Thursday, April 26, 2012

Open House on May 20

Sunday, May 20: Sacred Sites | Old First Open House
1 pm - 5 pm
A statewide event sponsored by the New York Landmarks Conservancy.
Sunday May 20 is a chance for our neighbors, city and state, to get to know Old First, tour our lovely sanctuary, hear our spectacular organ, and learn why Old First, it's people and its building are special to everyone in the greater community.
Schedule of Events:
1:00 -- Michael Devonshire, Director of Conservation, Jan Hird Pokorny Associates, Inc. will speak about “The Importance of Historic Preservation”.

1:30 - 2:30 -- Music by Aleeza Meir, Organist, Old First Reformed Church, performed on our sanctuary's 1891 Roosevelt pipe organ.

Ongoing 1:00 - 5:00 -- Guided and Self-Guided Tours of the Sanctuary.

On Display:
• The History of Old First since 1654
• Programs and Organizations Old First supports in the Community
• Programs within the Church

For Sale: Decorative Plates with historic engraving of Old First, and
Windows: Old First Reformed Church, a full color book of our sanctuary stained glass

Friday, April 20, 2012

April 22, Easter 3, "Why Do Doubts Arise Within Your Hearts?"

Acts 3:12-19, Psalm 4, 1 John 3:1-7, Luke 24:36-48

Today is Easter Sunday number three. The Easter season is eight Sundays long, from Easter to Pentecost, seven weeks, forty-nine days plus one. The season is divided into forty days and ten days by Ascension Day, which will be on May 17.  During those first forty days, on the six Sundays of those forty days, the Lord Jesus kept showing up to be with his disciples.

The record states that his appearances were real, and in the flesh, but also contradictory. On the one hand he would suddenly appear and disappear, and make his way through solid walls and closed doors, as if the normal laws of nature didn’t apply to him, which suggests he was, what, maybe a disembodied spirit. On the other hand he could eat a piece of fish, and apparently digest it, which suggests he was a physical creature of familiar flesh and blood. It’s confusing. How shall we make sense of it? It’s like Jesus could receive at will the benefits of  the laws of nature (the broiled fish!) without being bound to the laws of nature (the walls!).

The Biblical scholar N T Wright describes it as Jesus apparently existing in two dimensions simultaneously. At his resurrection he began to exist in another dimension, the future world, the future of this world, the life of the world to come, in which there will be no sin and no corruption, where he is now and to which he calls us. But for those first forty days he also continued to exist in this dimension of the world, within the lines of time and space, of days and weeks, of geographic locality, of  human history, under the laws of gravity and of the biology of digestion. There was an overlap of forty days in which he existed in two dimensions of the world at once.

It’s hard to explain — it’s impossible to explain, but it’s like the laws of the future world take precedence over the laws of this familiar world, so that he was freely able to be in our familiar world and accept its laws at will, or not. It’s like it was up to him. What this also suggests is that the Kingdom of God embraces and engages the world of our familiarity but the laws of the Kingdom of God take precedence.

The disciples can’t make sense of this. (You might be thinking I can’t either.) They can’t make sense of all this new and conflicting and even contradictory information. And that’s why they have doubts, that’s why their doubts arise within them. Of course they doubt the whole possibility of his resurrection. It’s not just modern scientific people who doubt his resurrection. They doubted it back then. They knew the laws of nature. They knew that dead bodies don’t come alive again, not after they have leaked out their blood, and after the putrefaction which gets irreversible in under an hour. They did not have our modern methods of refrigeration, nor of socially keeping their dead bodies out of sight, so they knew it better than we do, that dead bodies don’t come back alive again. The disciples are reported in all four gospels as having first greeted the news of his resurrection with unbelief. The bodily resurrection is both the linchpin of the Christian faith and also the hardest thing to believe. Of course their doubts arose within them.

Doubts can arise from lack of evidence, when there is not enough to believe. But I think more frequently our doubts arise from too much evidence—from too much evidence to synthesize. It’s like when you get to know someone and you know his character and then he says something or does something which bothers you and makes you doubt his character. Which evidence shall you believe? Both sets of evidence may be true. You have to decide which set of evidence controls the other set.

