"But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held by its power."
Reflection by Anthony B. Robinson
We sometimes overuse the little word, "but." We say something nice to our spouse or partner as a prelude to "but, dear . . . ." Or we express appreciation for something said by a speaker while our words are a build up to our "but . . . ." We discard a good idea saying, "but I can't do that." We scatter our little negations like weed seed.
Here, however, it's not our word of negation. It's not our "but." It's God's. It's God's definitive disjunction in the face of the world's violence and of death's seemingly last word and final power.
Here in Acts, Peter has told the story of Jesus. He repeats all the sad words again: "betrayed," "handed over," "crucified" and "killed," each one a nail in the coffin. The world has done its worst. But that's not the end of the story. Peter went on, "But God." But God has the last word. And that word is life. That word is resurrection. "But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held by its power."
Amid the terror of the Nazi years in Germany, a leader of the Confessing Church, Martin Niemoeller, preached a sermon titled, "But God." He spoke of all the ways that Hitler, the Nazis, and their brutality and mendacity seemed to have utterly triumphed. Then Niemoeller went on. Then he said, "But God." "But God raised him up because it was impossible for him to be held by death's power." But God. God will have the last word.
When it seems the end has come, "but God." When you see no way forward or out, "but God." When death has done its work and it seems all hope is gone, "but God." Because of these two little words, because of the defiant divine disjunction everything is different now.
O God, we give thanks that you have both the first word and the last one. Trusting this, may the words we speak and the lives we lead between be faithful to your Word. Amen.
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