April 29, 2012: Easter 2.0: Still Rising!

Posted on : Apr 26th, 2012 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

One of my all-time favorite books is called “Calmly Plotting the Resurrection” by Donna Schaper.  It was given to me by Laurie Fox as a birthday gift in 1996!  At the time, we knew Donna as a feminist spirituality writer.  It wasn’t until last year that I realized she is also a minister in the United Church of Christ.

In July of last year I attended the General Synod (national gathering) of the UCC and was invited to a cocktail party to meet some of the leading social justice advocates in the UCC.  This rather short woman, about my age, joined a conversation group I was with, so I introduced myself and told her about our exploration and discernment process with the UCC.  She in turn introduced herself as “Donna Schaper.”  I was stunned!  I asked, “Are you the Donna Schaper who wrote ‘Calmly Plotting the Resurrection?’”  She smiled and said, “Yes, but that was a long time ago!  “I said, OMG, we’ve got to talk!”  After the party we got together and talked until about 1 in the morning.

Of all the titles of the millions of books written about the Resurrection, none of them strikes me as profoundly as, “Calmly Plotting the Resurrection.”  First of all, “Calmly” is not a word often associated with the Resurrection.  “Mystery.  Excitement.  Fear.  Joy.  Surprise.  The Unexpected.” All of those are words I associate with the Resurrection, but “Calmly?”  Nope.

And “Calmly Plotting” is also a concept we don’t often associate with the Resurrection.  “Plotting” usually means “planning in secret, especially to bring about an illegal or subversive act.”  Well, now you can see my intrigue.

Donna’s book is much like a primer in spiritual activism.  It begins with the premise that the Resurrection IS a subversive act, a subversive act by God.  God is not about to let death or evil win, nor the political shenanigans of the religious and political power-barons of the time. Resurrection, Donna states, is a process that takes a lot of time and “plotting.”  Radical, liberating change does not happen on our timeline, it happens on God’s.  And it is often when we least expect it that God’s subversive act of justice and love breaks into our consciousness and world.  Her understanding of Resurrection transformed my understanding of Resurrection and has fed and nurtured my spirit especially in those dry, desolate moments when I think the church or society is not able to be raised up.

The Biblical story that I always associate with “calmly plotting the resurrection” is the story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead.  Lazarus is the Patron Saint of our recent history in and with the Presbyterian Church.

The story of Lazarus’ death is both sad and unsettling.  Throughout the Gospels, it is clear that Martha, Mary and Lazarus are Jesus’ “family of choice.”  We all know what that means.  So, one day while Jesus is teaching in a nearby town, Lazarus falls critically ill and is near death.  Martha and Mary, Lazarus’ sisters and two of Jesus’ closest friends, send word for Jesus to come immediately to save/heal Lazarus.

When Jesus gets the message about Lazarus, we would assume he, like so many of us have done, would try to get to Lazarus as quickly as possible.  But Jesus doesn’t.  He intentionally stays away for a couple extra days, insuring that Lazarus would be dead and buried by the time he got back to Bethany.  When he finally gets back Mary and Martha greet him and all three break into tears.  Then Martha expresses her anger at Jesus.  In Biblically polite language, she says to Jesus, “If you cared, you could have saved Lazarus’ life.”  Ouch!  But Jesus replies, “It’s not that I didn’t care, it’s that God had a different plan than yours.”  Cut to the chase….Jesus goes the tomb where Lazarus is buried, instructs that the stone be rolled away from in front of the tomb and shouts into the tomb, “Lazarus COME OUT!”  And Lazarus comes out, wrapped in the cloths of death and burial.  Jesus then commands the community standing and watching this scene, to “unbind him and let him go!”  And they do!

Sunday, we had a Lazarus-Calmly Plotting the Resurrection-experience.  Our members voted to be unbound and set free to do the ministry we are called to do and bear the witness we are called to bear.  The energy, the joy, the excitement, the hope is STILL RISING!  As we have gone through our process of discernment it has been clear to me from early on that this was a decision that was beyond our control.  God was in control of our future.  Just like life.  But it does seem to me that God was actively at work among us, “calmly plotting our Resurrection.”

What a joy to know that we are still rising!  And what an even greater joy to know that God is still raising us up into the fullness of God’s love and grace.

Blessings, even as we are rising,

Dan

~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

John 11: 17- 45

Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.

Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days.  Lazarus was the brother of Mary and Martha with whom Jesus stayed when in the town of Bethany.  Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, and many of the town’s women had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother (as was their religious custom).

When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary sat in the house.  Martha said to Jesus, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died. And even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”  Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”  Martha replied, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”  Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; those who believe in me, though they die, they shall live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.  Do you believe this?”  Martha said to Jesus, “Yes, I believe that you are the Christ, the Child of God, the one who is coming into the world.”

When Martha had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying quietly, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.”  And when Mary heard it, she rose quickly and went to Jesus.  Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him.  When the women who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there.  Then Mary, when she came and saw Jesus, fell at his feet, and said, “If you had been here, my bother would not have died.”  When Jesus saw her weeping, and those who came with her also weeping, he was indignant in spirit and troubled, and said, “Where have you laid Lazarus?” They answered, “Come and see.”  Jesus wept.  Those who were with them said, “See how Jesus loved Lazarus!”

Then Jesus came to the tomb; it was a cave, and a stone lay upon it.  Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”  Martha, the sister of the one who had died, said to Jesus, “By this time there will be an odor, for Lazarus has been dead four days.”  Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?”  So they took away the stone.  And Jesus looked up and said, “God, I thank you that you have heard me.”  Having said this, Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.”  The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with bandages, and his face wrapped with a cloth.  Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

 

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