Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Tag: resurrection

Sermon: One Smooth Stone

I preached at New Creation United Methodist for their 11am worship service this past weekend. The scriptures were 2 Corinthians 6:1-13 and 1 Samuel 17:32-49. I read the 1 Samuel account of David defeating Goliath from The Message just before the sermon.

Yellow Butterflies

“Happiness is like a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” -Nathaniel Hawthrone

Yellow ButterfliesAs I was preparing worship and a sermon for what would be my last Sunday at Peakland United Methodist as their Associate Minister, the communications coordinator, Kim, shared with me the bulletin cover she designed. It had a key verse from one of the scriptures I was using and a picture of a butterfly. It was perfect on all sorts of levels.

I hesitated to ask her to change anything. Finally, I asked if it would be possible to make the orange butterfly a yellow butterfly.  She gave me one of those, “that’s an odd request” look, and then said, “Sure.”

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New Life is Coming

My father-in-law was in town a few weeks ago. We took him up to the Blue Ridge Parkway one day to explore the mountains and its trails. Spring has just started and the trees are still barren and dry leaves still litter the ground.

Yet, there were signs of spring.

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Since Jesus Passed By

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A number of years ago while part of a work camp in Durham, North Carolina, I was assigned to work with a group of young people on the house of an elderly African-American woman. Before even meeting her, I was informed that she was a cancer survivor who had adopted her two granddaughters. I decided that I was not going to get to close to this woman. I was going to be there for the young people and minister to them. That, I had decided, was my purpose that week.

Why?

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Resurrection Hope

Read John 20:1-18.

crosses_3805cEaster will forever be a deeply personal day for me. Thirteen years ago on Easter Sunday, I was congregated in the choir loft of the small United Methodist Church I grew up in. I had promised my Aunt Polly that though I was starting a new job that week at another church, I would sing Easter Sunday in the choir.

It was in that choir loft that had an encounter with Jesus that gave me new eyes.

For the previous seven months my Dad was fighting prostate cancer. After being misdiagnosed with a pinched nerve, a new doctor found the tumor. It was a large and fast moving tumor. After rounds of chemo and radiation, surgery, and pints and pints of morphine, Dad was getting weaker and weaker.

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Christ is Dead

Read Matthew 27:57-66.

The stone has been rolled in place.

Death has been sealed.

And all is silent.

The Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday is sometimes quickly breezed over. It is the bridge between the darkness of Friday and the light of Easter. The bridge between death and resurrection. And it is a day marked by silence.

Nothing is happening. Nothing, that is, expect mourning. The sealed tomb echoes throughout the hearts of Christians that death is final; that Jesus was as human as he was divine; and the eagerness of which we wait for the resurrection.

But before the resurrection – before the new beginnings – before new life – there is mourning. Change happens. It is built into the very fiber of creation. Yet, what will be will only be until we mourn what was. When we gaze upon the stone that has been placed at the entrance of the borrowed tomb, we gaze upon what was as we anticipate what will be.

The tomb gives us permission to mourn.

This is an important and gracious gift. Death makes us uncomfortable. We would much rather engulf ourselves with resurrection and new life than spend an hour, much less a day, surrounded by death. And yet, we mourn at the sealed tomb. We mourn what was, we mourn what was not, and we mourn who we were. With the resurrection, things change, things that were not will be, and we will never be the same again.

So, today, on this Holy Saturday, as we gaze at the sealed tomb, let us mourn what was and who we were in anticipation of the resurrection.

 

Star Trek III: Search for Spock (1984)

Star Trek III The Search For Spock (1984) QuadAs the second film, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, draws to a close, the crew of the Enterprise bid farewell to their beloved officer of science: Mr. Spock. In a final scene, Spock’s body is released from the starship to the bagpipes of “Amazing Grace.” He has died and has been laid in his tomb.

In the third film (the third of the eleven films in the franchise), the saddened crew return to Earth, only to realize that Bones, or Dr. McCoy, is going slightly crazy. It turns out that while Spock’s body was left on the new planet Genesis, all of his memories flooded into Bones. Bones is not himself, because Spock is occupying part of Bones’ mind.

Spock’s father, the respected Ambassador, requests that the Enterprise crew retrieve Spock’s body and bring it, along with Bones, to Vulcan. In the process, Spock’s memories will be reunited with his body. In order to achieve this, Kirk (William Shatnar) and the others must take the Enterprise without permission from the Federation. Their risk pays off, but not without encountering a Klingon Bird of Prey. The Klingon warrior Kruge (Christopher Lloyd) is on his own search; a search for the secret to Genesis. A secret that he believes will give him absolute power.

The crew of the Enterprise is still shaken by the sudden death of Spock. Mostly because he willingly gave his life to save them all.

Spock: The needs of the many outweigh the . . .
Kirk: The needs of the few.
Spock: Or the one.

The Christ-figure imagery continues in Search for Spock. As a science team (the main scientist being David, Kirk’s son) searches for life on Genesis, they discover Spock’s burial coffin in the forested, garden-like part of the planet. They open it and only find his burial robe. The scientists eventually find a small, Vulcan boy in the forest. The Vulcan scientists are quick to realize that this child is Spock. “He’s not himself, but he lives.”

New life. Resurrection.

This theme of new life continues in the film, as Kirk comes to terms with the knowledge that Spock is worth the risk. “The needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many,” he says as he risks all to save Spock. Kirk embodies the shepherd in the parable that Jesus tells in Luke 15. The shepherd counts his sheep and notices that he only has 99 out of 100. He takes the chance of leaving the 99 behind to go in search of the 1. To the Holy One, every stray soul is worth searching for. And like Kirk’s, the search includes risks. Jesus’ parable of the shepherd in search of the lost sheep was a metaphor for what Jesus was doing at that moment to fulfill the Kingdom of God. In a post-resurrection context, we are the shepherd risking all we have to search for those who are lost.

© 2017 Jason C. Stanley

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