The preacher led the congregation in a brief round of the game “Simon says.” (And the congregation played along!)
Oh, there are lots of great newfangled games: Perhaps you have the latest Wii in your living room. Maybe you kill time playing Angry Birds. They have their charms, but I always go back to Simon says. It’s a classic. You can play without electricity, without batteries. You just need yourself.
Simon says picks up on our natural tendencies as humans: We get in habits, grooves, rhythms. We get so “in our groove” that it’s hard to for us to attend to change. We go along…then something changes and the pattern is broken, and we’re caught unawares.
There’s only one thing I don’t like about Simon says, which is that I usually loose. What if we played Simon says and no one lost? What if we were thrown out of our routines and assumptions, but everyone was still in the game?
On a Sunday long ago three women got up early to travel to a tomb. They were doing what they always did when a friend or relative died:
Simon says rise early; Simon says take your spices; Simon says find the grave of
your friend just before dawn; Simon says roll the stone away so you can enter.
They knew what to expect.
Simon says go into the tomb. Simon says walk to the body. He is not there.
Now what? Did we lose or did we win?
Flash forward 2000 yrs. You are playing the game of life, with its grooves and patterns.
Simon says stumble out of bed. Simon says look at your over busy calendar.
Simon says body creaks. Simon says listen to the news. Simon says turn off the news, because it’s too awful. Simon says avert your eyes passing the cemetery, because it brings back your grief. Simon says try not to think of the mistakes you’ve made.
Simon says go to church on Easter. Christ has risen, defeating death and proclaiming forgiveness and inviting us to bold, fierce love.
Is it true? Now what? Am I supposed to have my hands on my head?! Did I win or lose?
On that first Easter morning, the women ran away in terror, Mark tells us. Of course they did! Nothing about what happened made any sense at all. Grace makes no sense at all.
And it’s easy to run away from grace. We do it all the time.
Perhaps you saw the story in the Globe this week about Alex the Jester. For years, Alex has spent April Fool’s Day in Harvard Square, handing out dollar bills to people. Here’s the thing: no one will take them! People run away from him. People shield their children from him! He estimates that only one in every ten people actually is willing to take his money.
Grace makes no sense. If grace made sense, Jesus certainly would have chosen different people to share it with. But who hears the news first? Women! Now if you wanted to appear reasonable, to be successful in sharing news in Jesus’s time, you would never choose women as your messengers. Their low status would disqualify them, off the bat. But grace makes no sense.
And who does Jesus want to come join him in Galilee? His disciples! Can you imagine? Jesus just can’t wait to bless and work with the very people who ran away from him in his hour of suffering! He even mentions Peter in particular – Peter, who denied he knew Jesus over and over again. Grace makes no sense.
Today we announce grace: God’s unmerited favor. We announce that the God who loved us enough to become one of us died like one of us and then rose from the grave for us, to show forth God’s love for us.
The women run away, confused and frightened by grace. And I’m sort of glad. I can relate to their reaction. Their reaction seems more realistic than other women in the Bible who are surprised by grace. God parts the Red Sea, and Miriam bursts into song. Elizabeth meets the pregnant Mary and exclaims “Thou art blessed!” And Mary, confronted by an angel with gob-smacking news, much like these women, launches into a gorgeous reverie: “My soul magnifies the Lord.”
Me? I generally meet grace with silence. Or fear. I’m waiting for the other shoe to fall.
It is only by the work of the Holy Spirit that I can withstand the rays of love God wants to shower on me. It’s tempting to run away.
Will you run away?
This morning, four people will be baptized into the Body of Christ. I want to testify to you that they wrestled with this question. None of them came here easily.
These are people who well know the spiritual forces that corrupt and destroy the creatures of God. They are tired of the fruitless games this world tells us to play; tired of going along; tired of giving in; tired of despair.
The Spirit led them to risk trusting Grace. Today, through grace, they fall into the hands of God and say yes to God’s promise of forgiveness and life through Christ.
Let their witness renew in us our own commitment to live as Resurrection people in a world that needs hope. Let their ministry among us strengthen our capacity to love and serve the world in Christ’s name. And let us rejoice in the God who freed us from playing games for the greater work of courageous love.