Pastor Tom's Easter message: "Yeah, Whom Are You Looking For?"
Posted by Church on the Hill Congregational/UCC on Thursday, April 25, 2019
A boy scout says to his scout leader, “Sir, is this snake poisonous?” The scout leader says, “No, that snake’s not poisonous.” So, the boy picks up the snake, which bites him, and the boy starts to spasm and foam at the mouth as the other kids look on in horror. The scout leader says, “But that snake is venomous. Poison is ingested or absorbed, while venom is injected. Let’s get it right next time, boys.”
Knock Knock. Who’s there? To. To who? It’s to whom.
When I was in college, I knew I wanted to go somewhere else to study. Now you may think it was because I was stuck in Iowa at the time, at the University of Iowa, but that’s not true. Some of my best friends are Iowans. But it’s also true that I didn’t mind the idea of going to Japan to learn business. This was back in the 80’s and successful business and Japan were synonymous. I decided I wasn’t going to go into business, so Japan was out. Then I thought I would go to Russia and study Russian history and culture and become a Sovietologist. But then I got mono—yes, you can get it from something other than kissing, though I’m not saying I wasn’t kissing either. Anyway, I lost too much of that semester and Russian is too hard to learn when you’re already behind, so Moscow was out. I had had two years of Spanish in high school, so guess what. To Spain I went.
I was looking to learn Spanish, Spain’s history, culture, etc. I lived in Alicante, Spain and went to La Universidad de Alicante, Espana. Now if you’re a college student and you’re in another country and you’re getting graded and it goes on your GPA, you go to class, right? Yes, that’s what all my fellow American students did. But me, not as much. Oh, sure I went to class but not every class and not every day. I would miss on average a class a day, and one whole day a week. Why? Because I could go to school back in the U.S. I was in beautiful Alicante, Spain, on the Mediterranean, with a good-sized city waiting for me. I was in Spain, baby.
I went to restaurants, read newspapers, watched their TV, listened to customers and staff talk. Made friends with people around where I lived. Went to the beach because, well, that’s obvious. There’s no beach in Iowa City, Iowa, especially during the winter and spring.
I’m not a rebel but sometimes, in my best moments, I’m not overly bogged down with reservations about doing something a different way. We
shouldn’t always carry the feeling that we’re supposed to follow what everyone else is doing. We need to know what we’re looking for.
And you know what? When the Spanish language final exam came and we had to meet with the professor to answer questions he asked in the best Spanish we knew, I didn’t do what the American students ahead of me did. He would ask and they would answer; he would ask another question and they would answer. When it was my turn, I just started talking. The professor and I had a conversation. You don’t go to Spain to sit in every single classroom. You’ve got to look for more because that’s how you get more.
Yeah, so, what are you looking for? Whom are you looking for? If you aren’t looking for more, then you’re going to get less. The Lord doesn’t want to pass you by but if you’re not interested, then God will move on until you’re ready.
Too many people aren’t looking. They’re looking for nobody because they don’t need. Don’t need anything more than what they have or whom they’ve become. We settle way too easily. Don’t settle. We’re not ready to quit. Stop talking yourself into accepting only what has been. You need to look for more.
It’s like being thirsty. How many drink in a day the amount of water they say is recommended? We can go our whole lives and be thirsty and not really know it. Sure, you may drink when you finally get really thirsty but by that time how long has your body’s needs been denied or delayed. If someone doesn’t know or believe they’re missing something, then they’re not going to look for what they’re not missing.
If we’re so locked down that we can’t look up and say, “Lord, I could use some help here,” or “Lord, I want something more. This isn’t going to be it,” then we aren’t taking a good look in the mirror. We should be looking for more and for the Lord. Nobody is all they can be. We’re not finished projects. We’re under construction.
The gospel tells us that Mary Magdalene went to the tomb before anyone else, before the sun came up. As early as she could, she went looking. She may have been in love with Jesus. There’s nothing wrong with that. Jesus may have had special feelings for her. Some think perhaps they were even married. Nobody knows. None of it would be a scandal, no matter what some may think.
You know why? Because love can never be wrong. No scripture should be understood to deny love between two people, whoever they are. Whatever
saves us, comes from God. Whoever brings love into our lives, is someone who comes from God. Love is a divine gift that can’t be limited or rejected by humans for others. We aren’t its authors. We’re merely its partakers, hopeful to find and feel more love in our lives than lose from our lives. This is one of the reasons why Church on the Hill became Open and Affirming this year. We affirm the life and love of LGBT people.
When Mary gets to the tomb, she can’t believe what’s happened. It’s empty. She runs back and then returns with two disciples. When they leave, she remains. She has nowhere else to be then. Besides, she wants to know what happened. So, she’s looking for whomever it was who took the body. Even the appearance of two angels marking the empty space in the tomb doesn’t cause her to see differently.
There was nothing in Mary’s mind, no place in her imagination, that could have prepared her for the meeting about to take place. Her eye catches sight of a stranger and she turns to face him. Maybe he’s the thief or someone who can tell her what she needs to know. The stranger not only asks why she’s crying but whom she’s looking for. But she doesn’t get it.
But listen: At least she’s looking. At least she stayed to look. Not perfectly but still something. And then she gets to see. Mary gets to find the risen Christ, in a way nobody else ever did. But it only came because she looked.
And that’s just it. We don’t have to have it all figured out when it comes to finding our way to Christ. God is the master of surprises. What comes from looking won’t be known before you get what you’ve found. The Lord is the giver of gifts you didn’t know were coming. But you gotta look. If you’re going to win the lottery, you gotta buy the ticket.
Step out of the ordinary. Look for the extraordinary. Christ comes to us when we decide we want to find the resurrection more than we want to keep our reservation. Don’t always follow what others are doing. What you need isn’t what they’re looking for. Mary’s heart was big enough to look for the Lord even when nobody else would, so her heart was big enough to find the risen Lord in a way nobody else did.
Get a Mary sized-heart. Don’t settle. Look for more because the Lord always has more. God is a giver of surprises and gifts you didn’t see coming but you can’t live forever without.
Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed.
Can the church say Amen?