Monday, March 17, 2008

Seeing Signs and Telling the Story John 20:1-18 or Matthew 28:1-10

Each New Testament writer emphasized different parts of Jesus' life and ministry. But two key parts of the story remain in all 4 gospels, Acts, the epistles, and Revelations: Jesus died and rose. There were many differences in how the story was told, even in the early church, but the elemental parts of the story, Jesus' dying on a cross and rising, are clear.

There's a great choice to make this week; which Gospel story do you want to tell, John 20:1-18 or Matthew 28:1-10. Both tell of Mary Magdalene coming to the tomb early in the morning on the first day of the week; but then the stories diverge. Matthew writes dramatically of an earthquake striking when the stone was rolled away, of fear that paralyzed the guards, and an angel appearing like lightening before Jesus spoke to Mary Magdalene and another Mary. John tells of Mary Magdalene coming to the tomb and finding it empty. She ran to find Simon Peter and a the beloved disciple and tell them what she'd seen. Simon Peter came and saw the tomb and left. Mary stood behind weeping and Jesus met her and asked, "Why are you weeping?"

There are real differences in these stories. Matthew emphasizes the supernatural breaking into our world in powerful ways. John emphasizes God breaking in in more subtle, yet equally surprising and deeply personal ways. Knowing these differences its still clear that the basic parts of the story are the same. These primary details have been passed down for 2000 years in different retellings and remain the same today, "Jesus died and rose." 2000 years haven't made the story any more believable or practical; the foolishness of the cross and resurrection remain our hope and our life.

Each Christian's life is a unique experience of death and resurrection. We die daily with Christ and we are reminded in the church and through the Word of God's power over death. Last fall I attended a presentation Dr. Craig Satterlee Homiletics professor at some Lutheran school of theology in Chicago. He encouraged the preachers in his audience journal in preparation for Easter listing all the signs of the resurrection that we've seen in the past year.

In my other blog, Unlikely Banter, I've listed one in particular is the story of Shelby who has recovered much, but not all of her life, after her now deceased husband's attempt to kill her. There were prayers said in our church and others for her and today she is a sign that God is still in the death and life business.

In another post in this blog I wrote about working at Camp Victor in Ocean Springs Mississippi in support of those whose lives were upset by Hurricane Katrina. There are stories to tell about resurrection in our time. There are gifts to share that help reveal the kingdom of God not as a maybe could be someday reality but as a here and now reality. The church is at its best when we live like resurrected people ready to go out knowing Christ is with us every step of the way.

The story of Jesus is the center of being Christian. Some say its elemental to our culture; but I disagree. Our cultures celebrations of Jesus in Easter and Christmas have been lost under the veneers of a bunny and a jolly elf. Thats why telling the elemental story that Jesus died and rose is what matters. Don't fuss about the details and the differences between Matthew and John on Easter Sunday. Our kids are worried about eggs, bunnies and candy; so tell them and their parents something even sweeter and even better. Tell them the key story, he died and rose. And even better tell them where you've seen signs that it is really happening today.


Diane said...

I like what you said about listing signs of death and resurrection. might take some time to do that this week....

LawAndGospel said...

I echo what Diane has said- I loke the idea of listing signs of death and resurrection- where is this today? And then going out and living like resurrected people- Amen.