The Lord Jesus famously says “the meek shall inherit the earth.” You want to believe it is true, which is partly why you are here today. You claim him as your Lord, and you want to believe what he says. But he’s contradicted by so much evidence in our familiar world. The strong inherit the earth, the assertive inherit the earth. That the Lord Jesus is wrong (or at least irrelevant) is assumed by the foreign policies of all the nations in the world. For evidence take the expansion of Israeli settlements on Palestinian private property in the occupied West Bank, or the expansion of American frontier settlements on the lands guaranteed by Congress to Native Americans.

If America ever was a Christian country, then it was in our interest to read what Jesus said about “inheriting the earth” as a metaphor for going off to heaven when we die. But if he meant it the way he said it, as the earth, the land, the real and physical earth, which is what is implied by the physicality of his bodily resurrection, then it both convicts us in our history and it is contradicted by history’s evidence. You have cause to doubt what Jesus said. And so you face this choice: whether to give precedence to the laws of the Kingdom of God over the apparent iron laws of economics and politics and history, and whether the skimpy evidence of Jesus’ resurrection controls the massive evidence of greed and sin and death.

Look at your own life. You have contradictory evidence in your own life. You know you are a Christian. In many ways your life is so good and loving and so in tune with God. But you keep making those same mistakes, and hurting people in that same old way. As you get older you gain some victories over some old sins but you seem to have learned new sins! Your attempt to synthesize what you can believe about yourself is what gives rise to your doubts. You finally cannot synthesize the evidence; you have to prioritize it: which laws take precedence, which beliefs control the others. This is how to understand what our Epistle says, that “All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.”

What it means to “hope in him” is to put your trust in the little evidence he offers, to take on the faith the signals of the gospel. That allows you to relocate the doubts which rise in you. You don’t stop doubting; you settle your doubts. You take your doubts and move them over and settle them down on top of the compulsion of familiar evidence. It’s not that you have to deny the familiar evidence, or doubt the lessons of human history, or doubt the laws of nature, lest you keep injuring your nose by trying to walk through closed doors; but you weigh the evidence and learn to doubt its certainty. You can doubt the confidence of conventional wisdom, as far as this present world goes, you can doubt the pretensions of its expertise and the permanence of its experience. You still embrace and engage the world, but you live according to the laws of the life of the world to come.

Let me finish with a story which offers a little bit of evidence of the power of the resurrection. It’s not as dramatic as Simon Peter raising the lame man up on his legs. But it is close to a miracle. You know that part of my ministry is pastoring the homeless men on Seventh Avenue. All the evidence admits that any gains these men may make are minimal. Maybe I can get them rooms of their own, which is a very good thing, but still you see them on the street, panhandling.

Six years ago a homeless guy named Gary Lee was sleeping on our stoop. I was able to get him a room. We tried to get him a job, but there was no work for him. He tried to make some money shining shoes on Flatbush Avenue by the Q train, but the cops kicked him off for having no permit. We got him into a program, and I heard he was getting some training. I hadn’t seen him for a year or two.

On Maundy Thursday I was walking up Seventh Avenue and I heard a car pull up and I heard my name, “Rev. Meeter, Rev. Meeter.” I thought “Who is this?” in my usual crabby way. I went over to the car and looked inside. “Garry Lee!”  Driving a car, and dressed in a uniform. “Gary Lee, whose car is this?” He grinned at me, “It’s my car, Rev. Meeter. And I’m working at an agency in Red Hook, I got my permit to drive their van.” I was ecstatic. “Gary Lee, Gary Lee!” He said, “I want to thank you, Rev. Meeter. You helped me out, you stood by me, you stayed with me.” Right there in the Avenue I leaned into his window and I prayed with him.

The power of the resurrection. A little skimpy contradiction of the familiar evidence. I accepted his thanks but it wasn’t really me. I just held him by the hand. He’s a believer. It was the power of the name of Jesus, coming through me, to engage his doubt about himself, and settle it down on top of the all evidence on homeless men like him, and free up his belief in the new world for himself, which his Lord Jesus was calling him to. I invite you to choose for that as well, to settle your doubt upon your certainties, and to free up faith to rise within you to belief. Christ is risen. He is risen indeed.

