Choose Your Conspiracy Theory
There’s a lot of chatter these days about conspiracy theories. Some are political, particularly ones flowing from the White House or their cable news co-conspirators. Some are dangerous. Some are downright absurd. The greatest absurdity is that people actually believe them!
The word conspiracy comes from the Latin roots “com,”meaning “with” or “together” and “spirare”meaning “to breathe.” To “conspire” is literally to “breathe together.” That’s what conspirators do and that’s what happened in a backroom in Jerusalem where Jesus’ shell-shocked followers were hiding out, incapacitated by fear, incapable of making sense of the inexplicable events they have just experienced.
Suddenly, Jesus stood among them. He confirmed his identity by showing them the wounds in his hands and side. He commissioned them with the words, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And then, John says, “He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” He breathed on them…they breathed together…and the Resurrection Conspiracy was born! (John 20:19-22)
I picked up the term, Resurrection Conspiracy from E. B. White, the author of “Charlotte’s Web” and “Stuart Little.” Here’s what he wrote about his wife, Katherine, shortly after her death.
“Katherine was a member of the resurrection conspiracy, the company of those who plant seeds of hope under dark skies of grief or oppression, going about their living and dying until, no one knows how, when or where, the tender Easter shoots appear, and a piece of creation is healed.” (The Expository Times, March, 1989)
Now, there’s a conspiracy worth joining!
How to Make A Difference
I’ve been on a mini book tour lately based on Make a Difference. In light of this Easter text, I’ve come to see it as the story of the ways ordinary people become part of the Resurrection Conspiracy.
- In some deeply personal way, they hear the Risen Christ say, “As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.” They dare to believe that ordinary people in the ordinary ways of their ordinary lives can actually become a part of the answer to the prayer that God’s Kingdom will come and God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Why pray that prayer if we don’t believe it isn’t actually happening?
This sense of calling often comes out of experiences of hurt or pain. That’s how it came to these disciples. After all, it’s only been 48 sleepless hours since they watched Jesus die. In their fear and grief, Jesus stood among them. He identified himself with the signs of his own suffering and he sent them the way the Father had sent him to be the agents of God’s compassion, life and peace.
Something like that happened for the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. In the aftermath of horrendous suffering and death, they awakened to make a difference in our nation’s insane addiction to gun violence.
- Like the first disciples, people who join the Resurrection Conspiracy also discover that they don’t do it alone. John used a plural pronoun when he said Jesus breathed on them and said, “As the Father as sent me, so I am sending you.”
When you arrive at the O. R. Tambo airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, you are greeted by a mural with an African proverb that says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
Participating in the coming of God’s Kingdom is a long-haul deal. We make a difference when we realize that we are in this conspiracy together.
- Joining the Resurrection Conspiracy also means that we are sent in the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” We know that this is so not about us. It’s about the way the Spirit works in and through us to fulfill the Kingdom vision. But it is a work in which we get to participate. And that’s enough.
That’s what Martin Luther King, Jr., said on the night before he died.
Like anybody, I would like to live a long life…But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!”
We don’t need to see the end results of the things we do to make a difference. It’s enough to know that by the power of the Spirit, we have been a participant in the coming of the Kingdom.
Making Tea for the Kingdom
While preaching in Belfast, Norther Ireland, during Holy Week, I had the joyful privilege of getting to know The Rev. Harold Good and his wife, Clodagh. I knew Harold is a former President of the Methodist Church in Ireland, that he had played a crucial role in negotiating an end to the armed conflict in Northern Ireland, and that he received the World Methodist Peace Award in 2007.
When people ask Harold about being a peacemaker, he laughs and says that he was little more than a tea maker. His task was inviting people who were in conflict with each other to come to their home a cup of tea. Over tea he would help them listen to each other and perhaps take a small, stumbling step toward peace.
A cup of tea might not seem like a huge deal, but by the power of the Spirit it was the way Harold and Cloudah joined the resurrection conspiracy, “the company of those who plant seeds of hope under dark skies of grief or oppression, going about their living and dying until, no one knows how, when or where, the tender Easter shoots appear, and a piece of creation is healed.”
Now, there’s a conspiracy theory worth believing!
Grace and peace,