In the garden store the other day I saw a display of Miracle Grow plant food with all sorts of pictures of large gorgeous blooms. I know of several medicines that are regularly described as “a miracle drug”. There are cleaning products described in their advertising pitches as modern miracles. And at least one high school teacher I recall, I still believe as a joke, termed my graduation a miracle.
We use the term miracle loosely. When we see it in advertising we usually know it is an exaggeration and hype. Hype can be seen in a video of your cat or your grandchild or your most embarrassing moment which can “go viral,” and suddenly millions of people around the world know it. Fads like the Harlem Shake appear and disappear before we even figure out what they are. Hype can come because of something you’re proud of—an accomplishment or blessing or creative moment you’ve brought the world. But hype can also be about things you never wanted – when you or family are in the news because it’s the worst moment of your life.
Hype fades as quickly as it arrives. And especially in advertising we do not usually believe all or most of the claims. For when we do we are usually disappointed. I recall as a child sending for a special toy being advertised on one of the TV westerns I watched. I saved up the box tops and sent off my $2 shipping and handling anxiously waiting until my official decoder ring arrived and I would be led on the exclusive adventure promised. The ring arrived and I was finally able to decode the secret message. And to my dismay there was no secret adventure that I wanted to be part of – but it was simply a reminder to pick up more cereal when I went to the store with Mom. Just hype for cereal. We are used to hype being disappointment.
It is no wonder then that many of Jesus friends and followers, when told of the women’s findings at the tomb, then and now have trouble coming to belief in the resurrection. We do not experience people who have died coming back to life – or of disappointments and broken dreams becoming reason for hope. It all sounds more like hype….
Those early followers of Jesus and us later ones are all asked to suspend our disbelief and to listen to wisdom that is deeper than skepticism and even common sense.
But we do have some experience that can help. Each of us has experienced love. And if we are totally honest about it – we have to admit that love does not make sense. To act beyond self-interest and for the good of another is not good evolutionary thinking. To love deeply and to act lovingly creates situations in which we act counter to our own best interests. There are many recounted acts of heroism in which the prudent act would be self-preservation, but the heroic act puts the individual in danger because their caring action. I am convinced that the human being – having been created in the image of God – responds to the value of selflessness even as our instinct self-preservation draws us back from it.
Jesus lived out in integrity and love exactly who he was called to be – even when it meant suffering and death. I believe Jesus did not KNOW with certainty that there would be anything beyond the grave. Thus the agony in the garden. But Jesus had hope and trust in the love of God to overcome the stigma and negation of death and from it to somehow create something new and life-giving. Jesus trusted and through this event we call Easter calls us to place our trust there as well.
What is it we are being asked to put our trust in? We are asked to trust that with God all things are possible; that death is not the end and new life can emerge victorious even from suffering and evil caused by the forces of evil or by human action.
We are invited to trust in HOPE not in hype. For two thousand years individual Christians have had the experience of various kinds of death – of dreams, of relationships, of hope – only to find that a new, and different life emerge beyond the death they experienced.
Yet many are still reluctant to believe even in that which they have experienced fearing it is some sort of fluke. But this invitation comes to us from the natural order of the world as well. Each spring most of us thrill to the awakening of the earth from the death grip of winter. Watching the flowers appear through the vestiges of the dead leaves of autumn. We watch with fascination as the butterfly slowly emerges from the chrysalis that looks like a dead leaf… we know full well the caterpillar life is dead and gone and a new life has emerged. Creation gives us hints to help us but never compels us to believe. The power that created the flower, the caterpillar and the butterfly invites us to trust in the power of love to triumph over the power of evil, and invites us to live out in our lives that hope and belief – even when the powers of death and destruction, the powers of apathy and uncaring seem to be winning the day.
The Gospel offers us hope – not hype. Hope is the miracle we seek – and love is the root from which it grows. Think of Mother Theresa, caring for the dying poor in India, of Archbishop Desmond Tutu who kept a twinkle in his eye in the midst of apartheid, and Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr., who continued to dream of a just tomorrow that was good for all of humanity, and of hundreds of other known to us who lived out the hope of new & abundant live & made it real.
A little bit of hope goes a long way, and as these people showed, a heart filled with hope can change the world. Christian hope is reality-based and leads to responsible life and action. Easter is the hope of Mother Theresa, Archbishop Tutu and Dr. King. Let us go forth from in hope – living it, sharing it, creating it for ourselves & others.
May you find your new and abundant life!