If you were paying attention to the Senate hearings last week, you heard some intriguing comments that on the surface made absolutely no sense. This wasn’t about lies or anything so heinous. It was more like verbal malapropisms, “mistaken usages of a word in place of a similar sounding word, often with unintentionally amusing effect,” as Webster defines it.
Like one of the Jesus people during the insurrection saying, “We’re bringing the whole Calvary,” when she meant the “cavalry.” As one commentator added, “Was she planning to bring the whole mountain?” Lord, Almighty, that would have been intriguing to see!
One of the House Managers didn’t end her sentence as she intended. She meant to conclude, “You must convict” but she kept on talking and added “and acquit.” Both words rhyme, and she quickly caught her mistake, whereupon she did a U-Turn back to the podium and said, “Convict.” During such intense long hours in the Senate Chamber during Q&A her malapropism provided a moment of comic relief.
But the best malapropism of the day belonged to one of President Trump’s defense lawyers who talked of the crowd “Inciting resurrection” when he meant “Inciting insurrection.”
You know I’ve preached about practicing Lent in order to spiritually prepare ourselves for Easter and resurrection for a long time; but it never occurred to me until last Friday’s Senate trial of President Trump, that maybe what we in the church ought to be doing is “inciting resurrection.”
Now, if this sounds subversive, it’s because it is! We think of resurrection as Christ’s victory over death, which it is. We think of resurrection from the dead as that great hope we have for life-after-death, which it also is.
But “inciting resurrection” captures the scandalous nature of our Christian faith. You might reply, “Resurrection? You either believe in it or you don’t!” And you’d be right. It’s like saying someone is half-pregnant—not possible. You also can’t be half-resurrected. You’re either resurrected or you’re not.
Yet, resurrection is scandalous because, if Christ is risen from the dead, then death, doubt, despair, depression along with injustice, evil, unfairness, inequity, and so forth are NOT the final word. Life, belief, hope, exaltation, along with justice, goodness, fairness, and equity are ultimately victorious, because God is ultimately victorious. Our word “scandal” comes from the Greek “skandalizo,” meaning a trap or snare laid for an enemy. Resurrection is a snare or stumbling block for those who believe this life is all we have or that this life has no meaning except for the life to come in the great bye-and-bye!.
But resurrection is both scandalous and subversive because resurrection calls into question our politics, our lifestyle and our perception of the world. Inciting resurrection means the faithful are free to call into question everything around us, including the nature of our lives and others’ lives, though hopefully without being too harsh or hard-hearted.
I’ll never forget my mentor, Dr. Forrest Haggard, founding pastor of Overland Park Christian Church, telling me that there are a lot of spiritually empty people walking around. He warned me—though I have often forgotten this—that I too could be among the spiritual phantoms all around us.
These folks often lack any sense of self-transcendence, the ability to stand outside or beside themselves and question their values, their aspirations, their belief-systems from God’s point of view. This isn’t to appease God so we can be saved, but to ask if we are following God’s path or just our own. In our own high and mighty moments, we are tempted to call these folks “idiots,” “stupid,” or “ignorant,” when what they really are is spiritually empty, fearful and often mentally and emotionally bouncing off all kinds of walls.
As I watched the insurgents on January 6th, I thought of the 2013 Brad Pitt movie “World War Z” where blank-eyed zombies climb over one another to scale a wall. I dare say that all the zombie-like hatred and readiness to devour others on January 6th symbolized their spiritual bitterness and emptiness. It was also like watching M. Night Shyamalan’s movie “Sixth Sense,” where the child-actor Haley Joel Osborn recites those famous words, “I see dead people.” It is scary to know we meet a lot of spiritually dead people every day. More times than I prefer to admit I’m one of them.
What is even scarier is when spiritual death and despair go viral in our institutions, nations, among hate groups, and populist, xenophobic, conspiracy theory-making communities. Whenever truth, honesty, peacemaking, integrity, respect for history, and so on wane in favor of expedience, unbridled power, dogmatism, mob-rule, and rewriting history for one’s own ends, we may be sensing an existential World War Z of our own. This crawling, snakelike, poison can infect us all. Though it may not kill our bodies it can kill our souls.
When we begin to believe, really believe, in God’s sovereignty over all people, leaders, and nations, we can know it is time for us to “incite resurrection.” We incite resurrection by 1) Paying close attention to God’s often invisible but irrevocable movement in our lives and world; 2) Naming the nature of the evil we see in others and ourselves without name calling but understanding how easy it is to fall into evil’s web; 3) Dedicating our time and energies into discovering the truth through reading, dialogue with others, etc., and 4) Proclaiming to others, especially those we know are in trouble, of God’s ultimate victory over death and injustice and evil.
During Lent we fearlessly look into the darkness in ours and others’ souls so that we may let God’s light and love transform us into whole and holy people. Then no one, including us need doubt whether we are spiritually alive. They will realize we follow the One Who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, all the way to Calvary and to the empty tomb. That is when we will truly incite resurrection!
A Transformative Lent to us all!