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Pride and Humility

Pride and Humility

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Published by David Driedger

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Published by: David Driedger on May 12, 2009
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06/14/2009

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1
 Pride and Humility
April 12; Easter Sunday (John 20:1-18; Philippians 2:1-11)
Christ is risen
!Easter morning we are asked to draw close to what is most foundational
and 
whatis most elusive to our faith. The resurrection is central to our confession and unique inour understanding of Christianity and yet it is not as concrete and tangible as the law inJudaism or the Quran in Islam or even in the Bible in our own tradition. There issomething about the resurrection that is impossible for us to grasp and hold on to thoughit has always been the Christian’s tendency to try and do so. Jesus’ most intimatefollowers kept within their grasp certain ideas of who Jesus was and what his plansincluded. Throughout his life Jesus attempted to loosen people’s grip on life. To the richhe said loosen your grip on your money. To families he said loosen your grip on familytraditions and expectations. To the religious he said loosen your grip on who you think God is. And to his disciples he said, “Take nothing for the journey – no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic. Freely you have received, freely give.”What is most valuable to you cannot be stored in bank accounts or worn or livedin or achieved through strength, cunning and intelligence. What you have as a followeof Jesus is the ability to bless and to heal and the gift in being able to receive blessing andhealing. Jesus demonstrated and taught about what life looks like when in fact you are nolonger trying to grasp it. “Whoever would lose their life for my sake will gain it,” Jesus proclaimed. If you will loosen your grip on life I will place in your open hands a greater and abundant life. This message may perhaps bring us close to the seventh and finaldeadly sin in our Lent series, pride.Pride is being so confident in our strength, beauty, talent, family, wealth, status,country, community or intelligence that we forget that these things are limited, partial andunable to sustain and nourish us. We forget that at any moment these things can becompletely stripped from us. What then can we hold on to? We are called to hold on toJesus, right? On Christ the solid rock we stand, all other ground is sinking sand. Thereare things we trust, things we can never let go of. There are things we must defend and preserve. These statements sound good but this unfortunately is not the image we aregiven in our Gospel reading this morning.Our resurrection story begins in darkness, much like many of our readersexperienced last night experienced, where light and morning are only still a promise.Mary Magdalene comes, she is first on the scene. Mary if you will remember is the onewho was gripped by seven demons. Perhaps she represents our common humanityreflecting all seven of the deadly sins pride, lust, gluttony, anger, sloth, greed and envy.Her body was gripped by death and Jesus released her from it. Her body and spirit became loose, relaxed and at peace. She immediately left her old life behind andfollowed Jesus wherever he went. And then we can only imagine the horror sheexperienced as Jesus was arrested, whipped and crucified. I wonder if she did not beginagain to feel the demons swirl around her. That she was not beginning to feel rage stir within her. Perhaps she wanted to ease the pain with the temptations of lust or gluttonyor simply to withdraw in the dwell in apathy and sloth. Her demons or sins were again pressing in on her and so she returned to the grave where the one who healed her andreleased her from their grip lay.
 
2Thinking that it could not possibly get any worse she came to the tomb and foundthat the stone entrance was opened and the tomb was empty. She ran back to the other disciples in despair saying, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’tknow where they have put him!” Even this trace of hope, this remnant of someone andsome experience so dear to her is taken away. She can’t even come to the tomb now inmemory and hope of what Jesus had done. Now there is nothing and the demons and sins begin to find cracks and crevices trying again to make their home within her.The disciples return with Mary to see that indeed the tomb is empty and in timeeach of them return to their homes, except for Mary. Mary stands outside the tomb andweeps. As she weeps she leans once more into the grave. This time she sees two angelsin white seated where Jesus would have been one at his head and the other at his foot.This positioning is important. These seated angels are a remembering of God’s presencein the past and a foreshadowing of God’s future. As I may have mentioned in the past thetwo angels seated in the empty tomb create the imagery of the Old Testament Temple andnot just of the Temple but of the most sacred place, the Holy of Holies where it is wassaid the presence of God dwelled on earth.Despite all the ritual, law, tradition that structured the Israelites in the OldTestament the centre of their faith was that empty space between the two angels on top of the Ark of the Covenant. Where other religions placed an image of bull, a tree, a man or woman the Israelites were forbidden to place any image at the centre of their faith. Theywere forbidden from having something they could grasp and hang on to. Israel’s Godwas not one that could in any way be manufactured by them. And so Mary came to thetomb of Jesus with good intentions trying to find something she could hang on to.Gazing into the space between the two the angels they speak to her saying, “Why are youcrying?” Mary again cries out that she cannot find Jesus. She does not know where the body is and so there is nothing for her to hold on to. At this point she hears a voice behind her again asking why she is crying. Mary did not at first recognize Jesus. Marywas still grasping after a dead Jesus and did not understand who was standing before her.And then Jesus says her name, “Mary” and she sees the one who cured and healed her.Then before anything else can happen to Jesus, before anyone can arrest him or kill himagain Mary thrusts out her arms moving towards Jesus attempting to lay hold of him withall her might so that she would never be apart from the one who gave her life. The text isnot fully clear whether Mary actually got a hold of Jesus or not but in any event Jesusresponds by saying, “Do not hold on to me.”The life of Jesus is the possession of no one individual or group. Jesus’ desire for us to loosen our grasp on control extended even to his own body, identity and presence.There is a simple example that professors use to teach students the difficulties of translating ancient Hebrew manuscripts. The texts were written with no spaces and no punctuation marks making it difficult to always understand what was intended. Anexample would be like the sermon title printed in your bulletins. What does that say?God is no where or God is now here? If this phrase would have been found in theresurrection accounts it would be difficult to decide which translation to choose. On onelevel the resurrected Jesus remains elusive sometimes unintelligible gone before he wasever fully recognized. Other times Jesus is overwhelmingly present like when he asksThomas to place his finger inside of his wounded side. Jesus is preparing his disciples toknow that God’s Kingdom remains unfinished, unfounded and ongoing. This is the same

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