Delivered at Ames UCC on Sunday, June 2, 2019
©The Rev. Eileen Gebbie
Sermons are the result of pastoral preparation, congregational presence, and Holy Spirit participation. Please join me in that mysterious but always delightful process at 10:30 a.m. on Sundays, except in July and August when times vary. Check the calendar for details.
As Christians, and those considering Christianity as a path of holiness, we have the near-impossible task of explaining to the world what cannot be explained.
Jesus, a good man by the ancient accounts of those who adored him, so transformed those peoples’ lives that they thought he was a child of God. And not like we—all humans, all mammals, all basalt rocks—are children of God, but the Son of God in the sense of being substantially made of divinity. Then instead of solving all of the world’s problems he died a most painful and ignominious death.
That should have been the end of the story. Jesus’s death should have turned the true believers into total skeptics. Instead, they became even more convicted.
Reports began to circulate that Jesus had been resurrected, that God had given a new kind of life to Jesus’s dead body, thus confirming that he was, and remains, the Christ, the anointed one of God.
Surely that was pure fantasy. Surely those were the ravings of the bereaved.
But then other people met the Christ.
Other people, like Paul, who had despised the followers of Jesus, met this presence on a road. And others met it in rooms, at the beachside, all over the place. The movement that decried barriers, and broke them, seemed to also collapse the greatest barrier of all—death.
And so the movement continued.
In its first centuries the Jesus movement continued to suffer persecution, often functioning underground in its efforts to realize earth as a heaven through free meals and burial societies and baptismal preparations that have been compared to training for the Olympics.
The movement became the church when it was adopted by a massive state and so spread even further. That spread only continued as other nations picked up this church and took it with them in their own travels, their own conquering.
And so here we are today. Here we are so far, far away from ancient Israel still studying this man, still experiencing wonder at his mystery.
But still left with a near-impossible task: How can we profess resurrection? How do we justify God letting God’s own self perish so bloodily?
We can look to our forebears, like Paul, for examples: