I’ve started and deleted this post a dozen times in the last few hours. Because what is there to say?
It is absurd to look for God in the face of the kind of evil we’ve seen in Brussels (or the Ivory Coast, Turkey, Syria, and so many other places). Where in that kind of hell is there any good news?
Dozens of innocent people dead. Hundreds wounded. Countless politicians and political hopefuls saying disgusting things about leaders and each other.
Oh, and people saying hateful, outrageous things about Muslim people. (If you’re looking for Muslim folk condemning the attacks in Brussels, look here, here, here, or just Google it.)
We seem to have two choices in this endless cycle of violence: We can respond with hatred and fear towards “those people” who wish to harm us, or we can allow ourselves to become numb and cynical, resigned to the fact that hell on earth is a real and present danger and simply shrugging our shoulders and moving on.
On Sunday, a couple billion people will gather in communities of faith around the world to celebrate the defining event of our Christian faith.
On Sunday, we will affirm that in response to unthinkable tragedy, God did something beautiful, new, and absurd.
On Sunday, we will remember something that changed the world forever.
On Sunday, we will talk about the execution of an innocent man on Friday, the grieving of his loss on Saturday, and the absurdity of what happened next.
But you know what happened right after God’s absurd response to execution? At first, well, nothing:
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they could go and anoint Jesus’ dead body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they came to the tomb. They were saying to each other, “Who’s going to roll the stone away from the entrance for us?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away. (And it was a very large stone!) Going into the tomb, they saw a young man in a white robe seated on the right side; and they were startled.
But he said to them, “Don’t be alarmed! You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised. He isn’t here. Look, here’s the place where they laid him. Go, tell his disciples, especially Peter, that he is going ahead of you into Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you.” Overcome with terror and dread, they fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.
Mark 16:1-8 (CEB)
“Overcome with terror and dread…they said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.”
Okay, so maybe the contemporary response to terror and dread is a little louder than saying nothing to anyone, but is it any better?
Shouting loudly about how to keep people from other countries out, how to predetermine who is good and who is evil so we can make sure that WE are safe, isn’t any different than fleeing and saying nothing to anyone.
God doesn’t work like that. Because even though Mary, Mary and Salome wanted to hide from the whole world, paralyzed with fear of what they’d seen (and hadn’t seen) in the tomb, they eventually remembered what kind of people Jesus had taught them to be.
People who showed radical love and respect to all sorts of people, and who listened faithfully when God asked them to do a hard thing.
The movement grounded in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ only exists because a group of scared people in real and present danger made an absurd decision to live fearlessly in the face of evil.
Because their messiah had taught them that, even though they were women, they were sacred and invaluable.
Because they’d watched him spread his message to people they had always been told were unclean and unlovable: eunuchs, Samaritans, even Roman soldiers.
Because when the people in charge came to kill him, he told his friends to put away their swords.
The absurdity of the Gospel is insisting on offering hope and life even in the faith of death and uncertainty.
2000 years ago, the absurdity of the Gospel looked like three women telling the truth about an empty tomb.
In 2016, the absurdity of the Gospel looks like insisting on showing love and light in the face of terror and darkness.
It looks like truly loving our neighbors.
The radical love of God is an absurd response to a world so broken that it pushed God onto the cross.
Insisting on love, light, and a widening circle of welcome in the face of evil is absurd. Thankfully, God has no problem with that.