Lectionary Reflection: John 20: 1-18: I Have Seen

I was working on a story the other day, one of my stories of fantasy and the imagination.  It is the story of a man from our world who is transported to another world altogether because the people there need help against the darkness that is swallowing their lives.  They go on a quest where at one point, in order to escape a certain danger, they are guided to safety by a yeti – what some call an abominable snowman. 

After they are safe, Brian, the young man from our world has this brief exchange with his new friends from that other world.

 

            The morning came earlier than anyone wanted.  Still, there was plenty to eat and plenty of conversation.  Much of it surrounded the yeti which Brian surmised was a mysterious creature rarely seen on that world.  The others were surprised to hear that yeti were allegedly witnessed in remote places on Earth as well, but they were astonished to hear that most people did not believe the reports.

            “Why would people disbelieve what many others have seen with their own eyes?”   Master Mezzia asked.  “Are the people of your world affected with a mental disorder?”

            “Not that many people have seen yeti,” Brian said.

            “More than two?”  Master Mezzia asked, as if that should be enough.

            “Yes, well, I suppose in my world people believe what they want, you know, whatever is convenient and fits with what they have already decided is true,” Brian said.

            “What is real, is true.  What is not, is not,” Margelis said.

            “Yes, I know,” Brian agreed.  “But I think it is the ones who have reported seeing yeti who are said to have a mental disorder.  They are the ones judged to have seen an illusion.”  Brian looked at Margelis, the master of illusion for understanding, but she appeared to be non-committal.  “To be honest, if I went home and told people about this world they would probably lock me up for being crazy.

            “Yours is a very strange world,” Aden said.

And it is true, you know.  In our strange world, people believe what they want, whatever is convenient, whatever fits with what they have already decided is true no matter the evidence to the contrary.

ONCE UPON A TIME:

A scientist named Ptolomy decided the earth was flat and all of the celestial bodies including the sun and the planets revolved around the earth which he put at the center of the universe.  People back then accepted this and it became ingrained in the thinking of the people, and everything was fine.  But as sea travel and trade began to expand out of Europe, the people had to navigate the waters and they only had the stars, planets and the sun to guide them.  They began to notice that at certain points, the planets appeared to be going backwards in the sky.

To shorten the story, let me just say that Ptolomy’s view of the universe needed to be adjusted, and then adjusted again and again until it was more complicated and convoluted than a Russian novel.  It became circles within circles, like wheels within wheels to try and make sense of it all, and instead of progressive, it became retrograde.  The poor navigators could hardly keep up.

Then along came a man named Copernicus.  He suggested that all of these complications could be gotten rid of if we restructured the way we imagined the universe.  Consider the sun at the center, he said, and imagine the earth as simply one of the planets going around the sun.  Needless to say, that sparked a serious debate in the scientific community of the time.  People had invested their whole lives and careers in Ptolomy, and they were not about to change.  They were angry.

By the time Galileo came along and confirmed that the earth was round like a ball and not flat after all, the scientific community got up in arms.  All the evidence pointed to Copernicus (and Galileo) being right, and boy were people mad.  Galileo went on trial, and the scientists leaned heavily on the church for sanctions and to some extent on the state to condemn the poor man and his work.  Well, we know how it turned out.

Today, we have all seen the pictures taken from space – even from the moon.  Satellites circle the round earth and the earth moves yearly around the sun.  Day and night are no longer determined by sunrise and sunset, but by the daily revolution of the earth.  But here is the thing:

I am told there are still people in this world who still believe the earth is flat and believe the sun and planets and all the stars revolve around the earth with the earth at the center of the universe.  I don’t know anyone personally who believes this (or admits it), but I have been assured it is true. 

In our strange world, people believe what they want, whatever is convenient, whatever fits with what they have already decided is true no matter the evidence to the contrary.

NOTE:            

I see the same thing happening with evolution these days as happened with Ptolomy.  The more we learn, the less evidence we have to support the idea that any species evolved from any other.  We note similar characteristics between two species, ignore their differences, and in a gigantic leap of faith (suspension of disbelief) we claim they must have evolved from a common ancestor.

Even when we claim to know that common ancestor, it is only a guess.  You see, we have no evidence of where or when any two species separated.  We have no evidence of any intermediary species (while it is in the process of evolving from one to the other).  Plants and animals in the fossil record tend to appear fully formed.  And, more importantly, we have no understanding as to why any successful species should divide, and so suddenly and completely divide.

We say words like environmental change and environmental pressures and natural selection, and that sounds right, but we don’t understand it any more than we understand the shift in tectonic plates that causes earthquakes.  (If we knew the where, when and why of plate tectonics we would be predicting and preparing for earthquakes if not relieving the pressure to prevent them).  So we say environmental pressure and change and natural selection, but again the record does not support this.  When such changes occur, as far as the record shows, species don’t evolve, they die out.

