Ginger and I left for work about the same time this morning. She went to be a part of the town ecumenical Good Friday service and I went to work to get ready for a wedding tomorrow and the Easter Brunch on Sunday. While she read through the last words of Jesus, Alfonso and I were making hors d’oeuvres for two hundred. As far as I know, I’m the only one at work for whom this week is spiritually significant. No one is antagonistic when I talk about faith matters or what’s going on at church. Some have family connections to a church, but it’s more like a nationality rather than a faith connection. It makes me sad to think Easter means this will be a busy weekend for brunch. These are good people – people I like working with. For whatever reasons, they are not engaged by the story that has me by the heart.
After work I met Ginger at Panera for some reading time. The place was bustling with folks drinking coffee and chatting, a few families having dinner, and small gangs of teenagers just hanging out together on a school holiday (at least in Massachusetts). It looked like any Friday. Whatever the day meant to me, they were marking time in other ways.
As the gospel writers recount the events around Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, they tell it as if all of Jerusalem was captured by his fate: the crowd waving palms at his triumphal entry, the mob who shouted for him to be crucified, the gathering at the cross to watch him die. I have no doubt there were sizeable crowds at each of those happenings and I imagine there was a larger portion of Jerusalem that was too caught up in getting ready for Sabbath to notice what was happening, or to worn out or disinterested or busy to pay attention to what was happening to Jesus.
Not everyone saw or heard the story unfold the way it has been passed down to us.
At Pentecost, the believers and seekers heard the gospel proclaimed in their indigenous languages. Yet, we are told, those who did not believe simply heard the sound of a rushing wind that carried no particular translation. If the answer was blowing in that wind, it blew right on by much of the crowd.
I remember seeing Field of Dreams for the first time and how I was moved by Ray Kinsella’s pursuit of his dream, as well as his dream’s dogged pursuit of him. To me it remains one of the great stories of grace, forgiveness, and hope. A few weeks later, I saw a news report saying George Bush the Elder had seen the movie and responded by saying, “If someone understands it come explain it to me.” I was incredulous. How could he not get it?
I felt superior then. That’s not how I’ve felt today.
Growing up Baptist taught me to think of all those people who didn’t see what we saw when we looked at Jesus as lost. Some of them were. Some of us were, too. But were they lost just because they couldn’t find themselves on our map?
In the languages of Jesus and the early church, faith was a verb. All we have is a noun. We don’t faith anything, we have faith, making it sound like we possess it or carry it around in our pockets. The verb we often use is believe, which is not the same thing in my mind. As always, it makes me think of an old joke: a person’s got to believe in something; I believe I’ll have another beer. We came up with a language that is driven by verbs – the action words – and we didn’t give ourselves the vocabulary to incarnate our faith.
The difference between those who followed Christ and those who went on their way, or those who heard God’s message in their own words and not just white noise, is not that one believed the “right” things and the other did not. The verb we’re looking for is trust.
I don’t believe in Jesus; I trust him.
I trust the darkness of today is not the last word.
I trust that the story doesn’t end with the Resurrection.
I trust God never quits looking for us and that God finds some people in different ways than I was found.
I trust there are times when God speaks to some and I’m the one hearing nothing but the wind.
I trust Jesus is who he said he was.
I trust my faith makes my life worth it, regardless of what comes next.
I trust, as we say in the UCC, that God is still speaking.
I trust God is speaking to more than just me.
I trust God expects to speak through me, both because of and despite me.
I trust God’s love is the final word.
I trust it will be a word we all can hear.