Sunday, April 16, 2017

Doubt and Surprise

This Sunday millions of Christians will raise their voices to share in the ancient Easter acclamation, “Christ is risen! But what if you don’t believe in resurrection, or at least aren’t sure? Perhaps you’ve been attending church for years but feel a little left out, even guilty, on Easter morning as you wonder whether Christ was really raised from the dead. Or maybe you don’t often go to church but are willing to concede doing something “spiritual” as you attend Easter service with your in-laws. Or perhaps you flat out think resurrection is fantasy, something that just couldn’t happen.

If any of these conditions describes you, it turns out you’re in good company, as this is the attitude of most folks on that first Easter morning. Notice, when the heavenly messengers first announced the news of Jesus’ resurrection, no one said, “Praise God” or “Hallelujah,” let alone, “I knew it — just like he said!” That’s right — not a single one of Jesus’ disciples at first believed the report of his resurrection. In all four-gospels, it appears that the natural response to word of the resurrection is doubt, fear, and bewilderment.

How come? For practical reasons the evangelists recognized that the resurrection is, quite literally, incredible — that is, not believable.  Resurrection isn’t simply a claim that Jesus’ body was resuscitated; it’s the claim that God entered human history and created a new reality all together. Which, quite frankly, can be frightening. After all, if the dead don’t stay dead, what can you count on?  

Second, notice that faith and doubt are closer together than we might imagine. Doubt, questions, even downright skepticism — these aren’t the opposite of faith, but an essential ingredient. Faith, after all, isn’t knowledge; rather, faith is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews: 11:1).

So let me share a true story to help you put aside any doubt about Easter. Her name is Maggie, a neighbor and cancer survivor. She had to mortgage her home to pay her hospital bills. At 6.5% interest on that loan, half her social security goes to pay off her debt. Over a year ago, I took her to her bank in the hope of refinancing her loan at a lower rate. Initially, the loan officer said no problem. But three months later, Maggie shared that she was denied because she had no fire insurance and she had no extra funds to pay any additional premiums.

Ten days ago on a Wednesday, I called the Refinance Dept of her bank and explained her dilemma. After four hours on the phone, she put her thumbs up in the air with a big grin. She gives me the phone and Shane, the bank customer service rep, said: “Father, we can do this!” That was an Easter moment.

The bank promised that it would refinance her loan from 6.5% to
4 % and that would reduce her debt by $100 per month. This bank listened, lowered it rates and help an impoverished senior maintain some dignity. Now that’s a resurrection moment. There is a God who cares about her people.

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends that Easter was a day with church family and friends to celebrate something incredibly true. Christ is Risen, Indeed!