Thursday, April 21, 2011

Lectionary Musings: Cruise Control

Easter Sunday A
Matthew 28:1-10

I have to believe that one of the most beautiful inventions has to be cruise control in cars.  There's something kinda cool about pressing a button and having the car basically drive itself during long trips.  All I have to do is sit back, relax and the car drive itself.

Okay, I don't just let the car drive itself.  I do have to keep my eyes on the road.  Cruise control doesn't mean I get to excuse myself from driving- I still have to be alert and ready for any changes on the highway.

Easter can be both a blessing and a curse.  It's a blessing of course because Jesus defeated the powers of death and arose on that Sunday morning long ago.  But it's also a curse, because it comes at the end of a long week and we are just plumb tired.

But maybe what really makes Easter a curse is that we've done it so many times.  We sing the same songs and preach the same sermons year after year.  I don't know about others, but there have been moments when I feel that this has all be done before.  Ressurrection is so first century.

It's easy to go on cruise control when it comes to Easter.  But I wonder if doing that means we miss what might be going on in the story.  I wonder if we miss how this old story is not so old in reality.  Maybe in reading this story again, we will see where new life is springing up in our own lives.

The gospel text today has a lot going on, but I want to focus on one group of characters: the women.  If you want an example of what it means to live without hope, it has to be the two Marys.  These women had a close relationship with Jesus and believed that this guy was special.  Then he ends up getting killed.  They come to the tomb on Sunday morning without any hope.  Another idealist is killed.  Cynicism wins again.

I think back to my time in Clinical Pastoral Education.  I remember meeting a young man who lost one leg in an accident.  I would spend time in his room where he would say very little to me.  His face was one not simply of sadness, but one of profound grief.  He was only 21.  He had a future ahead of him.  But the future was now more cloudy and his face told me had little hope.

That is what these women felt.  There are times in our lives when we feel that there is no hope that things will change.  No hope that someone will get better; no hope that you will get that job; no hope that a loved one will quit drinking.

And then, there's an earthquake, and an angel appears saying that Jesus is no longer at the tomb but alive.  I have to believe the Marys thought it was a joke.  But if they thought that, they didn't think it for very long.  Matthew says the left with fear and great joy.  As they run to tell their friends the good news, they meet Jesus, alive and well.  Where there was no hope, there was now hope. 

The message of Easter is one of hope, but it starts in a place where there is no hope.  It starts in the way things are in the world.  If someone is dead, they kinda stay dead.

But hope has a different agenda.  It can bring life where there was no life and healing where there was sickness.  It reminds us that God is there with us, even when we feel abandoned.  Hope is there even when everything is tell us that there is no hope.

As you go to your faith communities this Sunday, please don't operate on cruise control.  Read the Easter story again and think about the two Marys.  Think about the disciples or the guards.  Read the story again and pay attention.  Think about hopelessness. Think about helplessness.  Think about love. Think about hope.  Think about it all and believe the good news that Jesus is alive and well.

Christ is Risen!

Dennis Sanders is the Associate Pastor at First Christian Church in Minneapolis.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Sunday Sermon: April 17, 2011 (Palm Sunday)

“To Be Continued…”
Philippians 2:5-11 and Matthew 27:11-54
April 17, 2011 (Palm Sunday)
First Christian Church
Minneapolis, MN

About a 10 years ago, I was driving down I-35W from Edina to Minneapolis.  All of the sudden, the traffic just stopped.  Now usually if there is a traffic jam, the traffic slows down, but it rarely just stops.  I looked at the other lane and it was devoid of any traffic…at all.  It was a little odd to see a freeway not have any cars on it at all, especially at the middle of the day.

Just then, a caravan of black cars made its way down the empty lane.  One of those cars was a limousine with flags donning the hood.  It occurred to me that what had just passed me by was a presidential motorcade.  Then-President Bush was in town to make a speech in Eden Prairie and as is the case whenever the president is in town, all roads leading from the airport to the location where the president will be are shut down totally to offer he or she protection.

Frankly, I think it’s kinda cool that as president you don’t have to worry about traffic jams.  Ever. 

Friday, April 15, 2011

It's Friendship...Friendship...

What's been on my mind lately is friendship and how bad I suck at it.

Every since I can remember, I've never been good at making and keeping friends. I look at other folks and the ease at which they meet people and wonder what's their secret. Looking back, I know that a lot the difficulty was due to being autistic. I don't want to make it sound like an excuse, it's just that the way my brain works makes it a bit more of a challenge to meet other people.

That said, it's not like I've tried. Sometimes I think I come on too strong and sometimes not strong enough. Either I freak people out by being too earnest or I ignore the little signs that are important in any type of relationship.

It's funny that over the last few years, especially after my diagnosis, I kinda stopped trying to make friends. It's like a part of me just decided to quit trying.

Of course, if I stop then I don't learn.

The thing is, I would like to try again, even if it means I keep getting it wrong. And I'd like to try to tend to the friendships I have, even if I get that wrong. This all has the tinge of being like Data from Star Trek in that like our android friend, I keep trying to be human even though I screw up over and over.

Frankly, I wish there were some book that told you how to make friends. It always seems like everyone else has the secret code or something that I don't have and I'm trying to figure things out by trial and error.

And if there's also a book on how to handle this whole relationship/love thing with your husband, please let me know.