“It feels like an uprising. An uprising of hope, not hate. An uprising armed with love, not weapons. An uprising that shouts a joyful promise of life and peace, not angry threats of hostility and death. It’s an uprising of outstretched hands, not clenched fists. It’s the ‘someday’ we’ve always dreamed of!” –Brian D. McLaren, “We Make the Road by Walking,” pages 214-215 (Nook edition)
So yesterday was Easter Sunday. I had the opportunity to be the liturgist at church, which is a big step for me, considering where I’ve been. I’ve gone from a candidate for future ministry, to despair and brokenness. From there I went 180 degrees in the opposite direction. I couldn’t reconcile the form of Christianity that dominates American culture today with what I learned and believed about the teachings of Christ. I couldn’t see how Christians could trample poor people into the dust and proclaim a “gospel of prosperity.” I couldn’t see how followers of Jesus, the Gentle Healer, could deny any human being medical treatment or health coverage based on their ability to pay for it. I couldn’t square Christ with the violent desire of American conservative “Christianity” to continue to lobby for endless war and destruction. I couldn’t see Jesus refusing to do business with a gay couple.
So I threw the baby out with the bath water.
I was done with God, Jesus, Christianity, and religion in general. I turned to science and atheism hoping to find the answers that I sought. That didn’t work either. Oh don’t get me wrong, science does a wonderful job of explaining weather, biology, physics and the like, but science can’t help someone in the depths of despair, or someone who might be considering taking their own life. Science just shrugs and points to a meaningless mechanism and quietly goes on about it’s business.
So I didn’t find any help there either. But then last year, after talking to a few different people and reading some wonderful books most notably by Brian McLaren, I began to feel a gentle tug in my heart and a still, small voice in my soul….
When Christ appeared to Mary on Easter Sunday, she didn’t recognize him at first. She thought he was the gardener. Still trapped in her old ways of thinking, she pictured Christ as dead to her and her faith disrupted and blown away. She couldn’t get past it.
But then Jesus opened her eyes by gently speaking her name in that gentle, familiar voice: “Mary.”
I heard that voice call my name once again, for the first time in years. “Brandon.”
Bonhoeffer and so many others had it right. We have to die to ourselves, to crucify our old ways of thinking, in order to rise again and become a new kind of creation, a follower of the risen Lord.
It’s not just about dying in the physical sense and hoping that there is something beyond that. Boy, we sure play it out to make that the be all, end all, but that’s not even the half of it.
When Jesus walked the Earth he went around saying that the Kingdom of God was here, RIGHT NOW. He truly became king of that realm when he took his crown of thorns on his head and took his place on the cross shaped throne of wood. Then, after three days, the newly risen Jesus went before us to lead an uprising of his new kingdom.
Easter is about….
Life triumphing over death.
The oppressed triumphing over the oppressor.
Love triumphing over hate.
Hope triumphing over despair.
Peace triumphing over violence.
Reconciliation triumphing over conflict.
What if Christians could leave all these other things, the things that don’t reflect God’s desire for peace and reconciliation in creation, behind and focus on life, the oppressed, love, hope. peace, and reconciliation? How much good could we do in the world if instead of approaching others with a closed fist, we approached them with open arms? What if we discarded our focus on escaping this world for the pie in the sky and focused instead on remaking it in the image that Christ outlined in the Sermon on the Mount?
It’s going to take dying to our old ways. It’s going to take an uprising of the most peaceful, hopeful, and loving kind. Maybe that’s what Mary sang about back before she ever gave birth to her son, the man who would be the ultimate example for The Way.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
Can you sign on to the uprising?