justified the abuser's actions or our indifference.
I suspect that it may have been a combination of these reasons that left the disciples closest to Jesus initially incredulous about his having risen from death to life. I can imagine that Mary and the other women at the tomb must have had difficulty accepting the reality of their own direct encounter with the risen Christ. As women in a patriarchal society, their testimony about anything would have required verification by men in order to be considered valid. Mary Magdalene in particular would have been suspect based on the questionable nature of her former lifestyle before she met Jesus.
Just as there were reasons to disbelieve, there were also compelling reasons to believe. The character of Jesus and the truth of his words would be reason enough to believe. The fact confirmed by many that Jesus had recently raised his close friend Lazarus would have been reason to believe. The testimony of the two divine messengers in white who greeted the women at the empty tomb would have been reason to believe. The lived experience of the disciples seeing Jesus alive once more would have been reason to believe.
It took some time for it all to come together and sink into their consciousness, just as it does for us. Some of us may yet have impediments that block our ability to believe in the resurrection. Like the women at the tomb, we may need someone to roll away the stone that blocks our access to the Jesus we are otherwise unable to reach. But the good news is that God is in the business of rolling away stones. Jesus has made it out of the tomb and is reaching out for all of us to just believe.
Some of us may believe with our heads. Our intellects may be able to fit the pieces together in such a way that it just makes sense for us to believe. Others of us may believe with our hearts. It's all a glorious mystery to us, but we connect with the heart of Jesus, so its all good. Others of us may believe with our hands. We may not understand the evidence for it. We may not even feel the emotional tug of it. We just see a need for someone to continue the practical work of healing and feeding and empowering others as Jesus did, so we roll up our sleeves and get to it. Some of us may believe in a combination of ways, or in all of these ways. No matter how we experience belief or unbelief in regard to the proclamation that Christ is risen, let us rise together in love, hope, and service in his name.
Prayer: God of all Creation, as we struggle to discern and deal with challenging claims on the truth, open our minds and hearts and hands to think and feel and act upon our best grasp of what is true and right and good. Guide us to those places in the world and within ourselves where we might come to believe more fully in you, in Jesus Christ, in your Holy Spirit, in ourselves, and in others. This we pray in the name of the Risen One. Amen.