In celebration of stubbornness

Easter 3B

In the name of the God of life, love, and peace.  Amen.

I’m sure it would surprise you to learn, that as a child, I often tended to have pretty clear visions of what I thought should happen, and I could be… shall we say, persistent… in my expressions about those expectations.  One of my earlier memories is of my maternal grandmother regularly exclaiming of me, “You’re hard-headed!”.  Now, she loved me fiercely, and I think as often as not, she said it with admiration and pride more than any kind of frustration.  But it’s a quality that has been a pretty core factor about me from the very beginning.

To this day, I’m sure one of Michael’s biggest complaints about me is that once I get something into my mind, I’m like a dog with a bone.  I won’t let it go.  He says that I obsess.  But I will work and strategize and nick away at a problem or a goal until it’s been dealt with.

That’s what happened with our trip to see the eclipse last week.  We were supposed to see the last one in 2017, but Michael’s schedule changed and we couldn’t do it then.  So I put this week on my calendar back then.  Seven years went by, and I kept insisting.  When the time came, it wasn’t even really a discussion.  We talked about the details – but not really much at all about whether it would happen or not.  It was going to happen.

Like the man in the movie The Shawshank Redemption who spent years slowly tunneling behind his poster and slowly dumping pocketsful of dust and gravel into the prison yard each day until at last he had finally tunneled out – I almost always just can’t let go.

It may have been “hard headedness” to my grandmother, and it may be a bit annoying sometimes for my husband, but the fact is, that sort of tenacity has been something that’s served me well through the years.  As a child, it got me out of eating asparagus, but as an adult, it’s helped me weather all manner of challenges and to solve any number of problems.

I embrace my stubbornness.  It’s gotten me to where I am today, and I’m proud of that.

During this Easter season, one of the things we celebrate, as a church, is God’s stubbornness.

In the first readings each Sunday throughout Easter we always read from the Acts of the Apostles – which is sort of like the sequel to the Gospels.  It’s a continuation of the Gospel according to Luke that tells the story of Christ and the apostles in those earliest days of Resurrection-awakening.

In the story that we heard this morning, Peter has just healed a crippled beggar in the name of Jesus.  He says to him, “I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.”  And Peter and John helped him to his feet, and they were in that moment made strong, and he could once again walk.

The people who witnessed this were amazed, but Peter was flabbergasted at their wonder.  He reminds them what all they’ve been through – all they’ve seen.  Don’t you remember?  You were the ones who handed him over to Pilate and demanded his death.  When Pilate tried to release him, don’t you remember?  You demanded to free the murderer instead.  “You killed the Author of Life,” Peter said, and even so – even in the face of death – God stubbornly made way for life.

And looking back to the Gospel, we see that stubbornness again.

In those first days, just after the women had discovered the empty tomb and learned of the Resurrection, that same day, two of Christ’s followers were walking along the road to Emmaus and encountered the Resurrected Christ.  They didn’t know him at first, but when he shared a meal with them – just as he had in the last supper – their eyes were opened, and they knew him.  Immediately they went and found the others and told them all that had happened.  And as they were telling them this good news, Jesus appeared among them again.

Then, just as had been the case with the women at the tomb, the revelation of Resurrection made them afraid.  But stubbornly, in the face of fear, Christ breathed peace.  Our nature was fear, but Christ offered peace.

When we’re faced with pushbacks, it’s so easy to give in.  It’s so easy to wonder if the fight is worth it, and to decide not to try.

But in Easter, we give thanks to God for being stubborn, despite all the ways that we push back against God’s will.

We are shown again and again that God believes the fight for us is worth it.  God is willing to keep trying, even when we remain unwilling and stuck in our ways.

Because God is stubborn.  God is hard-headed.  God keeps pressing and strategizing and chipping away until the goal is met.  And the goal is love.

In the times in our lives when we’ve demanded death, God keeps insisting on life.

When we can only see punishment, God keeps insisting on love.

When we can only imagine fear, Christ keeps offering peace.

That is the Easter message.  God keeps finding ways to bring us life, love, and peace.  Even when it seems like the most foreign thing we can imagine – even when it seems impossible to us – God is there: offering life over death, love over law, and peace over the tumult of fear.  And even when we reject God’s grace – even when we can’t see the gifts that stretch in front of us – like a net, those gifts catch us, and keep us from falling too far.

That is God’s nature.  And we, who have been made in the image of God, have that same tenacity within us.  We may not always see it right away, but it’s there.

Life, where life isn’t possible.

Love, where love isn’t recognizable.

Peace, where peace isn’t within reach.

That’s the joy of Easter.  That’s the Christ, whom we worship.  That’s the image of our creator that still lives in us.  Amen.