Did you hear? Did you hear how our gospel reading for today began? But on the first day of the week. But. But on the first day of the week. The first words of todays gospel assumes that which has gone before it. But on the first day of the week. But what?
That word. But. It’s a powerful word. In fact, a friend of mine has helped me to get a deeper understanding of this word. You see the power in that word is that it cancels out everything that went before it. It can ruin everything that has been said before it. It can mean bad news is coming. And we know this.
Honey, I love you…but….I’ve met someone else.
I’m sorry I did that…but…you started it.
Your heart is in good shape…but…your kidneys are in trouble.
While that word can means bad news, it can also mean good news. It can undo everything that has happened prior to that word. It can reverse what we think is an unfortunate future. And what welcome news that can be…
There was a car accident…but…everyone is okay.
I never thought I could get pregnant…but…it happened.
They said school wouldn’t be closed…but…it is!
The word ‘but’ can be the bearer of either good or bad news and in order to know you have to know the context. You have to know what immediately precedes it. For today’s reading, just before our text, Jesus was buried in a tomb. And then the very next word is but, and suddenly it all is called into question. Jesus was laid in a tomb…BUT…when they went there at early dawn, taking spices to anoint his body, they found the stone of the tomb had been rolled away.
And suddenly, everything that had happened prior begins to dissolve away. Early in the morning, they enter tomb to discover that there is nobody there. As in…no body…there. Until there was. Two of them. Bodies, that is. Two men in dazzling white robes suddenly standing beside them.
And from their lips comes a question: Why do you look for the living among the dead? And there it is. The word they had wondered about, but hadn’t said yet. Living. Living. Is it true? Could Jesus be…alive? The truth is they weren’t looking for the living among the dead. They were looking for the dead among the dead. Until they saw that tomb all empty and hollow.
Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.
Remember how he told you. And they remembered. And then they told it. To the eleven disciples and anyone else they could. And if you’ve forgotten who the “they” is in this story, here is where you get your reminder. It’s women. All women. Mary Magdelene, Joanna, Mary the mother of Jesus, and the other women. That makes at least 5 women in all. This was quite literally the first ever church ladies group. And it isn’t incredible that women who are not mentioned nearly as much in the Bible are the first to bring us the good news to the resurrection.
But this news about the resurrection. This news about the one who is now living. It didn’t land so well. The women went and they told the other disciples and all the people in their community.They told their friends and their family. Their neighbor. The one who watches their kids on Tuesday mornings. And no one believed them. You see everyone thought it was an idle tale. Which…is a nice way of putting it. Or should I say a nice way of translating it.
The greek word there is leros. Say it with me now….leros!.
Shhhh….you can’t say that in church. You see “an idle tale” is the g-rated version of what the disciples thought about the resurrection. It’s the Disney version. The real word stinks a little more. Leros means garbage. Lunacy. Dribble. Or more fully…manure.
The women come to tell everyone they know this good news and they respond by saying, “No way. You must be crazy because that is garbage. Lunacy. That is….” Well. You get the point.
No one believes the resurrection. Not at first any ways.
And so if you are here on Easter Sunday perhaps with a little bit of protest, because you are not much of a church goer because it just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Or even if you are some one who comes to church every Sunday and you still don’t know if you believe in the resurrection, then I have good news for you. You are not alone. Because the disciples didn’t believe in it either. At least not at first.
Which means even for the most faithful people – Jesus’ followers – doubt and faith go hand in hand. They are woven closely together. Two sides of the same coin.
Which is good news for us…because who can believe in the resurrection? It’s easy to believe in a soul leaving a body and softly and beautifully floating up to the heavens. That’s easy to believe in. Most of us do. But resurrection? It wasn’t just Jesus’ soul that was missing from the tomb. It was his body. This is crazy stuff. And then, on top of that, we forget that the Apostle Paul says that if we have a death like Jesus’. Then surely we will have a resurrection like Jesus’.
In fact, I was just having this conversation with a woman this past week and when I told her that it isn’t just our souls that are brought into the arms of God but our whole bodies. She gave me a look that just about said, “Leros!”
I know it sounds crazy, but as Christians we don’t just believe in the immortality of the soul. No, we believe in resurrection. Which includes the body. Your body. And mine. And that’s the part that’s even harder to believe about today. That today, Easter Sunday, has just as much to do about you and I as it does about Jesus. Because it is today that you and I are promised a resurrection like Jesus’. That is our bodies. Not just our souls.
And it sounds crazy. It does sound crazy. It sounds like leros. But truth be told, more recently, it’s started to sound less crazy to me. You see someone once gave an understanding of the resurrection that I had never heard before. Why the resurrection? Because God loves bodies. Not just souls. (Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World)
And that’s good news. Because our bodies matter. They matter to us. And they matter to God.
For it was the birthmark in my wife’s left eye, in her very body, that I first fell in love with.
For it was the body of a loved one who embraced you at the death of your loved one.
For it was your body and your lover’s that created that little body that sits beside you.
For it is the bodies of homeless men that the hospitality house provides shelter.
For it is with our bodies, our very hands that we offer peace to one another over and over again.
Why the resurrection? Because God loves bodies. This is why God has given us bread and wine and blessed foreheads as the means of God’s grace. Because they are things we can feel with our bodies. Sometimes the only way to the soul of someone is through their body.
So whatever today is about, know that this resurrection has just as much to do with you as it does with Jesus. Why? Because God loves bodies. And God loves your body. So much so that whenever it is that your light of life grows dim and goes out, God will welcome you. All of you. Not just your soul but your body too, into the arms of God that won’t ever let you go. Not then. Not now.
As you can see, this is something that is so out there. It is so out there. So unbelievable that, like Mary and the other women, the people closest to us will not believe us. So don’t ask me how it works – this resurrection thing. Don’t ask me to prove it to you. Don’t ask me to explain it. Because I can’t. Most of the time it just sounds like leros, garbage. A lie. But…it also sounds like the greatest news we can hear. That God would love all of us. Not just our souls. But our bodies too. Amen