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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Prove it

My sermon for Easter Sunday was based on John 20:1-18.

There is a problem with the Resurrection.  It's unbelievable.

I'm not saying I don't believe it, but by definition, the resurrection of a human being from the dead is impossible, and therefore it is, also by definition, unbelievable.

That's what a miracle is.

Unfortunately, we have gotten to a point in our collective conscious where things that cannot be proven empirically, replicated in laboratory conditions and quantified are dismissed out of hand.

Don't get me wrong, I am a huge fan of science and I am not advocating that we return to a state of superstition where fairies and elves are responsible for things, or back to a time when God was believed to cause tsunamis and the Black Plague.

But I also think that the spiritual dimension of life is something that should be important to everyone and cultivated as much as we cultivate our physical and emotional health.  But for some people, because spirituality cannot be quantified, it is relegated to the realm of pathology or superstition.

I hope to demonstrate why this is not accurate, nor advisable.

How are you feeling right now?  Happy?  Sad?  Anxious?  Hungry?

Prove it.

Do you love your children?  Your spouse?  Your parents?

Prove it.

When it comes to emotions or psychological or emotional states of being, we have no empirical proof or reliable markers that indicate to us beyond a shadow of a doubt that someone is feeling happy or is in love.  We only have their word, and as far as I know, laboratory tests aimed at making someone happy or fall in love have not been successful.

None of us would dream of discounting someone's happiness or love on the basis that we could not demonstrate it scientifically, and yet some people ignore in themselves or denounce in others spiritual experiences.

I have had a spiritual experience in my life.  A couple, actually.  By that, I don't mean a sense of contentment while holding a child or of oneness with creation while sitting on the beach.  I don't mean to discount these as spiritual experiences, but I am talking about something a little more poignant, which many of you may be able to relate to.

I will not bore you with the details, but suffice to say that I was suddenly struck with a sense of the presence of God and his will for me.  This happened out of the blue when I was teenager.  I was not a churchgoer, I was not pondering the big questions, I was not a spiritual seeker, there was no one in my life who was trying convert me.  I was just lying alone in my bed one night when this feeling washed over me unlike anything I had ever experienced before or have experienced since.  I was not on drugs, nor was I drinking.

I list all these "I was not's" because the first thing some people do when I try to explain this experience to them is come up with reasons why it could not possible be just as I told them.  They seem to think there must be some reason, some excuse, some thing that happened that day or was on my mind or was going on in my life to have triggered this, and in triggering it thereby rendering it invalid.

Imagine if you told someone, "I am happy", and their response was, "Have you been drinking?  Have you just been thinking happy thoughts all day and have therefore tricked yourself into being happy?  Have you been hanging around those happy kids, and have they convinced you that you should be happy?  Were you really unhappy before?"

Why can a cigar not just sometimes be a cigar?

We speak quite openly about our physical being, and mercifully it is now much more acceptable to talk openly about our emotional and psychological health.  Why then are we so reluctant to talk about our spiritual experiences?

After I delivered this sermon, someone took me aside and said, "I think it is because it is so personal, and to share it makes me really vulnerable".

I issued an "Easter Resolution" to my congregations, and that is that this year, we try to become more comfortable talking about this dimension of our being.  I am not talking about proselytizing or making disciples, I am just talking about have the courage to share who you are with others.

Yes, it makes us vulnerable and not everyone will accept what you have to offer, but they will know who you are.  Having someone know who you are is both terrifying and rewarding, but it is worth the risk.

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