What will you preach on May 22, the Sunday after General Conference?
Hoping for Mary…
Jesus said to her, “Mary.” Mary [Magdalene] turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabbouni” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Don’t hold on to me, for I haven’t yet gone up to my Father. Go to my brothers and sisters and tell them, ‘I’m going up to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’
Mary Magdalene left and announced to the disciples, “I’ve seen the Lord.” Then she told them what he said to her.
John 20:17-20, CEB
I want to be like Mary Magdalene on Sunday, May 22, the day after General Conference of The United Methodist Church.
I want to tell my church that I saw the Resurrection.
I want to tell my church, the denomination that they thought was dead, is alive again.
I want to tell my church that the veil has been ripped asunder and the priesthood has been opened to all people.
I want to tell my church that the Pharisees did not win.
I want to tell my church that the politics of fearmongering did not stop the Resurrection.
I want to tell my church that “I’ve seen the Lord” whose Spirit endured the spittle and spite.
I want to tell my church that I have no hesitations about baptizing their children into it.
I want to tell my church that I saw LGBTQ persons become fully included in the life of the church.
I want to tell my church that I saw the new leadership reflect the plurality of diversity, not just white American culture.
I want to tell my church that I saw the racist church die and a more just one rise in its place.
I want to be Mary Magdalene.
I want to tell of the Resurrection of the Church that I’ve just seen.
But Settling for Thomas…
Thomas, one of the Twelve, wasn’t with the disciples when Jesus came. The other disciples told him, “We’ve seen the Lord!” But he replied, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands, put my finger in the wounds left by the nails, and put my hand into his side, I won’t believe.”
After eight days his disciples were again in a house and Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were locked, Jesus entered and stood among them. He said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here. Look at my hands. Put your hand into my side. No more disbelief. Believe!” Thomas responded to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!”
But I’m afraid we’re going to settle for Thomas.
Those first seven days when Thomas had heard the Good News from Mary and the Disciples, but chose to not believe it.
The seven days when Thomas doubted and stayed just as he was.
I worry we’ll settle for the usual speeches without conversations, and posturing instead of pondering the truth of one another.
I worry we’ll settle for kicking the big decisions four years down the road instead of deciding this year.
I worry we’ll settle for restructuring the church to keep the minority perspectives segmented and isolated.
I worry we’ll settle for keeping the old Church on a ventilator so the new Church cannot yet be born.
Because, you see, Jesus didn’t appear to Thomas at first or for those first seven days.
Jesus came to Mary because he knew she would recognize Him and believe Him.
Mary saw the Resurrection. And believed.
Resurrection wasn’t seen by Thomas who denied a new reality was possible.
Resurrection wasn’t seen by Thomas who was stuck in the “what is.”
Resurrection wasn’t seen by Thomas who settled for life as usual.
I’m afraid we’ll settle for maintaining church “as is.”
I’m afraid we’ll settle for keeping the minority people groups at arms length.
I’m afraid we’ll settle for slow sapping of mission rather than much-hyped crumbling of institutions.
I’m afraid we want to be Thomas.
I want Mary to burst through the doors and proclaim the Good News.
But I’m afraid we’ll settle for Thomas, waiting seven more days, or four more years, for the Resurrection to be fully revealed, and the current paralyzing doubt to be melted away.
The truth is both Mary and Thomas will be present at the closing gavel of General Conference on May 20.
Some decisions will reflect the new reality of the Resurrection, the abundant life initiated by Christ.
Some decisions will be keep things the “way it was,” denying the new life present in people outside their echo chambers.
That both/and is the Methodist way of incrementalism.
The resurrection new life for women preachers waited 30 years from first light in 1924 to the full dawn of equal gender rights to ordination in 1956. African-Americans waited 30 years for full inclusion as well in 1968. And 44 years later, LGBTQ preachers are still waiting, waiting for the Thomases to stop doubting and to start believing.
But I want a full Resurrection now.
I know in my head that we are called to be like the Disciples who sat with Thomas for seven days, waiting for the Resurrection to be made real to him. And if they had to wait forty-four years, I believe they would have. Because to watch the Resurrection sunrise together? That’s the best moment to wait for.
But in my heart? I want that moment to be this year, in this place, for my Church.
Come, Resurrection, Come.