Last Sunday, Easter Sunday to be exact, Pastor Brian Siefert of Knightdale United Methodist Church (yes, I’m plugging my church. Come join us.) spoke about how the Gospel flies in the face of everything we think we know. We “know” that people don’t willingly go to a gruesome death for others they’ve never met. We “know” that people don’t come back from the dead, especially after being buried for 3 days. And, we “know” that you aren’t just forgiven of everything you’ve ever done wrong without having some kind of consequence. That’s just crazy talk and if we heard it in reference to anyone other than Jesus, that’s exactly what we’d say. Yet, every Easter, over 2 billion Christians celebrate that very premise.
From a purely logical point of view, the Gospel is a fairy tale, a bad science fiction story. I mean, you’ve got people rising from the dead in crazy ways, being cured of terrible diseases with a wave of the hand, food being multiplied beyond all reason, water turned into wine and more. There’s no way this kind of stuff could really happen…, could it? I’m reminded every day that things happen that science doesn’t understand. They’re trying, but much of it is just beyond their reckoning. It may be that, someday, the miracles of Jesus and his disciples will all be explained by scientific inquiry. If that day comes, I hope I’m not around to see it. There’s something satisfying about the mystical parts of faith. I think that’s why older traditions of worship are coming back into vogue. We long for something more than cold logic and religion sates that longing. Many atheists and agnostics think such ideas are crap and aren’t shy about sharing that thought. But, how can something with the potential to change your entire way of living (for the good) be crap?
One reason for that viewpoint may the counterintuitive nature of the Gospel. Everything Jesus ever taught, said or did can be boiled down to one succinct statement: It ain’t about you. The Gospel is a message of hope to people who are in a hole and have no way to get out. And, it tells us to go find those people and pull them out of that hole, no matter how deep it is, no matter how much of our own resources it takes to accomplish. That makes it counterintuitive, counter-cultural and fly in the face of logic. Because intuition, culture and logic tell us every day that we have to look ourselves first; that if we don’t, no one else will. That it’s all about us. Jesus begs to differ.