Wednesday, April 30, 2014

What if we said, "Jesus rose for you" instead of "Jesus died for you"?

Maybe it was because it is Easter.  Maybe that's why I wrote it.  It is still Easter, you know, and we are still hearing these resurrection stories.  Today, at our early Matins service, I told the one about Jesus appearing to the disciples, and breathing on them, and later to Thomas, and letting him touch his hands and his side.

Because it is still Easter, when I went to visit Oscar at the nursing home, I took two Sunday bulletins with me, which contained the very same gospel story. I took the two bulletins because it seemed like a good thing to do, and because Oscar is deaf.  I mostly converse with him by using his white board, a marker and eraser.  We do pretty well that way.

After visiting for awhile, finding out that he is moving to another care facility (which is happy about), and that it's no fun to get old, I asked him if he wanted to have communion.  He said yes.  We said the confession together, and then I gave him the bulletin so that we could read a portion of the gospel reading, the resurrection story from John, just the part where Jesus came into the room and said, "Peace be with you."

Afterwards, I wrote the main points on Oscar's white board:  "Jesus is with us.  He rose from the dead for us, to give us life and forgiveness.  Because he loves us."

Maybe it was because it is Easter.  Maybe that's why I wrote those words, "Jesus rose for you".  And after I wrote them I just looked at them for a long time, something settling and unsettling in my head, but not just in my head.  But maybe that was because it is Easter.

Or maybe it was because the familiar phrase "Jesus died for you" was stuck in my mind, had been stuck in my mind ever since that morning, ever since Matins.

Actually, it was right before Matins.  I was getting ready for the service, finding my place in the book, turning on the microphone. A couple of people were early, one 90 year old woman who always sits near the front.  She caught me as I was going down the aisle, showed me her iPhone (do not ever underestimate or stereotype the 90 year olds in your congregation).  A young woman she knew had posted this status update:  " I wonder if the history of christianity would've turned out differently if our central image of it was Jesus healing the sick and feeding the hungry rather than being violently tortured to death (because God loves you!)"

She seemed upset that her young friend had said something so cynical.  I reminded her of what Sarah Palin had said recently about baptizing terrorists by torturing them.  I said that some people find it hard to understand how God torturing God's only Son could have anything to do with love.

Here's what I believe.  God didn't kill Jesus.  And God certainly didn't kill Jesus because God couldn't forgive us without first extracting his pound of flesh.  After all, what did Jesus do?  He just went around giving away forgiveness, mercy, food, healing.  He just went around loving people, eating with them, setting them free.  No, Jesus died because human beings put him to death, because human beings were threatened and scandalized by him, religiously and politically.   And when he died, even the people who loved him, abandoned him.  Even the people who loved him, betrayed him.  Even the people who loved him, denied him.

But he rose.  He rose from the dead.  He came back.  And when he came back, did he come back vowing revenge?  Did he come back to even the score?  Did he come back to make sure that his enemies paid for what they had done, that his friends atoned for their failings?

No, he rose for us, to be reconciled to us.  He rose to make friends out of enemies, create life out of death, build a future out of dead ends and regrets.

What if we said, "Jesus rose for you?" instead of 'Jesus died for you"?  Because he loves you.

1 comment:

Robin said...

Many years ago, one of the members of my home church, preaching during our lay preachers summer series, said, "Jesus didn't die for you. My grandfather died for you. My grandfather died in the battle of the Bulge, fighting for your freedom. But Jesus ROSE for you. That's what made all the difference."

One of the most important insights I ever heard from the pulpit.

Thanks, Diane.