Easter Monday. The second day of the New Creation.
Because I am again serving as pastor to two small congregations, I preached yesterday. I followed the lectionary and used Mark 16:1-8 as the Gospel text.
Perhaps because of our circumstances, I was taken with how the story describes the response of the women to the news of Jesus’ resurrection. “Terror and amazement seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”
Here the so-called shorter ending of Mark stops. It is thus replete with ambiguity. The scripture clearly states that Jesus is alive. The women don’t know how to deal with this news, so they do nothing.
Their lack of action seems particularly relevant for the way many of us live today. We Christians claim to be Easter people, but we live pretty much like Jesus were still dead. It’s Easter Monday. After the little bump of Easter festivities, what is different about today? What is different about our vision? Our witness?
As part of my personal prayer time, I have been reading through 1 Corinthians. As you might imagine, chapter 15 has been holding my attention. This morning I re-read verses 24-25: “Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.”
I found myself asking, “By what means is Christ now destroying every ruler, authority and power?” Clearly Paul believes that God is the Lord of history, period. We’ve all had our view about history distorted by learning that it involves (social history excepted) only major public events: governments and wars and world leaders and such. Jesus doesn’t seem to fit very well in that picture, even for Christians.
This historical myopia exposes a huge problem. I think the answer to how Christ is destroying rulers and authorities is “by means of Christian witness,” not a comforting thought. We (American) Christians are not doing too good a job in the witness department.
We’ve gotten too cozy with rulers and powers. Again I’m using terms I don’t like. Conservative Christians have tried to use the levers of governmental power to legislate against abortion, homosexual practice, taxes, etc. Liberals have taken the same tactic with a different view of the same issues. Then the two groups argue about who is “more Christian,” as if advocating for legislation is Christian witness.
Certainly we have a responsibility to act as good citizens, which means we should have opinions about such matters. But we should also remember that this citizenship is double-edged, fraught with temptation. And when we permit our witness to narrow to nothing more than expressing certain political opinions, even if couched in the rhetoric of morality, we should be ashamed. I know it has been said a thousand times by people more eloquent than I: when Christians get too comfortable with worldly power, we forfeit our good witness. We still have a witness. It’s just a bad one.
It’s Easter Monday. By God’s grace, let Jesus’ people make a good witness.