Preacher: The Rev. Doyt L. Conn, Jr.
Good morning. Happy Easter. I find Easter Sunday to be a good day to talk about things that people believe in and yet may not be provable. After all, this is the day the Easter bunny comes. So, I put together an informal survey that I’d like you to participate in. This is a Episcopal Church, not a Baptist church, so I’m not going to ask you to put your hands in the air. Just give lift an eyebrow, or give a slight nod, or wiggle a finger, or even just an affirmative thought will do if you believe in one of the items in this survey. I already have a pretty good baseline. I ran this survey by a few people at work and also my 11 year old son and my 15 year old daughter. They had some commentary.
So let’s start. Do you believe in
- Atrology? (One of my children asked: “What?” The other said: “Are you kidding!”)
- Cryptids? They are hidden creatures like Bigfoot, the Lockness monster, and Yetis. (My son asked if Santa was a Cryptid because if so, he said he was going to have to say “yes,” given that one really shouldn’t cross Santa, whether you believe in him or not.)
- Ghosts? (More than a few people claim that one sits right up there in that seat.)
- Voodoo? (One of my colleagues said “no” but had a friend who insisted it was something not to mess with.)
- Fate and destiny?
I threw math into the survey when giving it to my children. They uniformly said: “No, they do not believe in math.” I suspect that says more about their experience of math than the evidence at hand.
Which brings me to an insight I’ve gleaned from talking with people about things they believe in and yet are not provable: Here it is: there is always a connection, or a story, or an experience that gives validity to the belief beyond the evidence at hand.
I suspect that was the case 2000 years ago in the garden, as well. The angels, and the folded garments, and the gardener you couldn’t touch became things of connection to the resurrection more than evidence of proof. That is one of point I want to make today: Jesus’ resurrection is about connection; or at least the promise of connection with God; or should I say the promise of perpetual connection with God? That is the first point: resurrection is about connection.
The second point I want to make today has to do with love. Let me tell you a story about love. A friend called a while back because he was thinking about getting a dog, and he knew I am sort of a dog aficionado (or at least in my own mind). So he called me and said: “I’m thinking of getting a Dachshund. What do you think?” I said, “Do you really want my opinion?” He responded, “Yes.”
So I said, “You live in a place that gets tons of snow. You have little kids who have play-dates. You and your wife work a lot. And I have had two friends that had Dachshunds (my experience) and in both cases the dogs were whackadoodle.”
Now I know we have some Dachshunds lovers here, who will (and probably should) take exception to my massive generalization, which is fair, but let me finish because it is my experience, my story, my connection to Dachshunds. So I said to my friend, “whatever you do, do not, and I repeat, do not get a Dachshund.”
So I’m talking to him a week later and guess what… he got the dog. And I asked, “Don’t you ever listen to me?” And he said, “No, plus, it is the cutest dog I’ve ever seen.”
A few months later we were talking again and I asked him about the Dachshund. He went into a litany of all of the things that were whackadoodle about his dog. It was pretty long list. So I suggested he get rid of the dog. To which he responded, “Are you kidding, I love this dog.” That is probably what God says about us.
Which ties loosely into the second point I want to make today: That the resurrection of Jesus is also about love. That the resurrection is about connection and the resurrection is about love.
Here is something most people don’t know: In the resurrection stories told in the Gospels of Matthew, Luke and John, all of them include examples of people who saw the resurrected Jesus and still didn’t believe in the resurrection of Jesus. They saw the resurrected Jesus. They were in the room, or on the beach, or in the field with people who claimed that the person right next to them was the resurrected Jesus, and still they did not believe.
Are you surprised? I’m not. I sort of get that.
When I was compiling my survey of things people believe in but aren’t provable I came across the UFO sighting over Houston. Come on, you know what I’m talking about. In 2009 there was a mass sighting of a UFO over Houston. There was tons of coverage from cellphones filming the scene from all sorts of angles. A News reporter was covering the event. Behind him on the screen was a thing that looked like a UFO. It was round, moving within a circle of lights, and hovering in the air. Pretty UFO if you ask me. And the reporter as he wrapped up the coverage turned to the camera, with this UFO floating over his shoulder on the screen and said: “Do you see that? Whether it is a UFO or not, that’s for you to decide.”
And I’m like, “Right on. I see it. It looks like a UFO. And I still don’t believe in UFOs.”
The Apostle Paul probably would have been pretty frustrated with me, I suppose, and people like me. In his First Letter to the Corinthians we hear today he gives us a list of 526 people, I did the math and since it is math we can believe it is true, 526 people who saw the resurrected Jesus. That is a fairly big number. Maybe not as big a number as people who saw the UFO over Houston, but it is a big number.
So why doesn’t everyone just believe that Jesus was resurrected from the dead? There were 526 eyewitnesses after all? Is that not enough?! No, it is not enough because it is not about enough evidence, it is about the connection and it is about the love.
You see God doesn’t care how many people believe in the resurrection. God is not some divine bean counter trying to maximize market share. God is about love and God is about connection. And the resurrection is God’s promise that there is a perpetual connection, a perpetual connection held open, like an open hand, extended to you and to me to take, if we want to, but only if we want to. Not because we have to. Not because of the preponderance of evidence. Not because it was forced upon us like gravity or the rising of the sun or our genetic predisposition.
Resurrection is different. It is about connection; a connection that can’t be proven; it can only be owned and accepted and believed if indeed we want to know the love of God. And I can tell you this: it is worth it. It is so worth it. You want to know why so many people believe in the resurrection because the connection to the love of God is worth it!
You see, unlike other things we believe in that are not provable, the love of God is not about evidence, it is about transformation. This connection to God, this love of God changes thing, starting with us. It is about becoming something. It is about becoming most fully the person we were made to be. It is not about seeing something or proving something. It is about connection to a love that changes things, starting with us. In fact, it changes everything that we are connected to.
It is as if all of our other connections get zapped with a love so strong, so solid, so true, that we can be better than we usually are; that we can forgive a little faster; that we can laugh a bit quicker; that we can be more gracious in the face of anxiety and pain and anger; and that there is more, that there is purpose, that there is something beyond our present state of being. The resurrection makes this connection.
Now because I believe in God, I believe that if God wanted to design the system so we all, every person who ever lived, believed in the resurrection of Jesus based on the evidence God could have done this. But God chose not to.
Evidence wasn’t the point, and it isn’t the point, the point is connection and the point is love. If the evidence was so over whelming that we had no choice as to whether or not we believed, then there would be no love between humanity and God. Choice is the critical component for real love, and God’s love for us is real. You want to know how real? So real that even people who actually were in the presence of the resurrected Jesus were given the choice to say, “I still don’t believe.”
That is the God we celebrate today. That is the God who loves us. That is the God I believe in, and no amount of evidence could ever change that.