Copyright © 2012, by Daniel James Meeter, all rights reserved.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Guest Sermon for April 15, Easter 2, by Arin Fisher, our seminary intern.

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

Today I’ll be working with the gospel text. It’s about fear, anxiety, doubt, and the ultimate call to faith, all of which seem to be universal themes for the experiences of many today. Fear about the economy. Anxiety about just about everything. Doubt, at least for me, is reflexively activated, and usually when I have too much time on my hands. And the call to faith, which we feel sometimes at odds times and in odd places, reinforces this idea of a Christian lifestyle. I’m sure we’ve all heard this doubting-Thomas story before. It’s one of those go-to Christian stories, and because it’s one of those go-to Christian stories, it’s hard to hear it as news. But the ultimate question the text has been asking me is whether I can confidently and honestly do as Thomas does when he says to Jesus, “My Lord and my God.”

My therapist’s favorite story to psychoanalyze begins in high school. My parents were rather secular, and there aren’t terribly many open and affirming congregations like Old First in northern Michigan. A friend brought me to her youth group, and I chose that church as my church. My pastor recommended that I see a “Christian” therapist for reparative therapy. Reparative therapy, for those of you who haven’t heard of it, is a therapy that’s designed to make gay people straight. It’s been denounced as ineffective and mentally and sexually harmful by most national psychiatric and social welfare organizations, but certain churches and family organizations swear by it, citing a single study published in 2001 as evidence that it works. It’s what Marcus Bachmann got in trouble for when Michelle was still running for the Republican nomination. My parents thought I was seeing a therapist to come to terms with my gayness and to address a friend’s suicide, whereas, in reality, my therapist was convincing me that I was unloved by God because I was not a “man of God.” My therapist was not only spiritually creepy, but often a little handsy. I’ll spare you the details, but I’m sad to say I thought his methods were merely unorthodox, so I kept seeing him. As it turns out, it’s not unusual for reparative therapists to be “ex-gays” themselves, self-repressing for years and years and then using their positions of pseudo-authority as opportunities for release. Following the meetings with my therapist, I would drive my minivan home and try to coerce God into making me straight. But to no avail.

Instead, as I tormented myself theologically, God told me to buck up and chill out. Life didn’t need to be as hard as I had been making it. But I tested God until well into college, and I haven’t learned yet how to buck up and chill out. I find it fascinating that I haven’t left the church completely. Honestly, though, I have disdain for the gays who have left. I feel like they’re giving up too easily. They, of course, could say that my nostalgia for the church is, in the same way, giving up too easily.

It’s not unusual to pass through a spiritual phase in which you bargain with God or pray for absurd things like parking spaces or for—you know—a brand new sexuality. Or to hold your faith hostage pending some resolution to a problem or situation. There’s something very On-the-Road and healthy about spiritual phases, or journeys. My favorite theologian and mentor James Alison once illustrated for me his conception of spiritual identities, but I think it works well for anything in which transition, growth, and evolution change us. At the beginning, you’re on the bank of a lake, just like everyone else. You look out at the water, and you see a swim platform right where the clear, predictable, sandy shallows start to become darker, colder, deeper, and full of seaweed. You swim to the platform, but it was harder than you thought it would be. So you rest there, drying off in the sun, until you’re ready to swim beyond it. And then you swim beyond it.

We all have stories in which we’ve tested God. It’s biblical, after all. Thomas does it. Jacob actually wrestles with God, or an angel, or whatever. Job does. Jonah does. It’s more human than not to wrestle with God. I’d be interested to hear from you about what you did—or maybe still do—to test God. But it’s a spirituality I’m happy to have abandoned for now. What this kind of spirituality exposes, I think, is more our self-doubt than our God-doubt. I’m happy to have realized that, in fact, God doesn’t work that way. How does God work? I don’t know, but not that way. We shouldn’t dull or smother our doubt with superstitious spiritualities. There are better spiritualities. Having faith is hard enough before adding to it exponentially-increasing disappointments from ever-failing God-tests. And we shouldn’t flatter ourselves into thinking our God-tests are justified or somehow especially conclusive. Because they’re not. And they never will be.

