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Christ got up

In order to worship Jesus, you must follow him. And Jesus refuses to stay put, says Bishop Will Willimon.

April 7, 2009

Mark 16: 6-7

‘Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth…. He has been raised; he is not here….he is going ahead of you to Galilee….’

We were just following the order of worship, going through the motions (and all so decently and in order), exactly the same as every Sunday, a gathering something akin to Kiwanis or the Tuesday afternoon book club.

But before we even had the offering, the guest of honor got up and left in a huff. Next thing we know, he’s out front haranguing those on the sidewalk, “It’s a sin what they’ve done to Sunday! Anybody want to do Easter?”

We were having General Conference, day five, plodding our way through the agenda, careful that all was in accord with “The Book of Discipline,” allowing everyone a say, taking all comments seriously, honoring proper process, tempo slowed to that of a slug. “Microphone one, yes, do you wish to speak to the amendment or to the substitute motion?”

“This is boring,” everybody heard him say on his way out. “You call this a party? Any of you stuffed shirts want to turn some water to wine?”

We were following helpful spiritual practices, keeping Sabbath, centering, settling in, chilling out, focusing on higher things, breathing more intentionally, enjoying prayer as yoga.

Just as everyone finally assumed the lotus position, Christ got up, hit the door with full force and was gone. “Wake up! Be dangerous! Sabbath was made for humanity!” he shouted in a voice loud enough to wake the dead.

We were exercising servant leadership, exerting a positive influence on the community, uplifting the morals of the youth, caring for one another, helping folks make it through the week, affirming family values, embodying entrepreneurial leadership, instilling a positive attitude, pursuing a purpose-filled life.

I heard him groan, sigh, fidget with his sandals then arise and shout, “I need some air! Call me if any of you ever get the courage to go crazy.”

We were just wilting, sagging, demographics got us, wearing down, mainline sliding toward the sideline, burdened by buildings, going limp, troubled by the numbers, cutting back, ready to throw in the towel.

Christ got up and said with a smirk, “To heck with the institution! Let’s make a revolution! Anybody got a match?”

We were just settling in, fluffing the pillows, becoming comfortable, feeling safe with one another, mellow, accustomed to the surroundings, unthreatened.

Next thing we know Christ got up and screamed, “I’m better than therapy! To hell with tranquility! I’m the way! The truth! The life! Follow me!”

We were just reading Scripture, extracting important biblical principles from the text, retrieving significant ideas for consideration, setting it in proper historical context, voting on the earliest strata of the tradition, noting historical precedents.

Not waiting even until the epiclesis, Christ got up, slammed the big book shut, screaming to the startled senior citizens, “Let’s go do it, not talk about it.”

We were just sealing him safe and sound in the tomb, just making sure that the gravesite was tidy, just getting adjusted to life without him, just obeying the soldiers, just accommodating ourselves to death and defeat.

Not waiting for dawn, Christ got up, rolled away the stone, strode forth shining before our fearful faces and commanded, “Get up!”

He wouldn’t stay anywhere long -- peripatetic, frenetic, rabbi on the run -- nor will he be deterred, even by death.

I declare to you this Holy Week what I have learned in 40 years of ministry: The most curious quality of salvation by Jesus is his refusal to stay put. If we will worship him, be with him, we must go with him. We must be willing to relocate. All ministry in the name of Jesus is itinerant.

Get up.