So here I am, waiting for some biological Copernicus to come along and knock everyone’s evolutionary socks off.  And do you think the scientists in our day will be any more accepting?  Ha!  I suspect the people who have invested their whole lives and careers in evolution as it is presently promoted and taught will just get mad.

But then, ours is a strange world where people believe what they want, whatever is convenient, whatever fits with what they have already decided is true no matter the evidence to the contrary.

NOW:

I had an interesting experience once while serving in a church.  I won’t say where or which church, because identity protection is important.  But what happened was a woman was attacked, robbed, and possibly raped (I was not privy to the last part and she never talked about it to anyone but her therapist).

I was actually there when she was looking over pictures of suspects.  I saw when she stopped cold on one and said, “That is the man.”  The police did their job well.  They did everything they could to make her doubt, to see how certain she was, to shake her resolve that this, out of them all, was the one.  She never wavered.

In the end, she looked at the detective and said something very telling.  “I was there.  I saw exactly who it was.  I will never forget that face.”

You know, in a court of law, eyewitness testimony carries great weight.  Could that woman have been mistaken?  Yes it is possible.  It is a bit harder to imagine a mistake when talking about the shooting of Ronald Reagan or the assassination of Bobby Kennedy.  Those events were caught on tape for all time.  Millions saw and identified the shooters.

Still, people believe what they want.  I am sure there are conspiracy people who believe there was a switch, even in the film, so some patsy got arrested and the real perpetrator got away.  Some believe these shootings, and the killings of JFK and MLK were all part of some grand conspiracy.

In our strange world, people believe what they want, whatever is convenient, whatever fits with what they have already decided is true no matter the evidence to the contrary.

JOHN:

Everything is here.  Everything we hear.  There is the stone rolled away, empty tomb, the angel, the women crying, or at least Mary crying.  And there is Jesus whom Mary recognizes when he speaks to her.  All this we hear about, year after year.  Sadly, what we rarely hear is the testimony of the woman, herself…

You know, Luke says he went to great pains to get the story straight.  I believe that.  The Doctor, interviewing patients, working through the symptoms to get to the root cause of the problem.  That is what doctors do.  He was trained for this.  So he tells Theopholis that he has been very careful to get the straight story.  He talked to people who were there, and saw.

Now Mark presumably wrote the memories of Peter.  That is the tradition passed down to us from the earliest days, and while we have no reason to suppose it is true, we also have no reason to doubt it as true.  Peter, of course, was there to see for himself.  And in any case, Mark’s was the first gospel, written when many people who were there were still alive to confirm what he wrote.

Matthew, on the other hand, presumably was there to see things for himself.  I haven’t heard anyone claim that his gospel was written by Matthew the evangelist they way they claim the writer of John (the one Jesus loved) was not really the apostle, but the evangelist – a completely different person.

Yet John, even the evangelist, certainly saw something with his own eyes.  We do have the Revelation given to him.

And, of course, there was Paul who even the most anti-Christian “Christian” scholars admit wrote a number of the epistles.  Paul saw the Lord on the way to Damascus (his friend and compatriot Luke tells us).  He spoke openly about the resurrection, like it was a plain fact, witnessed by hundreds if not thousands.  Indeed, he proclaimed the faith and plainly said without the resurrection, such faith was a waste of time… 

It is one thing to suggest that people in later years, through the end of the Rome Empire, through the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and Reformation, and all the days to the present may have all suffered from hallucinations.  (Though it may stretch credulity a bit to suggest they all suffered from roughly the same hallucination). 

Still, these first had no reason to hallucinate.  They were not raised as believers from birth with the resurrected life of Christ driven into their heads like so much dogmatic pulp.  No.  They had to experience it for themselves, to see for the first time with their own eyes what no one had ever seen before – what no one even imagined.  And I have always found it curious how the eyewitness testimony holds the same in every version.  It is consistent, and the result of many, many voices.  What Mary said:

“I have seen the Lord!”

Eyewitness testimony should matter.  Corroborative testimony of many eyewitnesses should matter more.  Of course, some people will still insist that the earth is flat and the sun and planets go around the earth and that evolution makes perfect sense even without any evidence.  And some will speak against the whole idea of the resurrection, despite the eyewitness testimony of so many.  But that is only because: In our strange world, people believe what they want, whatever is convenient, whatever fits with what they have already decided is true no matter the evidence to the contrary.

The only question this morning is, what do you believe?

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3 thoughts on “Lectionary Reflection: John 20: 1-18: I Have Seen

  1. Michael

    I look forward to getting together for coffee. I am working on a blogspot haunting similar to this lectionary post. We can discuss more as it makes sense.

    My blog can be found at http://chapbox.blogspot.com

    cheers and blessings.

    daryl

  2. Michael

    I enjoyed greatly our visit and I look forward to hearing all of your stories —- really.

    Thanks for your willingness to share and I can see that hearing them all will take some time. It is time I have.

    I would like to communicate with you by email — but only if you want that as way to connect.

    I am at chapbox55d@gmail.com

    regards and blessings

    daryl

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