Needing Proof

This week Jesus once again walks through walls to meet with the disciples and they are once again startled and start to believe they’re seeing an apparition because…c’mon…it can’t be real, right?

So Jesus says (once again), “Look at my hands! See the holes in my feet? Check out this huge gash in my side. Do figments of your imagination have wounds?”

But still the disciples are like, “Nah…can’t be real.”

So Jesus, pondering the situation, says that he has to prove he’s real by doing something very human, very alive, very real: he eats in front of them. The fish goes down the gullet and into his intestines and, well, if you want to know the rest of the story ask a 2nd Grader and they’ll update you on food digestion. Trust me: I have a 2nd Grader living in my house.

The disciples wanted proof, and Jesus goes to great lengths to prove that his body is real. His wounds are real. And, yes, his resurrection sacredness is real.

Now, Beloved, fast forward some 2000 years and see the world we live in today, a world that still claims it “wants proof” but happily believes whatever it wants to. Case in point?

How many videos of black and brown bodies being shot up and harassed do we need to see before we take seriously that this is a big damn problem?!

But, no, it must be a figment of the imagination, right?

Look at the shot up body of the young man, Daunte Wright, in Brooklyn Center.

It’s the ghost of racism past…that was then, this is now!

Look at the swollen eyes of Second Lieutenant Nazario pepper sprayed after asking why he was being pulled over.

Look at the cuffed hands of George Floyd as he lies lifeless face down trying to do the most human of things: breathe.

Look at the shot up hands and feet of Breonna Taylor after people with power tried to walk through the walls of her apartment without asking.

This is not fake. This is not a figment of the imagination.

This is real, by God.

How much proof do we need? How many videos do we need? How many testimonies do we need?!

See the bodies. See the wounds.

But do you see the sacredness?

If I were preaching this week, I’d probably go here…and yes, it’d probably get me in trouble.

But that’s good trouble.

On How Popular Christianity Looks Almost Nothing Like that First Community

Wedge issues.

Anti so-much.

Billboards with fetuses on Highway 40.

“Hell is Real” scare tactics.

I know this Sunday is usually reserved for sermons on the Thomas story and his coming late to the resurrection party, but maybe a brave preacher will choose a different path that’s less well-trodden. I mean, great sermons can come out of the Thomas story…I hope I’ve preached some…but let’s be honest: it’s so well known that folks zone out.

The Acts offering (Acts 4:32-35) for this Sunday, however, offers some promise and a little glimpse into that first community that gathered around the resurrection. It stands in stark contrast to the popular Christianity trying to pass itself off as “godly” today.

If you pay attention to any churchy things, you’d see the most recent headline that, for the first time, church membership is below 50% for Americans. I think this is probably for a few reasons…

The first? Honesty. People are being more honest when filling out these surveys. It’s more acceptable than it used to be to not be a member of a religious branch, so folks are telling the truth. In previous years I imagine a lot of folks lied on these surveys, counting themselves as a member of their childhood church, or the one they visited on Christmas Eve, just to lay claim to a church because, until recently, it was socially undesireable to be churchless.

Another reason? Folks aren’t needing a community to fill their social needs anymore. Church used to be the place where it all happened: volunteering, social functions, and faith. Now folks have Barre classes, non-profits galore, and the internet to fill lots of those needs.

But a real reason…and one most folks are glossing over…is that people think most Christians are jerks. The “Beloved Community” is known more for being a fringe group pf wacky extremists than for loving their neighbor.

Case in point: White Evangelicals might be the last holdouts on getting the vaccine. Literally the one thing EVERYONE CAN DO TO LOVE THEIR NEIGHBOR RIGHT NOW is the one thing they’re not wanting to do, by and large. And I know some think “it’s a choice.” But, here’s the thing: followers of Jesus sometimes don’t have a choice, you know? Like, sometimes Jesus doesn’t give an out, you know?

I mean, maybe hell is real because we’re living through it right now with that sort of denial-of-science mentality running around…

This Acts text paints a picture of a community who shared everything in common, both wealth and debt. It’s an idyllic picture, sure. But even if it’s “a little too perfect,” you have to admit that it stands in stark contrast to the reality of today.

If I were preaching this Sunday, I might dare to go there…