Where’s the King I Was Waiting For?

This American Life – Episode 90:  Telephone

Readings: Acts 2:14a, 22-32  •  Psalm 16  •  1 Peter 1:3-9  •  John 20:19-31

He is risen! Is He really? I think I missed it. For the first time in 27 years, I did not attend a Good Friday service or Easter Sunday. Personal drama, laziness, insecurity, and a variety of other reasons, motives, constraints, and excuses led to the fact that I was not there. I did not hear him die; I did not hear him rise. The king I was waiting for since Palm Sunday, which I did attend, did not come in my life.

In this week’s readings, I reflect upon Peter’s message to the men (and likely women) of Judea. He shouts twice, “Listen to what I have to say!” (Acts 2:14a; 22). He recounts that Jesus the man that some of them might have seen, some of them might of heard of, and some of them may have no clue who he is has died by the hands of men and God raised him from death (Acts 2:22-24; 1 Peter 1:3). He reminds them that this event was foreseen by David, their true king; thus, they must believe that Peter speaks the truth (Acts 2:25-32). Jesus through his death and resurrection is now and forever to be their king (Acts 2:30). Oh and by the way, even though you in the audience may not have been there, you are now “witnesses” to this truth (Acts 2:32).

Ummm… Hey Pete. Excuse me. I wasn’t actually there. I don’t have a time machine right now. I hear it takes plutonium and some sort of flux capacitor, and I’m fresh out of both. So frankly, I didn’t see it happen. I also missed Good Friday service, and I missed Easter Sunday, so I didn’t get to hear about this Jesus guy and what you’re talking about. But, I did manage to make it last year, so I think I know what you’re talking about. But it’s been a long year: Lots of changes, lots of new experiences. So even though I’ve heard this before, I still have my doubts.

You speak of the how great this death and resurrection moment is for us: “An inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4). But, how about us down here on planet earth? I mean don’t get me wrong this heaven sounds great, but I’m not feeling the need to “rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials” (1 Peter 1:5).

Suffer various trials now is putting lightly Pete. You don’t have student loan debt, bad first dates, family emergencies, trying to pay bills, and those things are pretty light for just me. I mean think about the world. We have starvation, poverty, war, earthquakes, and host of other disasters that this fragile planet and us humans keep creating. I also think being “tested by fire” is also downplaying it a bit (1 Peter 1:7). I’m not really feeling the need to “praise and glory” (1 Peter 1:7). So again, I still have my doubts.

I totally get how Thomas must have felt. He missed the whole ordeal, you know (for the ordeal see John 20:19-24). I mean he called y’all out, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25). But at least, Jesus showed up (John 20:26). He let Thomas touch his wounds. But then He said, “Do not doubt but believe” (John 20:27). So then, Thomas believed (John 20:28), and Jesus encourages us who have not seen to believe (John 20:29). Okay, thanks for the backhanded scolding Jesus. I’m doing my best here, but still I have doubts.

And here’s kind of why. The writer(s) of John then decides to pull one of these:

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31).

I mean. What was that? Thanks for the cliffhanger. Now what do I have to go on?

I mean. I get it. The book had to end sometime. All great stories, all great moments do. But now you’re leaving it up to us to carry on? Us who have not seen, us who have only heard through an obnoxiously long game of telephone, and many of us who haven’t even heard still? That’s a lot of pressure, but as you can see we are going to try.

To Peter, Jesus, and the writer(s) of John. I just want to let you know something. Some of us are going to screw it up. We might tell or interpret the story wrong. Some of us are going to use the story to maximize our own well-being. Some of us are going to reject you. Some of us are going to take comfort in only those things we can explain through science or our own intuition. I am just glad that you get it. We are going to have doubts, and we definitely aren’t perfect. I just hope y’all are right: the outcome of your faith = the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:9; also see Psalm 16:10). No pressure though!

As for me, though I believe and will continue to doubt, I still feel like I’m waiting for the phone to ring. I’m still waiting for the King I was waiting for to come. At least, I am not the only one.

This week, I have selected a classic episode of This American Life (#90 – Telephone). In Communication 101, students learn that communication is made up of senders, receivers, messages, and the channels used for communication. An oldie but goodie form of communication is the telephone. Here in this episode we hear about the impact of the telephone in the lives of individuals and groups and across history. I hope you enjoy the dive into how stories and emotions are communicated across people and across time.


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