Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Jesus, Mary and joy

Mary at the Tomb, by Lisa Hornor

John 20: 1-20
Woodmont United Church of Christ, Milford, CT
April 24, 2011 – Easter Sunday

Have you ever heard the joke “What do you get when you play a country song backwards?” Well, you may have even heard the answer in Rascal Flatts’ song “Backwards”:

If the resurrection was like a country music song played backwards, it might sound something like this:

I was sittin’ in an upper room
Oh so far away from Galilee
When this beloved disciple walked in
And sat right down next to me
I could tell he’d seen some hard times
There were tear stains on his hairshirt
He said you wanna know what you get
When you play Jesus’ death backwards?

He gets his life back.
She gets her heart back.
The disciples get their teacher back.
The Romans get the thorn in their side back.
The darkness gets the light back.
That heavy stone gets rolled back.
Jesus is king; salvation bring.
The angels sing, sing, sing and the heavens ring
We get the way and the truth and the life and the glory
in which we tell that old, old story
Sounds a little crazy, a little scattered and absurd
but that’s what you get
when you play Jesus’ death backwards

Wouldn’t it be nice, we think sometimes, if we could play our lives backwards? If we could just rewind a few minutes, a few hours, days, weeks, years—back to that time before we did whatever it was? Or before the cancer, before we lost our job? Before the person we loved left us or died, before the fight and the hurtful words, before we lost our temper? Before that moment we were so scared we didn’t know what to do, before that moment we wish we had said or done what was in our hearts?

Regret is a terrible thing. It can paralyze us, make us crazy, and drive us to other actions we may also later regret. I read once that many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves—regret of the past and fear of the future. Even though Jesus was crucified for being fully human and fully God, I doubt he had any regrets about that. He may have been scared and full of sorrow, perhaps even a little relieved, but I don’t think he was regretful.

Regret, by Cyn McCurry

Every Easter we try to make sense out of the resurrection—something that makes no sense at all. And yet we often have difficulty making sense and meaning out of our own lives. What makes us think we can tackle a mystery like the resurrection with any less struggle?

One thing I do know is this: the resurrection is not Jesus’ death played backwards. It’s not our own lives moved back to some restore point before the troubles. The resurrection is a moving forward through the regrets and the fears, through our lives and our inevitable deaths, and doing so with joy.

Sometimes we are tempted to believe that joy is just not possible given the circumstances of our lives. But I’m not talking about happiness. Happiness is fleeting, dependent on whether or not we ate breakfast, what the weather is like, if our body is working right and all kinds of outside influences. Joy is what sustains us despite the conditions of our lives; as the poet Wendell Berry said, “Be joyful though you have considered all the facts.”

At the beginning of Lent we read verse 12 of Psalm 51: “Restore to me the joy of my salvation and sustain in me a willing spirit.” To me, that says to be joyful is to have a willing spirit. Though Mary had lost not only her best friend but her teacher and savior, she had a willing spirit to stand at the cross while he died, to go where her friend was buried and be persistent in finding him.

If her story was a country song, it might go something like this:

Jesus, Mary and joy
Jesus, Mary and joy
She sang the blues
But he brought Good News
And now she spreading the joy

She was a woman possessed
Jesus healed her
Then she confessed
That Jesus was Lord
He could not afford
To live a life that leads to death

He gave all that he had
Even then it wasn’t all bad
And despite that old cross
They gained what was lost
And now she’s spreading the joy

Jesus, Mary and joy
Jesus, Mary and joy
They both sang the blues
But he brought Good News
And now she’s spreading the joy

Even when we sing the blues
It’s then Jesus gives Good News
And now we’re spreading the joy


No comments: