Isaiah 65:17-25, Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24, 1 Corinthians 15:19-26, Luke 24:1-12
The Jesus Seminar, preached by Rev. Peter Courtney
Every year around this time the media magi think it would be a good idea to present any scholarly evidence they can find to prove that church goers are a sorry, deluded lot. I suspect they don’t care about the questions, but they hope the headlines will sell papers or advertizing. Part of their arsenal is the large number of biblical scholars who basically tell anyone who will listen that the church made up most of the stories about Jesus.
The truth is that the scholars are correct. The church did write the gospels and the gospels other people wrote with whom the powers didn’t like got excluded. Winners have always written history. But we have these stories have endured and here we are hearing them again. What are we to make of them.
I was sitting in St. Peter’s Church, Charlotte, NC catching my breath between Good Friday mediations. I was kind of drifting during the periods of silence between my remarks and the music.
Suddenly I was aware of an angel. A curious sort of angel, really, but an angel nonetheless. A young man of about 25 was lurching up the chancel steps holding onto the rails for all he was worth. He was trembling violently as with palsy. He clutched several pieces of Xeroxed paper in his hand.
He could have turned towards the rector who had invited me to preach on his left, but it was me he wanted to deliver his message. He was an angel, and angels deliver messages. He proffered the Xeroxed sheets which I accepted, and then he spoke in a low, trembly, but clear voice: “I am David Johnson Bullock. It is a miracle that I am alive. I had a near fatal motorcycle accident and Jesus brought me back from the dead. I give you these papers to prove that Jesus is alive and that he is raised from the dead that all might believe.” I thanked him. He turned on his heel and stumbled back down the steps and out of my range of vision. David be a brain-damaged angel, but an angel he is.
According to the Jesus Seminar, we must be brain-damaged to be here today celebrating an early church ruse and delusion. Many of us know different. We know by the message of an angel or a host of other experiences too numerous to fit in all the books of the world, that Jesus is alive. He is risen from the dead. We know further that we have been raised with him as the Apostle Paul proclaimed we would be. We know it because we gather weekly for the Prayers and the Breaking of the Bread. We know because we have seen miracles or lived them. We know because we have experienced holiness in ourselves and others. We know because we have been represented at the throne of God in worship. We just know by faith.
We don’t think the Jesus Seminar folks are bad or stupid. They are scientifically correct. They are also myopic. They ask questions that really don’t matter very much to those who are of the household of faith. When they solve all the rational problems of biblical interpretation, we will still be praying and breaking bread. We are brain-damaged, but hardly heart broken.
Every year someone asks me if I believe that Jesus was raised from the dead. I have several answers. One is: “It certainly seems like a very good idea!”
On a more serious note I usually say: “I don’t know about Jesus, but I know that I am raised from the dead.” Lots of us were lost and now are found. Lots of us were dead, or left for dead, or written off, or counted as nothing and then came back to life. These miracles happen all around us, often to us. What kind of God would we have who couldn’t do at least as much for his son and she does for so many of us?