Stories That Stick

Link to audio for Easter, Year A, 2023

Editor’s Note:

I posted the audio yesterday as well, but here is a transcript if you’d like to read instead of listen.

I know you guys generally don’t know or care about the Revised Common Lectionary OR the Book of Common Prayer, but the people who steal my sermons DO and I let them because I don’t care. I want my words heard all over the world whether I get credit for my ideas or not. If I hit a home run, it’s always because I’ve stood on the shoulders of giants- Jesus, most notably. Use all my stuff and forget about the brand on the ball. Also, I post late in the day so you can’t use it this year. The Bible is put together by the Church universal so that you go through the whole thing in a cycle, complete every three years.

Here is the gospel on which I am basing this entry/sermon. It’s one of my two big holidays, just roll with it.

John 20:1-18

Every sermon I preach, when I am preparing I realize that Jesus and I are the same person (within reason). He was Jewish, I am Christian. He chased tax collectors from the temple with a whip, and I feel that way about anyone who excludes anyone. I’m also older than Jesus now, so I know that had he lived longer, we would have been more alike. We are both judgmental dickheads, and not because we’re not correct. We just get angrier than everyone else… ok, maybe not everyone. Jesus is the kind of empath that I feel he popped off and regretted a lot, another hallmark of people who know you’re not doing life right, because that’s what our personality does. We don’t want to rag on you. We want to build you up. We want you to join us in our utopia, and you will get there if you listen to us. But if you’re going after people with a whip to do it, I’m guessing there had to be a game of “Let’s Be an Asshole” somewhere.

I do what he does with language. My words are often harsh because I don’t feel heard, and neither did he among his family and friends. Nothing good could come out of Nazareth because they couldn’t see him for what he was and is…. an INFJ with anger management issues. Tell me that’s not me sitting on a Ritz, because nothing good has come out of DC, either.

If you’re lost right now in terms of the phrase “nothing good can come out of Nazareth,” it’s emotional shorthand for strangers listening to you easier than your own family and friends when you have big ideas that seem crazy. According to a Chiat/Day commercial, the only people that are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the only ones who do.

Jesus was insane. Just batshit.

He thought he could take on everyone who would listen, and like me, if you miss the message, he will flat school you. To me, he is also very funny. Anyone who can make a fig tree die just by yelling at it is familiar with my work………………… #shatnerellipsis

For me, the message has always been his. Widen the net. It’s the biggest message there is. For God’s sakes (literally), the symbol that best represents him IS A FISH. Here’s why. Wearing a crucifix is focusing on his death and not his life. It’s skipping over everything he was trying to accomplish and focusing on everything he didn’t. Do you think it really mattered to Jesus that he was sent to die? He ALREADY KNEW it would happen. So he made the best of it. Out, loud, and proud in terms of knowing what he was here to do….. “I’m here to help the shit out of you. Roll with it or don’t. I don’t have time to want people who don’t want me.”

Tell me THAT’s not me sitting on a Ritz.

If you think that I am trying to say that I am also literally the child of God, remember that I have always said that I do not identify with his divinity. I empathize with his humanity. My heart is continually broken that he didn’t get to live out his entire life naturally, speaking in plain language so that people could understand (Aramaic rather than Hebrew). He was an Idealist painted as someone trying to overthrow the government when he just wanted to feed people.

Besides, God might not be my father, but I was born to upper management. My street creds are solid without any letters. I don’t need them because I’ve been steeped in these stories since I was born, and when I’m preaching, I do every bit as much research as can be done from one Sunday to the next…. the interminable march of Sundays back through the ages and forwards towards our own deaths and resurrections. It’s just that we don’t take resurrection literally, and it’s the one thing we should. If you take nothing else away from the Easter story, it’s this one. Your story matters. You are every bit as capable of telling it as Jesus was. I got a line from an Atheist that I’ll use today, on the most holy of days, because I find absolute truth anywhere I can get it.

At the time, there were lots of people claiming to be the Messiah. His is the story that stuck.

Holy God. “His is the story that stuck.” I went dumb and mute (dumb being a double entendre, for the record).

I was talking about how the Bible is an ancient blog at best, the story of how Christianity was born according to the people who lived it. We can argue all day over whether it’s real, or we could stick to the story that stuck.

Today’s gospel is the story of Mary Magdalene running to tell Simon Peter that Jesus is gone.

Skipping over the OUTRIGHT AND TOTAL MISOGYNY of this passage to focus on other things (this might be a clue we’ll use again later), both Mary and Simon Peter walked into a tomb and saw that their best friend’s body had been stolen. Let’s leave Jesus’ resurrection out of this. Imagine the horror of losing your friend/possible husband to death and not being able to bury him. Imagine the sheer panic of finding out that the grave of their loved one had been robbed, the logical conclusion. Some of the disciples went home. They didn’t stick around long enough (no guilt, they couldn’t have known) for the rest of the story and had to endure that shock. In this moment, the resurrection doesn’t even matter. I wonder how long they sat there and kicked themselves over Jesus saying that they had to walk with the light while they had it. The Disciples are often portrayed as dumb guys, but here’s what I’ve learned in my 45 years. It’s not that anyone is stupid. It’s that the message doesn’t mean anything until you’re ready to hear it.

They did not hear “you have to walk with me, because my life isn’t going to be very long.” At this point, I start wondering what messages I’ve missed in the middle of the mess.

Even The Book of Acts reads like “holy shit, what do we do now? I know there were instructions.”

Their best friend has just died. In that moment, I’m surprised they were capable of any complete thought….. and then his body was stolen.

It’s a miracle that Jesus even ended up in a tomb in the first place. He was poor and the Romans wouldn’t have cared about burying any of the people they crucified. The only reason that Jesus was buried is that he had a very powerful friend that the government needed, so he could ask for something large and actually receive it.

Here’s the moment that judgmental dickhead became divine.

He told you that. He told you that you could ask for something large and be powerful enough to actually receive it. Grace and mercy are free of charge. So is forgiveness. You can let go of anything that is keeping your body in a tomb, graduating into the promise of new hope.

Let yours be the story that sticks.


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