He Is Not Raisins
“Such knowledge is too wonderful for me.” – Psalm 139:6
In a few days there will be less elbow room in the pews. The Easter crowd is coming.
The assumption is that my job will be to make sense of scripture, to reduce the mystery, and to make God understandable. No one has ever put it to me that plainly, but for those who want a modern-minded faith the assumption is implicit. You bring your questions to an expert. I have fallen prey to this reasoning; I’ve preached dozens of sermons that aim to explain, clarify, and demystify.
One of the reasons I love the people in the Easter crowd is that their arrival stands as a direct refutation of such nonsense.
If people came to church to hear reason, Easter would not be the most popular Sunday of the year because there is nothing sensible about the resurrection. Easter ought to leave preachers scratching our heads. We are not able to define or even describe the resurrection.
The first thing preachers ought to admit on Easter is that God has done the incomprehensible.
But not the illogical. When our daughter was in kindergarten the church gave her Sunday school class purple plastic Easter eggs to take home. The egg contained a slip of paper. She was right in the midst of learning how to read so she seized on the paper’s monosyllabic words eagerly. She read with confidence. “He is . . .” Then she paused, carefully considering both syllables in the third word. “He is . . . raisins?”
“He is raisins” is illogical. “He is risen” is merely incomprehensible. When preachers speak about God we should distinguish between things that do not make sense and things we cannot make sense of. Easter falls in the latter category. We can’t explain it. We shouldn’t try. But we can stand in joy and awe before it.
Oh God, pardon our attempts to reduce you. And coax us into awestruck wonder.
Matt Fitzgerald is the Senior Pastor of St. Pauls United Church of Christ in Chicago. He is the host of “Preachers on Preaching,” a weekly podcast sponsored by The Christian Century.