Monday, March 29, 2010

Why Do You Seek The Living Among The Dead

This week's scriptures are Isaiah 65:17-25 and Luke 24:1-12.

Easter make us uncomfortable. We don't often admit it; but the whole resurrection thing makes our rational, scientifically oriented, 'just the facts ma'am' cultural mindset queasy.

It takes little more that a googling of the phrase "resurrected gods" to find that there are myths throughout the history of civilization of what are referred to as "life-death-rebirth deities." They are associated in large part with the works of James Frazer, Jane Ellen Harrison (The Golden Bough), and of Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell.

Often critics of the Christian faith have used this scholarship to point to the belief in Jesus' resurrection as little more that a psychological wish fullfillment and/or the co-opting of the mythology of neighboring cultures by the early Christian community.

Though the scholarship of Frazer and others has come under some serious fire for its reductionism and its simplistic presentation; there is some truth in their claims regarding the myths involved...and some notable ignored differences as well. C.S. Lewis, in acknowledging this, spoke of the time "when myth becomes fact." And while I believe that he was on the right track, I do not think he went far enough.

It does not surprise me that the human "collective unconscious" (as Jung referred to it) yearns for a who can conquer death and oppression and sin. It doesn't suprise me any more than the fact that a baby, born just seconds ago, will almost immediately began rooting around looking for its mother's breast to nurse. In the same manner, it doesn't suprise me that a mother, upon hearing her baby crying in hunger in the next room will have a physical response. Theirs is a relationship in which the weak one instinctively seeks the nurture and protection that the strong one can provide; and the strong one, by her very nature, responds to her baby's cry. [By the way, if you have problems with this image, don't blame's all over the Old Testament, particularly in the writings of Isaiah and Hosea]

Listen to the words of Isaiah, "Behold I am doing a new thing" and let me tell you what that new thing is. In nearly all of these myths, the deity is murdered by its enemies-often other gods (the most notable exception being the Norse myth of Odin hanging himself on a tree as a sacrifice to himself). The rebirth or resurrection is a victory over the other gods who now are subservient. And the resurrected god goes off to rule in the otherworld. Humans, left here, hope that in some future they may, though their prayers to the god (look at the myth of Osiris in particular as the one most pointed) get to live after death.

So, you say, what's this new thing? So far, it sounds like Easter is just the same old, same old in a new wrapper.

The new thing is this: Jesus did not suffer and die and conquer death just so you and I can go to heaven. And our resurrections are not the byproduct of some cosmic battle between the gods....they are the end game.

Mothers come when babies cry, because it is the nature of good mothers to respond to their babies hunger. No one lives, and no one dies, outside of God's loving embrace. Humanity cries out, and God comes. God bridged the gap in our relationship with God with God's on self. God would not let disease, or mental illness, or poverty, or sin, or even death come between God and creation...and God still won't.

And it's not just for some future's for right now. I need a resurrection now....not just when I die....but now. Now, when life has worn me down to the nub; now, when it seems that I will never overcome the shortcomings that seek to drag me down; now, when sadness and pain seem the order of the day. And that's what Jesus rose to give you and me.

Here's the difference....from manger, to cross, to empty tomb....God's focus was God's relationship with you and me. The resurrection Jesus promises us isn't just 'bye and bye' but 'here and now.'

Do you remember Bruce Springsteen singing Rise Up (the actual song title is "My City of Ruins") over the 911 tragedy? Well try this on for size:

On Easter morning, after everything that evil and hatred and death could throw at Him, Jesus kicked open the door of His tomb, and sang God's own holy version of Rise Up over all creation. Not just for then, not even just for now, but for ever and ever and ever.

In Jesus' resurrection we are given the gift that 'made like Him, like Him we rise' now and forever more we are a Resurrection People.

Christ is Risen.
Christ is Risen Indeed.

See you Sunday,

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wonderfully inspirational and accurate assessment of the significance of Our Lord's Resurrection.(Pastor Bruce Campbell)