Lenten blog | April 1, 2020
"A little crazy, good crazy"
Throughout the year, the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ produces the Daily Lectionary for use by churches. These are the suggested readings for Wednesday, April 1st: Psalm 32; Jeremiah 32:1-9, 36-41; and Matthew 22:23-33. I would encourage you to read these short selections as part of your Lenten practice.
So in the spirit of April Fool’s Day let me share a little ditty that an old friend once told me. It has to be heard in the context of today’s Matthew passage. The Sadducees were the aristocratic, priestly families of Jesus’ day. They were rather conservative. They only accepted the authority of the Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures. As such, they did not believe in the concept of life after death. It may come as a surprise, but this hope arrives only in later Judaism.
This resistance to the belief in the afterlife is behind the question they pose to Jesus in today’s passage. They try to hit Jesus with a “gotcha!” question. Jesus fends it off and reasserts His belief in the resurrection. But in the spirit of April Fool’s Day, the question may be asked why the Sadducees are so dour. The answer being, “They’re sad-you-see because they don’t believe in eternal life.”
In all seriousness though, the unwillingness to believe in the hard-to-believe promise of life eternal, can prevent us from making the most of this life. I know this is not true for everyone. There are remarkable atheists who cherish this life all the more because they know that this is it. In our virtual Bible Study Group, we have mentioned The Gilgamesh Epic in regard to our study of Genesis. This is a Babylonian myth that predates Jesus by 2,000 years. It’s been around for a long, long time. Even at the dawn of written literature, humans were already struggling with mortality. Gilgamesh strives to achieve immortality, but the Epic ends with his realization that the best humans can do is live well, accomplish much and be remembered.
But for others the hope of life eternal is life-altering. The Rev. Joseph Lowery died on March 27th at the age of 98. He was one of the prominent, African-American ministers who with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. organized the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. From the late 1950’s, he fought for civil rights in the United States. He serendipitously avoided being blown-up in his hotel room in 1963 when instead he decided to take a late-night train home to see his wife.
Later in life he used this and other near-death experiences to describe the heroic work of the people involved in the civil rights movement as “a little crazy, good crazy.” This Minister’s trust in the resurrection empowered him to live life boldly and fearlessly. He faced death threats. An all-white jury fined him half a million dollars leading to the loss of property and car. But he persisted, and his faith gave him the strength to be “a little crazy, good crazy.” In 2009, President Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. His faith in life eternal allowed him to make this life heroic. He wasn’t sad-you-see.
Or look at the example of Jeremiah. God asks much of this prophet. He must preach defeat and destruction to a people fighting a mortal enemy. He is locked away as traitorous. But Jeremiah’s story of purchasing a piece of land while within surrounded Jerusalem, speaks profoundly of his hope. Hope is an amazing gift. No matter the circumstance, no matter how dire, hope can motivate. Think about this as we walk ever closer to Jesus’ cross. Think about its promise of victory even in the face of utter defeat. Think about what the hope of life continuing means for the life we’re in. We’re not sad-you-see. We’re resurrection people!
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