Today is Sunday, March 29th, 2020.
This is the Fifth Sunday of Lent.
I am going to read the Old Testament lesson for today and the Epistle Lesson as well as a reading from a translation of the Qur’an. As you will hear, the theme is resurrection.
Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord.’
and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.
Qur’an 22:5-7, 36:12, 39:70
O mankind! If you are in doubt concerning the resurrection, then, verily, We created you from dust, then from a drop, then from a clot, then from a lump of flesh [both] shaped and shapeless, that We make it clear for you. And We cause what We will to remain in the wombs for an appointed time, and afterwards We bring you forth as infants: then you attain your full strength.
And among you there is he who dies [young] and among you there is he who is brought back to the most abject time of life so that, after knowledge, he knows nothing. And you see the earth barren, but when We send down water on it, it thrills and swells and puts forth every lovely kind [of growth].
That is because Allah is Reality, and it is He Who gives life to the dead, and it is He Who has power over all things, and because the Hour [of Judgment] will come concerning which there is no doubt, and because Allah will raise those who are in the graves. (22:5-7)
Verily We shall give life to the dead, and We record all that they send before and that they leave behind, and We have taken account of all things in a clear Book [of evidence]. (36:12)
And to every soul will be paid in full of its deeds, and He knows best all that they do. (39:70)
You just heard readings from the three major monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, all speaking about the same thing, resurrection and judgment, death and life.
They are different, of course.
Judaism is about the resurrection of a particular people, an ethnic group, to a land, a piece of property, the land of Israel.
Christianity is about resurrection through belief in Jesus. It is universal, not about an ethnic group or land, but resurrection available to those with belief in Jesus who thus possess the Spirit of Christ.
Islam is more universal still. Each person is judged not based on being chosen, or through an intermediary Jesus, but each person is judged based on his or her own deeds.
If I were to choose which view makes most sense to me, I would choose the view that is revealed in the Qur’an. It seems to me to be the most mature. No human group is special or chosen. Each person is responsible for what he or she has done and not done. All are equal before God with no intermediary.
That said I do like the idea of grace. I don’t know if I will fare very well on judgment day. All the stuff I have done. Every thought I have had. It would be helpful to have the good lawyer Jesus defending me, even taking the verdict due to me upon himself. I can see why Christianity chose that option.
Being chosen? I like that, too. No matter what I do, good or evil, I am chosen. But is that really fair? Are there people not chosen? Maybe everyone is chosen. I can go with that, otherwise it is awfully arbitrary on God’s part. Plus, are we not responsible for ourselves and our deeds, no matter our chosenness?
With Islam it is every woman for herself and every man for himself. Also, the God who judges, judges truly, and is beneficent and compassionate.
Then there are other major religions and philosophies such as Hinduism and Buddhism. There is judgment for each life, but your soul goes through many lives until ultimately you get it right. I do like the educational process with that. You learn something new each go around. But how many millions of lives will it take for me? I tend to be a slow learner.
And then there are the thousands and thousands of offshoots and combinations of all of these views of resurrection and judgment with many caveats and other requirements. So many views, it is impossible to even list them let alone summarize them.
Finally, there is the dominant view of our modern secular society. It is not a new view. It is an old view. It is the view of disbelief in resurrection. When you are dead, you are dead. End of story. There is no judgement at all. Life is what it is and then it ends. Religion is at best wishful thinking and at worst a form of control.
Yet some would say this secularization has led to the abandonment of all morality, to an abject nihilism which has allowed evil to reign over us. When no one fears judgment, then enslavement to those who will do evil results. The evidence may be a review of the past 100 years of the powerful few wielding technological violence on all of humanity.
One would think after 27 years in the ministry, I would have a clearer understanding of all of this. But I don’t. I guess you could call me a secular pseudo-Christian, a product of our modernist educational system. I dutifully learned historical-critical study of the Bible and Darwinian evolution. I challenged the belief systems of my own tradition and I think I was right to do that. Much of my religious tradition is based on superstition and control. Free thinking and inquiry and the so-called scientific method was a most helpful tool to challenge these dead ends. But somewhere along the way, God was lost as well as resurrection and judgment.
The freedom I sought through modern, secular methods left the whole enterprise vacuous, hollow, a shell of itself. That vacuum was filled with partisan politics and lame aphorisms, a blind trust in institutions without critical thought of who and what controls them and their messaging.
I have taken a few more steps into exploring the dark places especially in the past three years or so. I have been exposed to the evil that masquerades as enlightenment on the television screens and smart phone screens and have witnessed the “progressive” voices of my religious tradition join atheistic secular voices to echo and embrace the falsehoods that pour out from these screens.
