Saturday, April 07, 2018

Review of "What Are We Doing Here?" by Marilynne Robinson

What Are We Doing Here?What Are We Doing Here? by Marilynne Robinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I want to give this book 5 stars--it is well worth reading, full stop... but it is mainly a series of lectures, and as such it becomes repetitive (I read most of the book in 2 sittings on an airplane).
What follows are the major themes that are continually touched on an weaved together is beautiful ways.
-We choose not to know much about Puritans, who shaped our world in incredibly important ways that we ought to investigate.
-We ignore the connections between the American Revolution and the reign of Oliver Cromwell at our peril (in fact O.C. may explain the red state blue state divide).
-The gaps in knowledge in modern America is like the gap between matter and dark matter.
-Conservative Christianity violates many of the tenets of Christianity.
-Aesthetic is a valuable ethical norm.
-When science is reductionist it debases humanity, especially when popular science is an excuse for obliterating the idea of conscience.

View all my reviews

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Easter Sermon

          In John’s Gospel Mary arrives alone, she alone is the first to see the good news, first to see the stone slid away, first too to tell of this marvelous thing…
          But, I don’t think she saw the marvel yet, instead it was just one more thing. One more sign of death and defeat.
          The pious and the powerful killed her Lord and Friend and now they pushed for one more indignity—a desecrated tomb…
          So she goes and tells Peter, and he and the other disciple run off and leave her, a foot race more meaningful—it seems--than comforting a sister, comforting Mary…
          Ouch… just another twist of the knife, another reminder that she’s without him… 
without him the community doesn’t care for each other… without him… without him…
          She follows after, and arrives in time for the two disciples to head back home… and there she is, YET AGAIN!, alone outside an abandoned grave…. 
It’s enough to make you cry... He’s been taken, 
he’s been taken, 
he’s been taken… 
“Why are you weeping?” the angels ask
          “He’s been taken.”
“Why are you weeping?” Jesus asks.
          “He’s been taken.”
          But then, her name… 
the voice… 
the man was not the gardener
—that man was no man, that was her Teacher, that man was Jesus!
          And with that, she returns yet again to her fellow disciples, she becomes the Apostle to the Apostles, the first herald of the resurrection, her lips the first lips to launch the Gospel—the first messenger of Easter!

          Then there is the mysterious beloved disciple
—who is often identified with Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, who Jesus brought back to life
—this Beloved Disciple, is already filled with hope, perhaps because he’s already seen the other side and knows that Jesus is Lord of Life, and Death shall not hold sway over him…
          Yes, this hope is the engine that vaults him passed Peter, arriving first.
          This hope in new life through Jesus is the stuff that makes him see and believe
—he is able to look at an empty tomb and folded napkin and trust that they are signs of resurrection.
          This hope allows him to return home, satisfied.

          As upheld by hope as the beloved disciple was, Peter was weighed down with guilt
--he had denied Jesus three times, and that experience holds him down just as Lazarus’ experience of leaving the tomb lifted him up.
          Peter is 2nd in this race with the Beloved Disciple to the Tomb. He’s the first to look in and see, but his guilt keeps his eyes from seeing and believing
—keeps him from taking the empty tomb to mean resurrection.
          His eyes are still closed, he leaves heavier than he came
—heavier until that last moment, when Mary proclaims to him this thing that he saw without seeing—
“I have seen the Lord.”

          Three different experiences of the risen Christ. 
-Mary keeping on keeping on, checking on the body, doing the work that must be done despite the cloud of sorrow that had swallowed her up
—the fog of grief, 
the tears of weeping
—from this solid sorrow… 
Joy, sweet and strong, springs into her life.
-Peter, racked with guilt, unable to see the most momentous occasion in human history
—but then when it is spoken to him by Mary, and even more so when Jesus speaks to him a few weeks later
forgiveness is assure, this guilt is taken away.
-The Beloved Disciple, living in hopeful anticipation, that all dear Jesus had said will come to pass, finds that trust he had given to Jesus confirmed, strengthened by simple signs there.
          Three ways the resurrection, Easter, touched them, made them whole, ushered them into the ages of ages, even life eternal.
          Hopefully their testimonies from so long ago can still help us today… 
help us read our own story, 
tell our own story, 
in such a way that we see how the life given to us by Jesus, the resurrected life we continue to share with him, shapes our story.

-         Like the Beloved Disciple, we can look at our life and ask, “What are my deepest hopes?”
-         Like Peter, we can look at our story and ask, “What holds me down with guilt?”
-         Like Mary, we can be honest, and respond to the question, “What are the sorrows in my life?”
          We can also ask,
“How am I keeping on keeping on?”
“How have I found Gospel in that?”
“Who needs to hear the Gospel?”
“How can I announce ‘I have seen the Lord!’?”

          And like these earliest of Christians, Jesus is here for us with new life, with forgiveness, joy, affirmation of your faith
—your story is and can be… undergirded, soaked, held fast, interweaved… with new life.
          Each one of you here today, everyone within the sound of my voice
—you each have a story of resurrection to tell, to experience, to anticipate, to hope for, to find your footing upon, to put your trust in.

          Kenneth and Keith—you will be more fully joined to that story today through your baptism—entering into Christ’s death and resurrection through the waters of baptism.
Your life will be forever different
—set on a pathway that promise life eternal,
 a path of discipleship
—following after Jesus Christ.
          A pathway containing low points of sorrow and guilt, yes, 
but also paved in hope, joy, and forgiveness… maybe even that you might speak as Mary spoke, “I have seen the Lord.”

         And that’s what I pray for all of us today
-Sorrow turned to Joy
-Guilt giving way to forgiveness
-Hope attained.

Alleluia. Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia.