In chapter 24 of Luke’s gospel we find Jesus female followers traveling to the tomb to care for Jesus’ body. When they find him the scripture says they are “perplexed” and then they see “two men in dazzling clothes” aka “angels” who tell them Jesus has risen from the dead and to remember what he told them would happen. The women go and tell this to the eleven disciples. Peter runs to the tomb, sees the linen cloths that had wrapped Jesus’ body and returns home marveling and “amazed.” A despondent Peter is changed to a man of hope and action.
Something incredible has happened, something perplexing and amazing. It seems too weird a story to be taken seriously. . . And yet it was true and the women, Peter, and the other disciples soon would see Jesus alive. They believed and they proclaimed the truth of Jesus’ resurrection. They found faith in God’s love as they shared the story of Jesus with the first century world.
This week, in Paris, there was a horrific fire in the Notre Dame Cathedral. People all over the world mourned as they watched it on various media. Great damage was done to the cathedral and the religious art it housed. The world mourned the near loss of the “holy mother” the “great lady” of ancient churches. One CNN commentator was almost in tears, a college student spoke of how she had to come see it and how badly she felt that she had passed there every day and taken it for granted. She vowed she would no longer pass by without visiting it. Maybe she will find it as a place to pray.
The world was horrified at the near loss of the famous church. I found this so interesting and sad. Organized religion is in decline in Europe and in North America. In a survey by the French polling agency, OpinionWay, almost 40 percent of people in France claim “no religion”. Only 15 percent of French citizens attend church though half regard themselves as Christian. Of the 16-29-year-old French 64 percent claimed “no religion”. And this trend away from engagement with religion and church is not just happening in France but in most western and European countries.
And yet the response of the people of the world was so interesting. I think they were not just mourning the damage to a piece of beautiful architecture. They were horrified to see the near loss of a structure that touched the soul. Somehow they were acknowledging a spiritual heritage that is part of their identity.
Some say that science has made faith more difficult. But I find it interesting hat so many scientists believe in a God who has intelligently designed our world. Bob Berman, a local astronomy expert, quotes Francis Crick, the co-discoverer of DNA’s double helix saying the origin of life is “almost a miracle, so many of the condition which would have to have been satisfied to keep it going.” We (scientists) don’t invent a God to explain these things but we would point to these things as one more evidence that it would take more than blind chance to create the complexity we see in the world.”
In a recent radio interview, Berman said that “the chance of the world being created without a creator is like the chance of a fully operational 747 airplane being assembled by chance in your backyard.” I love it when scientists affirm the influence of a higher power.
Blaise Pascal, famous scientist and philosopher, is quoted as saying “there is a God-shaped hole in the heart of each of us which means we cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ.” To me this means we are created, we are hard-wired to be spiritual being. Our spirituality, our faith, is a part of who we are. The problem is that humanity ignores this hole or tries to fill it with things that are not God. Only through faith can this longing for unity with God be satisfied.
Is Easter just another day? Are our churches just museums? Or are they a place of longing for connection to God, without which our lives are hollow? Are we tourists or does our faith make a difference in our lives, in our community, in our world? Do we belong to a community of believers? Do we talk about God with our family, our friends? How is God present in our lives?Poet Mary Oliver says, Easter comes, “like fire for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry.”
We live in a chilly world hungry for faith, hungry for God. And yet, so often we are wrapped up, lost in everyday life, oblivious to our spiritual hunger.
Today, in the glory of our Easter celebration, God invites you to marvel, to be amazed, to believe, to celebrate, to act in response to this holy longing that has been filled by Jesus’ resurrection. Will you respond to the angels’ challenge of “why look for the living among the dead?” Let us look for Jesus in our everyday lives. Let us respond with belief and tell the story to a broken world that longs for faith.
hrist is risen! He is risen indeed!
Please pray with me. We praise you, O God, and give you thanks that you have given us such joy, such grace, and such hope, in the resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Let our lives be proof of that good news.
Let our world and actions, our love and and service bear witness to your resurrection power;
For the sake of our living Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.