Lent 3: Funk, Robertson “angels” on resurrection

Scripture Reflection and Communion.
First Congregational United Church of Christ, Open and Affirming,
Santa Rosa, California. The Rev. Robert F. Cramer, Eucharistic Minister.

THIRD SUNDAY IN LENT, MARCH 19, 2006. __John 2:13-22a.__

In the temple precincts [Jesus] came upon people selling oxen
and sheep and doves, and bankers were doing business there too.
He made a whip out of rope and drove them all out
of the temple area, sheep, oxen, and all;
then he knocked over the bankers’ tables
and set their coins flying.
And to the dove merchants he said,
“Get these birds out of here! How dare you use my Father’s house
as a public market.” For it says in scripture {Psalm 69}:
‘Zeal for your house is demanding all my attention;
(or, alternatively) leading to my destruction’.
To this the people responded, “What justification can you show us
for doing all this? Jesus replied,
“Destroy this temple and I’ll resurrect it in three days.”
However, he was referring to his body as a temple.
When he had been raised from the dead his disciples remembered
that he had made this remark … .
[From The Complete Gospels, incorporating notes from The Signs Gospel.]

__I sit engrossed in meditation,__ as I have for part of the past several days, using a way of looking at scripture developed by the ancient Desert Fathers. Our pastor, David, has been teaching us a modern version of this technique, which is called _lectio divina._ It’s supposed to free me from my habit of using my library, and notes from 15 years of post-graduate study. The passage for Lent 3 needs to resonate not in my head but in my gut; I need to respond to it personally, even by challenging it if there is something there that grabs me at gut level.

Ah! There is indeed a gut-grabber. Most of the passage is so very familiar that I am bored with it, because I always have realized Jesus took his gospel of God’s Realm around to the villages, telling folks who didn’t take religion very seriously (and, even some who did) that God isn’t interested in converting Roman coins into shekels or offering animals for sacrifice. He said you couldn’t buy your way into heaven, as if it were a remote destination. Sounding for all the world like Pope John Paul II several years ago, he said heaven and hell are not places to visit later but exist right here, right now, for those with little but spiritual perception.

Boring. Been there, heard that.

__But wait: what is this?__ Jesus says even if “this temple” is destroyed, it can be rebuilt in three days. The people do not think so! But Jesus goes even further: “I’ll resurrect it.” _He_ will?!?

Now I’m having a very strange experience; I wonder if the monastic inventors of lectio divina could have imagined it.

__I hear voices__ – voices of messengers from God, angels, one on each of my shoulders. I listen, not that I have a choice; does one just suddenly quit meditating when it finally gets really interesting? I believe in angels; I’ve had some visits.

The angels must be formless because they have no weight. But into my left ear a voice very much like Bob Funk’s says, as he used to say at late night liberation-libation parties after Jesus Seminar sessions, “Before you go to bed, just leaf through the whole New Testament and count the number of places where it is claimed, by Jesus or anyone else, that the power of resurrection belonged to Jesus.” _Great sense of humor, Funk._

Not so the angel on the right, Pat Robertson, maybe, who believes it’s okay for Christians to pre-emptively bomb people we’re scared of. Only that’s not what this heavenly messenger is saying now. The voice, hardly opera-quality, sings, “Up from the grave he arose, he arose, in a mighty triumph o’er his foes.” I am reminded that Christians everywhere look forward to Easter when most if not all sing that, believing the power of resurrection was uniquely Jesus’ power, not God’s. _Easter is God-power._

In my left ear, a snort, and I know the answer to the Funk-angel’s test question: Nowhere in all of scripture is anyone but God credited with the power of resurrection. And then, again in the left ear: “Did you look hard at the words in John 2:22? ‘… he had been raised from the dead …’.

Now a snort from the other side; what a conversation! Pat: “Christians worship Jesus Christ because of his power.” But from the left, “Power, yes, the power to live as if one were a fully human child of God living in the Realm of God; the power to lighten the burden of the forsaken through love; the power to say ‘no!’ to war and oppression, and the power of presence with the sick and poor, not the rich and well. The power of Godself in human form, sharing the work of creation daily.”

__I heard no more from outside myself.__ I began to wonder – were these voices outside or did they come from within? Could God be speaking in me, not just to me? As I move toward Easter, is something fundamental being resurrected in the temple my spirit just now inhabits?

Angels have visited before. They seldom spoke. Maybe I wasn’t listening.