Where is God?
March 27, Easter Day
Draft text of the homily, please forgive all grammatical errors, and do not cite without permission.
“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here.” He is not here.
We go looking for God in all kinds of places. And we often wonder why God isn’t there. Why God is not where we expect. Why God is not where we hope. Why God just seems to be gone.
And maybe part of it is that we get so used to looking for God in a particular place, that we become blind to seeing God anywhere else.
The late Jesuit mystic, Anthony DeMello tells a parable about a “woman who was religious and devout and filled with love for God. Each morning she would go to church. And on her way children would call out to her, beggars would accost her, but so immersed was she in her devotions that she did not even see them. Now one day she walked down the street in her customary manner and arrived at the church just in time for service. She pushed the door, but it would not open. She pushed it again harder, and found the door was locked. Distressed at the thought that she would miss service for the first time in years and not knowing what to do, she looked up. And there, right before her face, she found a note pinned to the door. It said, “I’m out there!”
Do we get so used to expecting God to be in one particular place that we miss God everywhere else?
On the other hand, it also happens that we sometimes go looking for God and all we can find is hurt, and anger, and despair.
Whenever tragedy strikes we hear people wonder… “Where was God?” Where was God when the bombs went off, when the super storm hit, when the water was poisoned. Where was God in a thousand places in our world where the power of death, and abuse, and corruption— the power that controls our Good Friday world—where was God when that power broke in and grabbed us with its cold, dark hand…shattered our lives…exposed us for what we truly are…frail…and vulnerable…perplexed and terrified? Where was God then? Where is God now? “He is not here,” is not always a helpful message at those times.
Maybe you’ve gone looking for God and you haven’t been able to find God…all you sense is God’s absence…and at some point, do you just stop looking? And if you just stop looking, don’t all of the stories about the mighty works of God that we tell and retell this week…the creation…the liberation from slavery…the breathing life into dry bones…the empty tomb…Don’t they all become just an idle tale, told by unreliable witnesses?
I think that’s happened to a lot of people in the world today. A lot of people consider these idle tales, and us unreliable witnesses.
Where are you looking for God today? Maybe here? Maybe somewhere else? Maybe you’ve stopped looking all together. Or maybe you’ve stopped seeing? Or maybe some combination of both.
We need fresh vision. We need a different way of looking and seeing. And that’s what Easter is.
Easter is not a rose-colored lens for ignoring the troubles of the world. Easter is a way of seeing reality in its fullness. We look around and we see a world that is torn apart by hatred, and suspicion, and greed and violence…Just as those women and men—the disciples—saw their world torn apart by very similar forces…And just like them: We actually can’t see reality in all of its fullness. We always see reality through our own lenses…through our own filters, our fears…our anxieties…our uncertainty…and our certainty.
The women who go to the tomb this morning are sure there is going to be a body there. Just as we might be sure that we can or can’t find God in certain places. The women are certain, and they’re afraid, and they can’t see. And then something happens…they remember…They remember his words…
Do you remember, them?
“be not afraid…”
“peace I give to you, my own peace I leave with you…”
“blessed are you who mourn…”
“blessed you who hunger and thirst for food and water and for justice…”
“I came that all might have life, and have it abundantly.”
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
They remember his words and their vision shifts. They see the world whole.
The disciples receive this story through the lens of fear…don’t do anything because they’re afraid that the Powers That Be are coming for them next. Peter eventually remembers too…and with that remembering a whole new world comes into view…becomes real for him…and he is amazed.
We’re all trying to make sense of a world that looks like an endless Good Friday, and we want to do what we can to protect our fragile, finite selves. And maybe we’ve given up looking for God in certain places…or given up looking altogether. Just like the disciples we see the world through our own lenses. But remember…
Easter doesn’t do away with the reality of Good Friday. Easter doesn’t diminish the tragedy, and grief, and shock of violence that our world continues to be awash in. What Easter does is enable us to see and to help us remember that the answer to the question: “where is God in the midst of all of this?” is that God is right in the midst of all it…suffering along with it…but also hallowing it…transforming it…lovingly resurrecting it into larger life.
Easter is more than something that happened once a long, long time ago. Easter is something that happens to us. Is happening to us…Here. And now. This morning and every morning. If we allow it. If we have eyes to see.
If we remember that we are created by God, and loved by God and that God is still acting and active in the world even though we many not be able to see it, and that God wants us to be a part of this life-giving movement, that when all is said and done…love wins.
That’s what Easter is about…that’s what our work and our worship here, week by week is all about, and it’s what following Jesus into the world to be the body of Christ is all about. Learning, relearning how to see. Seeing and remembering that we need not be afraid. Relearning and remembering that we are the hands of Christ working in the world, that we are the heart of Christ loving, the voice of Christ proclaiming in the world…proclaiming good news to the poor, release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind…That’s what Easter is about and that we’re about.
He is not here. He is risen. Is a way of saying, “Remember. God is in the world. See, God has been in the world all along. God has been with us all along. Loving and suffering and holding and helping and saying continually a loud Easter “yes” to all of the Good Friday “nos” the world keeps shouting.
Yes to life.
Yes to hope.
Yes to love.
Remember his words. Have a blessed Easter, and be an Easter people. Amen.