April 07, 2018

Hero Worship!

Who’s your favorite hero?  When I was six, I was fascinated with a hero that was about social justice, surprisingly enough.  I didn’t learn about him in Sunday School or in the bible picture books that were in every waiting room and hospital in town.  No, I learned about him at my grandma’s house.  I would climb up the stairs to a dusty old bedroom, and pull down a book, probably as old as the ones here in the front of the church.  At first, I looked at the pictures, then when somehow the magic of reading became possible, I read the stories over and over again.  They were all about Robin Hood.  Some of you might not know who he was, because it’s been a long time since Disney turned him into a fox, or since Kevin Costner or Errol Flynn tried to make him seem more than a legend.  But the idea of a man wandering around in the bush, practising his aim and his political understanding of the world he lived in, and the compassion he had for people living in poverty, and how he tried to make a difference, well, all you can say to that is oh da lolly!  And in my grandmother’s old book, there was no doubt that he was a real man who pressured King John to sign the Magna Carta, a document enshrining the idea that everyone would have equal access to justice and a fair hearing.
I suppose there could be worse heroes to believe in, after all, he was robbing the rich to give to the poor.  And compared to some of the anti heroes we have now, like Deadpool, who seems more sarcastic than anything else, Robin Hood was an interesting study in morals, reminding me not to judge people by how big they were, like Little John, or what they wore to work, like Friar Tuck.  It was about how they cared for each other and their oppressed friends and neighbors.
That’s very different from our Easter story.  Jesus is no hero in many ways, he doesn’t wear a cape, he doesn’t have the strength to hold up huge buildings, he doesn’t have a little sister who manufactures amazing armor or weapons out of vibranium,
he doesn’t come from a hidden kingdom of amazon warrior women, and he can’t sling a web and catch thieves like flies.
He certainly doesn’t use weapons or get into fist fights or win a beautiful princess and live in a castle happily ever after.  And if we stay in Mark’s Gospel, the oldest gospel to try to put into words what happened that first Easter, well, it’s more than a little eerie, creepy, weird.  Dare I say it? Rather like an ugly April Fools day joke gone wrong.
The followers of Jesus are not expecting anything more than another dead body to take care of, to prepare for entombment in the rituals of the day.  The men are conspicuously absent.  It is the women, coming at dawn to work with the messy business of death.  The women, ready to confront the cause of their grief and pain and bathe the body with their tears of grief.
The plot twists unexpectedly.  That which they had planned for was not what they found.  Their morning of sadness was shattered by the unexpected, an unnamed stranger telling them something so impossible that all they could do was run away in fear.  Even the last command they were given, ‘go and tell the disciples of Good News’ they could not do.  They ran in terror.  How many times do we flee that which we cannot understand, and run from that which we have no words?
The story ends there and yet it doesn’t.  The ending isn’t really Easter Sunday morning.  It’s more than just a dead end of a would-be hero, conquered by politics and government.
It’s more because Something happened afterward and kept happening.  People kept experiencing the story in ways that felt more real than the dangers and fears they had come to accept as normal. 
People kept being surprised by this story’s power to touch them personally, and they handed down that story, just as the women had been commanded to do at the tomb.  Go back to where the story begins, remember it all, not just the Good Friday and Easter, but the new life and hope for a better way not just for the Marys and Salome, but for everyone.  A story that has been handed down for generations until now it is your turn to hear it.
This is not a story about which hero you like best, or even whether Jesus is better than Black Panther, Thor, Robin Hood or Wonder Woman, nor is it about being tough, or having super powers or beating up everyone that gets in your way of what you think you want. 
This is a story of how even when we are broken down, or maybe especially when we are broken down, when our world feels upside down and out of control, when we have no hope left in anything we can do, when we are too tired to keep on fighting, when we have given up, when we feel fooled by hope, that’s when God’s upside down call to us to hear good news can sink in.  That’s when hallelujahs can make a real, authentic difference in the world;
The story of Easter is about ordinary human beings like you and me empowered by something mysterious and unexplainable. The story of Easter calls us to make love the cornerstone of the next chapter in our own Easter story. Hear these words not as some ancient April Fools trick, but a promise of good news for all who continue to add to the story of Easter. Christ is Risen, he is Risen indeed, halleluiah!

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