Maybe the churches deserve to have their doors shut by the state as they have been now for three weeks in a row. There appears to be no message of life in them. Most of the churches are lifeless, dry bones that preach “American Exceptionalism.” They don’t even understand the purpose and cause of 9/11 or the assassinations of JFK, RFK, MLK, Malcom, and Merton, or Vietnam, out of control militarism, or the ongoing Nakba in Palestine and throughout the world. How can they begin to unravel the evil that is manifesting itself now through massive technological control of humanity by the very few nameless elites? My religious colleagues are crying for the state to close everything down including their own churches because they fear death.
Yes we need Resurrection and Judgment.
Praise to Allah do we need Resurrection and Judgment.
Human beings are regarded as useless pen animals. Good for nothing except to stay in their homes, isolated from one another. We know how to help the vulnerable in a crisis. We know how to be a presence of healing for one another. We know how not to spread disease. Every year we live through the flu virus by doing what we know what to do.
“No, you don’t!” says the state. “You are good for nothing. You are the problem. Stay at home or we will force you.”
Meanwhile the governments put out a forest fire by destroying the forest with a nuclear bomb. They are destroying our livelihoods, taking away our freedoms, taking away our humanity, causing untold long-term harm for the sake of supposedly stopping the spread of a virus.
What is the state? Sycophants and bureaucrats taking orders from forces above them, all manipulated by fear of what will happen to their careers if they don’t obey the most draconian voices.
What is this COVID thing? Those who are willing to educate themselves are discovering that this is not what it seems. This is not what we are being told. The elites are up to something sinister, a long-planned agenda to control the population on behalf of the elites.
But we are not supposed to believe that because progressive theology got rid of evil. We said it doesn’t exist any longer. No evil to go along with no resurrection and no judgment. How convenient.
There is evil. There is evil and it masquerades as our friend. Good-looking people speaking to us on our televisions. People with degrees. “Trust the scientists!” we are told. The scientists who gave us the atom bomb? The scientists who gave us Agent Orange? The scientists who are creating bioweapons in laboratories all over the world? The scientists who told us and continue to tell us that World Trade Center Building Seven collapsed into its own footprint in less than seven seconds because of office fires? Those scientists? Trust them?
No, I won’t. Scientists work for those who control them. Politicians work for those who control them. Religious leaders work for those who control them. Bureaucrats work for those who control them. All of us work for those who control us.
We will be accountable.
The day of judgement will come for each of us.
The day of resurrection is real.
“God has taken account of all things in a clear book of evidence,” says the Qur’an.
God will call to account those who do evil.
God will call each of us to account for who we allowed to control us.
God will call each of us to account for believing comfortable lies rather than hard truths.
The day of judgment will come for each of us.
The day of resurrection is real.
Now I believe it.
I believe it because I have seen evil.
Don’t take my word for it. Look for yourself. Search for yourself the evil that is rising. You don’t have to look that hard for it. Courageous people have done this work already. They have tried to communicate it. Mostly it falls on deaf ears. No one wants to hear it.
There will be judgment for that.
But I have seen something greater than evil.
I have seen goodness and truth.
I have seen beauty on the dusty road to Karbala.
I have seen the hope for humanity in the tears shed for Imam Hussain (as).
I have seen love shared in the spirit of the Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him).
I have seen the signs that show Allah is uniting the world.
I have seen these signs with my heart.
There is an awakening.
God is at work.
I trust that.
I don’t know nor do I pretend to know what is happening with this latest in a series of manufactured crises. I know something is terribly, terribly wrong and nothing is as it seems. Evil is coming at us fast and unrelentingly and the lies are filled with half-truths to confuse us. There are good people throughout all of these bureaucracies who are confused and need guidance. Pray for them.
What else can we do?
Now is the time to stand up and to face what is in front of us.
Now is the time to collect ourselves.
Now is the time to become spiritually grounded.
Now is the time to remain steadfast and discerning.
This is true especially in regards to the constant stream of noise and images from the screens.
Now is the time to search bravely for what is true.
And know that we never possess the truth but see as through a clouded glass.
Now is the time to connect with others even if one cannot connect physically.
–to be human in an inhuman situation.
Now is the time to keep as healthy in mind, body, and spirit as we can.
Now is the time to be wise and gentle.
Now is the time to be generous with others.
Perhaps, most of all…
Now is the time to show that we do not fear death.
We do not fear what evil can do to the body.
Instead, we fear the one who owns our soul,
our Creator, the one we will face on the day of Resurrection.
In God we live and we move and we have our being.
Ezekiel in the Valley of the Dry Bones
Artist: Elkan, Benno, 1877-1960