The text says that the disciples meet in the house and lock the doors “for fear of the Jews.” First of all, no, not “the Jews.” The “Jews” includes diverse sects and traditions, some of which couldn’t care less about the disciples. I’m always inclined to distrust the author of John, the evangelist. I don’t think they’re scared of the Jews. No, they’re scared of Christ’s resurrection. They’re not scared of “resurrection” itself because in chapter eleven they had seen Lazarus raised from the dead. They understand that resurrection lies well within God’s capacity. They’re afraid of Christ’s resurrection. It would mean that he had actually predicted the time of his resurrection, and that he really had been the Messiah all along. It would prove that something was actually at stake in the crucifixion. That Jesus wasn’t as crazy as they all had secretly thought. And it would mean they had just royally screwed up. Jesus had recruited them, asked them to keep watch at Gethsemane, but then they fell asleep. And now Jesus has come again to recommission them.

But Thomas, also called the Twin, wasn’t at the house when Jesus appeared the first time, and he doesn’t believe the stories the other disciples tell him. The others insist that Jesus was there! Just where Thomas is standing! They recount his commissions: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you,” and “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” Thomas has to admit that that indeed does sound like Jesus, but he scoffs. Not because he doesn’t believe his friends, because on some level he does believe his friends. He just doesn’t want to believe his friends. Unlike Lazarus, Jesus was executed, shamefully murdered as a criminal and as the sacrifice of a violent, religiously-enthusiastic contagion. Jesus had been utterly passive. Thomas felt guilty, and he knew that he and his friends were complicit in the contagion when they failed even to attempt to neutralize it, and Thomas fears that God actually could be resurrected from such an execution. As Paul says, the cross is a scandal. But how could someone shamed by the crucifixion be a Messiah worthy of resurrection? How could one so powerless, so passively violated by our violence, be God? Thomas says he’ll believe when he sees the wounds for himself.

In the end, this story isn’t about Thomas at all. It’s about Christ. Christ knows what Thomas needs to believe. Thomas doesn’t need to see Christ’s wounds to believe Christ’s resurrection, but to believe Christ is the Messiah. Seeing his hands and side prove that Christ was a man and a God. My trouble is whether what was good enough for Thomas and the other disciples is good enough for us today. Thomas was Bronze Age. Thomas was illiterate and a teenager, but he wasn’t thick or stupid. Maybe just a little unsophisticated. Thomas was, in fact, the resident skeptic of the twelve.

I preached a sermon on Thursday morning for my preaching class final, and one of my best friends praised it for completely resisting the temptation of cynicism. It’s hard for me, a natural-born skeptic, to squelch my misgivings, theological or otherwise. But in the text, Christ never rebukes Thomas’s doubt, because it’s honest and it’s innocuous. That’s the difference between skepticism that is intended to dislocate and honest-to-goodness doubt. There’s never any judgment. Probably because doubt and belief aren’t mutually exclusive, and often the most enthusiastic believers, whose certainty can be socially and psychologically disconcerting, are those who doubt most of all. Because belief and certainty are most definitely not the same thing.

That said, the purpose of the text is not to overemphasize the legitimacy of doubt, but to encourage belief in Christ. In the coda, the final couplet, the evangelist writes: “But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.” The good news is that if Christ is the Messiah, we have what we need to believe, and it’s coming through the radical self-giving of Christ. No amount of doubt can smother that kind of grace.

Do you have what you need to believe? This past week, the infamous psychiatrist Dr. Robert Spitzer confessed that his 2001 study supporting reparative therapy was probably wrong. He has officially rescinded his conclusion that “highly motivated” individuals may be able to change their sexual orientation, and now, the second Sunday of Easter, I can breathe a little easier. Discrediting institutionalized spiritual and sexual abuse is what I need in order to believe in Christ, but not necessarily to believe in the literal resurrection, which isn’t something I’ve reconciled either way. Rather, at the moment, I’m only able to say confidently that Christ has a unique place among our historical activists, philosophers, religious, and political leaders. But the metaphor of resurrection is important for me in the interim as I sort out what my Christology will be. Call me barbaric, or Jesuitical, but for me Christ is risen most gloriously when the bigots who make life hell for young gay people retreat to their sad pseudo-theological lairs, so people like me can refocus on other institutional justice problems. Christ will be risen on an April 24 seminary field-trip to DC to join supporters of Mumia Abu-Jamal Occupy the Justice Department to demand that all political prisoners be released. Christ is risen when Michelle Obama and her exquisite under-bite raise awareness regarding veterans’ disproportionate unemployment. I can find Christ risen in many places, but most of the time it’s when justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

