Lectionary Reading: Matthew 28:1-10
This American Life – TV Season 1 Episode 4: God’s Close Up
(Unfortunately, I could not find a free streaming version of this episode online. You can buy on Amazon for $2. If you have the opportunity, you should watch the 2 seasons available of the show.)
I just realized that the seasonal isle at Target follows the Liturgical calendar! And, if it’s not obvious by the church and Christians in general, you can tell it’s Easter by the candy at the grocery store (50% off candy on Monday!)
While I continue to think about this exercise – I mean writing a blog that critiques Biblical texts against stories of This American Life – I realize more and more how everything in the Bible can be very mundane. I don’t mean to take away from the glory or the divine that we might encounter in the Scriptures; simply that, all the stuff that’s mentioned in the Bible happens to us in one way or another. We might not see Jesus alive one morning, crucified the next day and then missing from his tomb a few days later, at least not in that literal sense. But we do encounter that experience, sometimes not in the most extraordinary manner. And, that’s what I’ve liked about these blogs that we’ve been doing. This American Life obviously presents engaging and outstanding stories. However, they are still ordinary stories of accounts that just happen to people – everyday people. And so, whenever we find some similarity between a story featured in the show and a biblical account, I believe, it affirms that the biblical narrative is stories of accounts of everyday people.
With that in mind, what can be so ordinary about the resurrection of the person who many believe to be the human reincarnation of God and our own savior? So, I was immediately drawn to people around that event and not necessarily the event itself. We don’t see people come back to life often but we do experience something that was going that day: seeking God or Jesus. In Matthew, we have Mary and Mary going to the tomb, finding it empty and an angel declaring that Jesus was no longer there. In other words, Mary and Mary were set on seeing Jesus but how they saw him did not fall within their expectations. So that makes me question: how do we attempt to find Jesus and how do we react when we do find him or not?
I remember a story that my friend Jose would always narrate. He and friends were eating at a Chinese restaurant when a man came in begging for money. The guys didn’t have much money to give this man but they offered some of their food. The man ate with them, Jose asked his name and he responded. I remember Jose saying that at the moment when the man mentioned his name, Jose suddenly saw Jesus in a way that resonates with Matthew 25: whatever you did to the least of this, you did to me… I doubt my friend set out that night seeking to find Jesus, but he did. And, it was an unexpected moment probably filled with some sort of fear and excitement just Mary and Mary would have felt upon finding that Jesus was not in the tomb. In other words, even today we find Jesus when we don’t expect him and don’t find him when we expect it. And, either way, it’s surprising.
As I thought about the lectionary reading for Easter, I immediately remembered an episode of the short-lived TV version of This American Life – Episode 4 from Season 1: God’s Close Up. The intro of the show showcases devout Christians who gather in the Mohave Desert taking pictures of the sun in hopes of finding divine images. They seek God and cherish the photos as testimony of God’s presence. The episode then moves to document the work of an artist who creates elaborate sets in order for him to paint pictures of Jesus. And so, in this story, we have one man who, through his artistic talent, attempts to find a portrayal of who and what Jesus was. As you can see on the show, this endeavor proves to complicate how some of those around him relate to Jesus and each other. Thus, a man’s quest to find Jesus, proves surprising for many.
The life, death and resurrection of Jesus can have many different meanings in our lives. Yet, I keep asking myself, not necessarily what that meaning might be exactly but, where am I looking for the meaning of Jesus? Where have I found it? And, how do I react when I find it or fail to find it? I think that’s something ordinary that many of us experience.