Sunday, March 31, 2013

“What’s the buzz, tell me what’s a-happening”

“What’s the buzz, tell me what’s a-happening”
Highlands Presbyterian Church
March 31, 2013

You know…I feel sorry for the post baby boomer generations. The only way you have to understand the crucifixion and the resurrection is the Gospels. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. We baby boomers had Andrew Lloyd Webber.

In a three hour musical, he explained it all and we finally understood what Sunday school teachers and preachers had been trying to get through to us for years.

Jesus Christ…Jesus Christ
Who are you? What have you sacrificed?
Jesus Christ Superstar
Do you think you're what they say you are?

And isn’t that the question we Christians have been trying to answer for ourselves, and others, for the last 2000 years? Jesus Christ…do you think…do we think…you’re who they say you are? Andrew Lloyd Webber put into Herod’s mouth the words we have all been asking.

Jesus you just won't believe
The hit you've made around here
You are all we talk about
You're the wonder of the year
Oh what a pity if it's all a lie
Still I'm sure
That you can rock the cynics if you try

And like the disciples back then…his disciples today are still asking…

What's the buzz?
Tell me what's a-happening.

And JESUS is still responding…

Why should you want to know?
Don't you mind about the future?
Don't you try to think ahead?
Save tomorrow for tomorrow;
Think about today instead.
If you knew the path we're riding,
You'd understand it less than I.

It all makes me think Jesus would have been surprised by the extent to which Christians celebrate the resurrection. A lot of Christians will tell you the Resurrection, the empty tomb on Easter morning, is the core of Christianity. I had a conservative Christian tell me recently that without the resurrection…his faith would be meaningless.

Jesus Christ…Jesus Christ
Who are you? What have you sacrificed?
Jesus Christ Superstar
Do you think you're what they say you are?

Remember when Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say I am?” They told him people thought he was the resurrected John the Baptist or Elijah. Apparently…the idea that a prophet could come back to life was not especially surprising to them.

And apparently Jesus thought there was more to following him than his own Resurrection. Jesus once told a story of a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs, Jesus said, would come and lick his sores.

The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’

But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’

He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’

Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”

And again Andrew Lloyd Webber puts words into the mouth of Herod that sound like the words we have used in our lives.

I only ask what I'd ask any superstar, what is it that you have got
That puts you where you are? Oh, I am waiting
Yes I'm a captive fan…I'm dying to be shown
That you are not just any man

And Jesus says I can’t convince you of anything by simply returning from the dead.

But if you are the Christ, Yes the great Jesus Christ
Feed my household with this bread
You can do it on your head.

And Jesus says…resurrection is not about what I did or what you think I can do. Jesus says, “If they don’t listen to the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” It’s all too much for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Peter who says to Jesus...

I think you've made your point now
You even gone a bit too far to get the message home.
Before it gets too frightening we ought to call a halt
So could we start again please?

But as with the rich man who failed to tend to Lazarus…the die was cast…a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to there cannot do so. And again Jesus says…resurrection is not about what I did…it’s about what the prophets have been teaching for hundreds of years…what God calls you to do through their voices…feed the hungry, bring justice to the community, take care of those in need…which is why the lectionary this morning takes us beyond the resurrection stories of the Bible to the Old Testament book of the prophet Isaiah who lived centuries before Jesus.

Isaiah says God doesn’t want to change the world by simply bringing one man, even his own son, back to life. God wants us to participate with him in the creation of new heavens and a new earth; the prophet says that new earth will be a place where no more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, and where old people will live out a lifetime in dignity; a place where those who build houses will inhabit them; those who plant vineyards and eat their fruit.

Resurrection is not about the restoration of a single life…resurrection means everything is new…if it occurs, it will usher in a new way of doing things where justice prevails…God’s people shall not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord.

Before they call God will answer, while they are yet speaking God will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox. They shall not hurt or destroy on my holy mountain, says the Lord.

Those are the words of the prophet…words to which Jesus…the one who was to die and remain in the tomb for three days before being restored to new life…was referring when he said, ‘If they do not listen to the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”

The celebration of the Resurrection is a commitment to bring new life to ourselves and others based on ancient teachings about our relationships with God and others. Yet we continue to look for an easier way…some think by simply believing that Jesus rose from the dead, we have it made…but when we ask the disciples’ question, “what’s the buzz, tell me what’s a- happening?” we can hear Jesus telling us…it’s not about me coming back to life…it’s about you regaining your life. It’s not about spending three days in a tomb…it’s about the day you decide to leave the tomb your life has become and live for the moment. As the Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus sang:

Why should you want to know?
Don't you mind about the future. Don't you try to think ahead
Save tomorrow for tomorrow. Think about today instead

And today is the day to think about the meaning of the resurrection…the day when we begin to see God’s vision for a new heaven and a new earth where we participate in giving new life to those who have too long laid in the tombs of oppression, injustice, poverty, addiction and racism.

The Peter of the Gospels put it this way, “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; and he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.”

And the Jesus of the opera makes it simpler…

Neither you Simon Peter, nor the fifty thousand
Nor the Romans, nor the Jews. Nor Judas, nor the twelve
Nor the priests, nor the scribes, nor doomed Jerusalem itself
Understand what power is…Understand what glory is
Understand at all. Understand at all
If you knew all that I knew my poor Jerusalem…you'd see the truth
But you'd close your eyes. But you'd close your eyes
While you live, your troubles are many…poor Jerusalem
to conquer death you only have to die, you only have to die.


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