And I think we all understand Thomas’s doubt. I don’t think it’s unusual or bad or wrong to doubt. Believing that doubt kills faith is one of the most pernicious lies in the Christian tradition. As Justo Gonzales says, any God you can prove is an idol. Holding doubt and faith in tension is what drives Christians to embody their faith, which was Christ’s commission to the disciples in the text today. All that’s left for us is to hear the commission to forgive and to empower those who can to confess the first and most unambiguous confession that any disciple has left for us: Jesus, “My Lord and my God.”

Unto him that loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and has made us kings and priests unto God and his Father. Unto him be glory and dominion forever. Amen.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Easter 2012: A Feast of Rich Food

Isaiah 25:6-0, Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24, 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, Mark 16:1-8

Preached in the synagogue sanctuary of  Congregation Beth Elohim, where Old First Reformed Church had gathered for Easter (the Old First sanctuary being closed for repairs). Note: Rabbi Gould read the Isaiah in English and chanted it in Hebrew, and Cantor Breitzer chanted and sang Psalm 118 in Hebrew, and chanted the Aaronic Benediction in Hebrew before I gave it in English.

Welcome to Easter. I am glad you are here. Members and friends, Christians and Jews, visitors, passers-by, whatever your belief or unbelief, it’s great that you are here. Easter is public, Easter is not church property. I say that every year, but this year it’s especially obvious!

This 358th Easter at Old First is a very special one, thanks to Congregation Beth Elohim. Rabbi Bachman and I are always looking for new forms of collaboration between our congregations, but I’m telling you we are not so devious as to force it by taking turns in knocking down our ceilings. I’m also telling you that we accept our mutual disasters as mysteries of God’s providence. This synagogue is receiving that providence by loving your neighbors as yourselves, and this church is receiving that providence by blessing the God of Israel.

We bless God for the gift of Congregation Beth Elohim. Its hospitality today is typical of its constant hospitality to our whole community. It’s regarded as inclusive, but the deeper point is a hospitality which is so generous because it’s based in a deep trust in the love of God and a deep trust in the power of the Torah and the Prophets. This congregation acts like you have nothing to fear, and your hospitality expresses that.

We bless God because you have allowed us Gentiles to worship at the center of your most holy place. The walls within the temple are broken down by you. You welcome us to share in your inheritance. You allow us to call ourselves the children of Abraham and Sarah. We are so only by adoption, and we have been greedy interlopers, and cruel to you, and even murderous, and yet today you treat us like brothers and sisters. We bless God for your gift of reconciliation.

We bless God because you not only let us in here, but you set for us a table of rich gifts. You gave us today the gift of Isaiah, in the words that Jesus would have known them. You gave us the music of the prophecy, which we Christians don’t know how to make. You gave us the gift of  Psalm 118, again in the words that Jesus knew, but in music we have never heard before. Every Sunday at Old First we enjoy the rich food of the Torah and the Prophets and the Psalms, all of which we got from you. Your greatest gift to us is the knowledge of God, the Lord God, Adonai, who was your God first, the God of Israel (when our ancestors were worshiping demons in the woods). We bless you in the Name of God.

We bless God for the gift of the Passover which we got from you. The Feast of Freedom. Of liberation, of salvation, of freedom for the sake of service, of liberation not for license but for obedience, for claiming our full humanity. “Let my people go.” It has inspired civil rights throughout the world. It’s the story of light in the darkness, of hope in despair, of life out of death. Our Christian version of Passover is Easter: the feast of freedom from the power of guilt and death. “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us, therefore let us keep the feast, Alleluia.”

