Summary: On Easter Morning, we put ourselves in a kind of spiritual “angel gear.” We turn off all our mechanistic doubts. We refuse to put the brakes on the faith. We cling to the steering wheel of Easter.
1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.
2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him."
3 Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb.
4 The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.
5 He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in.
6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there,
7 and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself.
8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed;
9 for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.
10 Then the disciples returned to their homes.
My father-in-law, Claude Martin, told me this story from when he was a teenager. This would have been about 1939. Claude had an uncle, Ed Lusk, who bought and sold produce. When apples were in season, Claude and Ed would drive a truck up into the mountains, buy a load of apples, and bring them down to Columbia to sell. Uncle Ed let the teen-aged Claude drive the truck, but Ed was, to be polite, a very thrifty person. To be impolite, he was one of the stingiest people in the history of the human species. For lunch, he would give Claude something from the produce that he could not sell—a rotten canelope or apple. And on the way down the mountain, with a truckload of apples, he would have Claude turn off the engine and coast—to save gas. Now realize that this was 1939. All the mountains roads were narrow, full of “S” curves, and two-laned, but Uncle Ed was trying to save every penny so he told Claude to cut off the engine, put the gearshift in neutral, and use the brakes to get them down the mountain. Truckers call that “angel gear,” because if you do that often enough you are probably going to wind up singing with the angels.
But on Easter Morning, we put ourselves in a kind of spiritual “angel gear.” We turn off all our mechanistic doubts. We refuse to put the brakes on the faith. We cling to the steering wheel of Easter.
Most non-Christians have no problem agreeing that Jesus of Nazareth was a gifted leader and teacher, but on this morning, Christians part company with this worldly opinion of Jesus. This morning we celebrate a mystery and a miracle - the greatest miracle and mystery ever known: Christ is Risen!
But we hesitate to launch out fully in faith. Indeed, our society seems to doubt the usefulness of faith. Pulitzer Prize-winning Harvard psychologist John E. Mack protests the exclusion of spiritual elements from our approach to the world. "By and large, we in the West have rejected the language and experience of the sacred, the divine and the animation of nature. Our psychology is predominantly a psychology of mechanisms, parts, and linear relationships. We have grown suspicious of experiences, no matter how powerful, that cannot be quantified, and we distrust the language of reverence, spirit, and mystical connection, recalling perhaps with fear the superstitiousness and holy wars of earlier periods.” [ReVision 14 (Fall 1991), 104.] In other words, the language of faith is suspect in our society.
What is faith anyway? I can tell you what faith is not. Faith is not anti-reason. There is no division between faith and reason. That is obviously true. I am using reason right now to talk about faith. I am reasoning with you about faith. Faith is not anti-reason, not anti-science, and not anti-technology.
Some years ago, my family and I visited Lancaster Pennsylvania, and we met the Amish. The Amish people are a Christian sect that rejects almost all technology. They do not drive cars or tractors. They do not use telephones or own TVs. They do not go to school much. And I thought, if this is Christianity, I do not want any. But that was not Christianity. That was just their little narrow culture.
For years, I have heard Fundamentalist preachers railing against science. You get the idea that these folks are more anti-science than pro-Jesus. They are preach not faith in Jesus but their own anti-intellectual bias.