Easter Echos Genesis? Sure. But, Don't Overlook Exodus Echos.

It is a common (and frankly very good) on Easter Sunday to explore the echos of a new creation being born with the raising of Jesus Christ (here is a great sermon by my co-pastor on this very idea. Here is another sermon by a friend on this idea). The Gospel of John has many callbacks to the book of Genesis found in the Resurrection story. Here are a few of the more obvious: 

  • It was the first day of the week (in the beginning)
  • It was still dark (the light had not come yet)
  • Jesus and Mary (man and woman) are in a garden
  • Jesus is seen as a gardener (God as creator)

All of this, and much more in the story, points to the resurrection of Jesus marking the beginning of a new creation. If we are in a place where we long for a fresh start, a new beginning and a rebirth or renewal, then Easter as a new creation is Good News. 

I would take a moment to point out that Genesis is not the only book that the Resurrection story in the Gospel of John echos. Looking at the same story, but through the eyes of Exodus, we can see Easter as a new liberation. Here are some (possible) overt connections:

  • The whole story begins with the Passover feast (perhaps the most obvious connection)
  • At the tomb, there are two angels, one at the head and one at the foot, of where Jesus was laid (similar to the arc of the covenant with two angels forming the seat of God)
  • People bow down to enter the tomb (the High Priest would bow prior to entering the Holy of Holies)
  • There was a thick curtain that marked off the Holy of Holies from the rest of the sanctuary space (not unlike a tome with a rock placed in front of it)

Of course there are the other connections of Jesus to Moses in other parts of the Gospel, but none more world changing than the connection that, like Moses, Jesus liberates us. While the story of Moses highlights the liberation from slavery, the story of Jesus highlights the liberation from slavery to sin and death.

Yes, the echos of Genesis are present and strong in the Easter story, but don't overlook the Exodus echos. Don't overlook the Good News that God is not only doing a "new thing" but is also working to liberate us from the "old thing". It is very difficult to live in the new when we hold onto the old (thus Jesus tells Mary not to hold onto him in the Easter story). 

What Great Preachers Do

Great preachers not only tie together the head and the heart, but they also do two additional things that vault them to greatness. Most preachers have glimpses of Great, but very few can sustain Greatness for longer than a sermon or two. Great preaching is not elusive but Great preachers take the time to develop skills in two areas.

First, Great preachers do not give sermons -- they deliver them. The preacher who is giving a sermon is one who is prepared and well-spoken. The preacher who gives a sermon is one who even thinks about what the congregation needs to hear while prayerfully attuning to the work of the Holy Spirit. The difference in giving a sermon and delivering a sermon is all in how the preacher understands the sermon. Ask anyone who has ever delivered a baby into the world -- the baby is a living thing that has its own movements and actions that are outside the control of anyone else. Anyone who gives a sermon does not understand the sermon is alive and has breath. Delivering a sermon is being keenly aware and flexible enough to move with the sermon as it develops in the moment.

One of the most commonly known Great preachers was Martin Luther King. King knew that he was not giving a sermon but delivering one, which explains why he changed course in the sermon after hearing the voice of Mahalia Jackson shout out, "Tell them about the dream, Martin!" At that point, King's famous sermon began to live in the hearts of all who have heard it. It may be semantics, but there is a very real difference in delivering and giving a sermon, Great preachers know that.

The second thing that Great preachers do (that most of us do not take the time to develop) is something that every stand up comic or author has to have in order to "make it": a well-developed point-of-view (POV). Legendary comic Lenny Bruce had the "how far can we push the First Amendment" POV. The not-as-legendary-but still-okay comic Jeff Foxworthy has the "redneck" point of view. While the greatness of Maria Bamford has the "neurotic eccentric" POV down pat. 

Great preachers have a POV: Barbara Brown Taylor has the "sacred in the ordinary" POV. Adam Hamilton has the "speaking to new and nominal Christian group" POV. Fred Craddock has the "story-telling" POV, while MLK Jr. had the POV of "racial and economic justice." 

Being able to unite the head and the heart, and deliver sermons from a clear and consistent POV, is what moves good preachers into becoming great preachers. 

Teachers, Inspirers, and Great Preachers

Like any other person who has a craft they work to refine, I think a lot about the craft of preaching. I refuse to believe there are "bad" preachers. I believe that even the most difficult preacher to listen to has within them the Divine spark (because all humans do) and I can listen for that spark. 

While I do not think there are bad preachers, I do think there are three types of preachers which I label: Teachers, Inspirers, and Greats. 

Teachers are those preachers who are primarily interested in teaching. This style of preaching is gratifying because when you leave, you feel like you have expanded knowledge. Teachers include Seminary students and others who are learning new things they are excited about. Teachers also include those who find learning personally enriching. Teachers are good preachers. I am a teacher about half of the time. However, teachers can also be dry in content or, more often, operating under the Greek myth that knowledge leads to enlightenment. I learn a lot from watching the Food Network, but I am not any closer to being a chef. Knowledge of Jesus does not equate into being Christ-like. 

The Inspirers are preachers primarily interested in inspiring you to action. This style of preaching is gratifying because when you leave you feel pumped up or on a "spiritual high". Inspirers include those who are feel strongly that "faith without works is dead" and find being the hands of Christ personally enriching. Inspirers are good preachers. I am an Inspirer the other half of the time. However, Inspirers can be story-heavy and theologically light. Inspirers also can be overt with nostalgia or fear-mongering to manipulate action. Getting your "Jesus fix" each Sunday is often a nice way of being addicted to the evocative aspects of worship.

So of course the Great preachers interweave the head (Teacher) and the heart (Inspirer). This is more than obvious at this point. However Great preachers do two other things which are by far the most difficult things to do. The next post will expand on what the Great preachers do.

Satirical Jesus, Mocking Pilate, Ironic God (3/3)

The death of Jesus was supposed to be the end of the story. Death is the ultimate "end" we have come to fear. The great irony of God that is revealed on Easter is that death is not the end - but rather the necessary step into a new resurrected beginning. The irony of the end being the beginning still flabbergasts us to this day. How is it possible that the one who was killed still lives today? How can the work of peace come by non-violence? How can forgiveness be for the enemy? How can a dead God give life to the world?

How can all this be? 

Christians call it Easter. Perhaps the words of Paul (1 Corinthians 1) are most appropriate here:

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,
‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
   and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’ 
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

Source: http://justsomething.co/20-hilarious-examp...