We bless God for your gift to us of Jesus, controversial as this gift may be. We take him as the Messiah, and of course you don’t, but we got him from you, and it’s because of him that we are even here to receive your hospitality. Where he worshiped God was not in church, of course, but in the temple or in his own home synagogue. It’s in his name that we are here today. I will boldly presume upon your hospitality to thank you for the one whom we call “Our Lord Jesus Christ.”

We bless God for the gift of the resurrection. We got from you the whole idea of resurrection, “the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” That was not our invention, we got that from your rabbis and your scribes and Pharisees, as has been brilliantly established by the Jewish scholar at Harvard, Jon D. Levenson. In different forms we share a common hope: the hope for resurrection is our common hope, and today especially we thank you for this gift to us.

You know there are two lines in the Nicene Creed which Jews can say as well as Christians. The first line and the last. And not much in between, except for the line about Pontius Pilate. The first line says, “We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, the maker of heaven and earth, and of all that is, seen and unseen.” And the last line says, “We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.” We can say that line together because that’s the gift we got from you, the gift of the hope of a general resurrection at the end of time and the renewal of the world.

The particular resurrection of Jesus is the rub. Why was he resurrected early, and all by himself? His friends were not expecting it, they had not planned on it, and they did not believe at the start. It did not fit with their Jewish hope for resurrection. They didn’t see it as “according to the scriptures,” not at first. And the synagogue still does not, which is our basic disagreement, so that we end up reading the same scriptures differently. And there’s another disagreement. As some Jewish scholars have said, even if he did rise from the dead, he seems to have wasted his resurrection. Where is the Messianic age? Why are the rest of us still dying?

We’re not going to settle that today. But the apostles taught that Christ is the first-fruit, and the general resurrection of the rest of us is still to come, and there’s good reasons for this time in between, for us to live within the hope of resurrection even though we still must die. Think of it: after you have died, when you are on the other side of death, of course you won’t fear death. But to be on this side of death and not to submit to the power of the fear it is the point. To not let your behavior be determined by the fear of death, to not let your heart be hardened by the fear of pain or your love constricted by the fear of loss, that’s already the power of the resurrection, though we still must die.

Think of it: it’s one thing to love your neighbor when the golden age has come and everyone is lovely, but to love your neighbor as the world is now, when there still is sin and suffering and your neighbor is a part of it, that’s the greater love, that’s the miracle of love, and we are called to be workers of this miracle. To develop the capacity for working this miracle and to evolve a new humanity that constantly performs such miracles is one of the reasons that God has allowed us to have this time of unfulfillment when we live by the hope of resurrection though we still must die.

God doesn’t want you to be a feast of raw food, but a feast of cooked food, which means you have to get through cutting and breaking and beating and heating first. If we didn’t have to suffer first, we’d just be nice and natural grape juice, but our patience in our suffering is what turns us into well-aged wines, and the resistance we have to deal with in our loving serves to strain our natural impurities, so that our souls pour out with purity and clarity. The resurrection is a challenge as much as it is a comfort to us. The resurrection of Jesus is the proof that it works.

Finally, we bless God for the gift of the Jewish hope for resurrection, because it means “tikkun olam,” the healing of the world. It’s not the pagan hope of flying off to astral immortality, which means abandoning the earth. The pagan hope has misdirected many Christians, and we need to receive again the Jewish hope of tikkun olam. We bless God for the healing and renewal of creation which the resurrection signifies. Christ has been raised in the body — a body transformed, but still a body. It’s an affirmation of creation, of plants and animals, of gravity and groundedness. It’s a very rich feast which God intends to set out for us, a feast too rich for heaven, too heavy, too thick, too schmaltzy, too schmeery, too fatty, too bouncy, too sexy, too sweaty, too smelly, too many dogs and cats for heaven, and after the feast, cigars, I hope, and for the ladies too. A feast of richness without greed, of love without lust, of power without corruption, of a righteousness of joy, of God’s will for creation, vindicated by the resurrection.

Blessed are you, O Lord our God, king of the cosmos, who gives us the first-fruits of the new creation in the resurrection of Jesus, and who gives the power of the Holy Spirit to live according to that resurrection in the very middle of the world today. Blessed are you, O Lord our God, for calling us to hope, and in that hope to love, and in that love to find our joy.

 Copyright © 2012, by Daniel James Meeter, all rights reserved.