“Why do you seek the living among the dead?”
Have you ever seriously pondered this question? It is an important and provocative question. It opens eyes and hearts. It can also make one feel very uncomfortable at times to have to contemplate it. (But that goes hand-in-hand with the general topic of death.) But, it is important to wrestle with it.
This question, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” is from Luke 24:5. By this it is a question from the Gospel. It’s also a life and gospel question, with implications for how we understand God works in the world. Its with these questions in mind that friend and pastor Stephanie Vos began her sermon this past weekend.
Stephanie began with that question and then connected the Easter morning question with the text about the story of Jesus’ appearance on the Road to Emmaus. In grounding her sermon in Luke 24:13-35, Stephanie took the question and linked it to the very core and missional idea that “God’s presence is set loose in the world with the resurrection.” God cannot be contained in a tomb. God cannot be held by the grip of death. God is not bound to our human understanding of the barriers related to life and death. Frankly, God cannot be bound or put in a box. God cannot be contained. God is beyond our comprehension and our ability to categorize and define.
Yet, perhaps we are like the women at the tomb? Or perhaps worse yet the disciples hiding or at least stewing and being down? Stephanie asked directly, “Where do you go looking for Jesus?”
Do we go looking for Jesus in community with others? At church? In prayer? In reading the scripture? Out in God’s creation?
There is a problem with this sort of logic. It assumes that God in Christ isn’t already present. If Christ is Emmanuel, “God with us,” then we remember that God is indeed with us. This turns it on the head. We don’t have to look if God is already here. So instead, “Wait, invite, and expect Jesus to find us.” That’s exactly what he did that day on the Road to Emmaus.
There is an important reminder which Stephanie offers. “Jesus shatters and blows right past our expectations.” By revealing himself along the roadway, Jesus invites those present then and us today to think beyond what we already know. When we have these moments of discovery and discernment- when we have that feeling of God’s presence, it will feel like love. This is a deep love that causes one to feel like they are melting (in the best way possible) or even that one’s heart is burning (as in verse 32).
To paraphrase Stephanie, when we feel, witness and encounter this love, we are seeing Jesus. We are seeing God in our midst. Emmanuel. We have our eyes opened.
God is with us and finds us and is present in ordinary places. We don’t have to go to a tomb or a grave to see God. Our God is a living God, who is present and in relationship (and wanting to be in relationship) with us. This allows us to trust that God is present and active in the world. What we need to do then is come and discern together what God might be up to and sense and follow where the Spirit might be leading.
As Stephanie concluded, let me repeat this quote from Emily Dickinson:
“Who has not found the heaven below will fail of it above. God’s residence is next to mine. His furniture is love.”
Watch and listen to Stephanie’s sermon, and see what you think.
Why do you seek the living among the dead? In what ways do we still seek the living among the dead as people and congregations? How might we change this? What might this mean and look like for faith communities today?
Image Credit: Empty Tomb