So Where Is He?


Here is my message for Easter Sunday, 20 April 2003, at Tompkins Corners UMC.  The Scriptures for this morning were Acts 10: 34 – 43, 1 Corinthians 15: 1 – 11, and John 20: 1 – 18.

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There is no question that I appreciate the technology of the modern age. Among other things, it makes it easier to communicate with people. With e-mail, I am able to write a number of people on a regular basis. With the new cellular technology, my long-distance telephone bill has dropped. Each new technology brings an improvement in the way things can be done. Utilizing the new forms of telecommunication, there are even church services on the World Wide Web.

But there are disadvantages to each improvement. Each way of contacting someone, be it by e-mail or fax or cell phone calls, still does not bring the person next to you. Short of a transporter beam, there is no technology that will enable people to instantaneously be in physical contact with each other. And despite the ability for instant communication, not being next to someone is just not the same. And I am not sure that holding church services on the Internet is the same as having three or more gather in His name.

Another disadvantage to this wondrous world of instant communication is that you get information that you do not want or need a lot quicker and in greater quantities. And there are those who try to be helpful, sending you stuff that they are sure that you need to know. One thing that you quickly learn in the information technology business is that a letter from a friend describing a virus is probably worthless.

The bane of computers is the virus, a nasty piece of programming that takes advantage of some obscure weakness in a computer system and is designed, intentionally or otherwise, to wreck havoc on the recipient’s computer. I have often said, with my tongue clearly planted in my check, that if I wanted to wreck a network, I would send a warning about a virus. Because the recipients of the warning would quickly send out messages to their friends, who would send out messages to their friends, and they would do likewise, until the message networks were filled with messages about a hoax.

For the benefit of those who have received such warnings, and for the enlightenment of those who may in the future feel compelled to send out such warnings, consider the following points:

  1. A virus hoax is a warning message about a virus (or occasionally a Trojan horse spreading on the Internet). Some messages even describe a “Trojan Horse Virus” but there is no such thing.
  2. It’s usually from an individual, occasionally from a company, but never from the cited source. The source has been “spoofed.”
  3. It warns you not to read or download the supposed virus, and preaches salvation by deletion.
  4. It describes the virus as having horrific destructive powers and often the ability to send itself by e-mail.
  5. It usually has a lot of words in capital letters and loads of exclamation marks.
  6. It urges you to alert everyone you know, and usually tells you this more than once in the warning.
  7. It seeks credibility by citing some authoritative voice as issuing the warning. Usually the source of the warning says the virus is “bad” or has them “worried.”
  8. It seeks credibility by describing the virus is spacious jargon.

Any time you receive such a warning, you should be skeptical and verify them before you forward them. There are a number of places on the Web where you can find out what is happening. And, when I get such a warning from someone, I mail the address of one of those sites to the people who have forwarded the e-mail to me; it’s tends to cure the virus spreading.

Now, this is not to say that you cannot get a virus through the e-mail but generally speaking, the virus will be an attachment to the message, not the message itself as many warning imply. When in doubt, never open an e-mail with an attachment from an address you do not know and be wary of attachments whose file name ends in “.vbs” or “.exe”. And always make sure that your anti-virus software is current.

I mention this because it fits within our need to have a convenient conspiracy theory. For some reason that no one has been able to explain, the world loves a good conspiracy and the Internet has given to a rise in various conspiracies theories. Every incident that gathers worldwide attention today will quickly be followed by rumors on the Internet as to its real cause or how it really is something else. You may have even received e-mail warning you of some conspiracy about to happen and how we must respond immediately.

It is our responsibility to determine when something we are told is true or when it is a hoax. The rules that apply to determine the validity of an e-mail warning about a virus apply just as well to determining the validity of a conspiracy theory.

Now the idea of a conspiracy or a cover-up is really nothing new. After Jesus was taken from the cross on Friday evening, the chief priests and Pharisees came to Pilate fearful that Jesus’ disciples would steal His body in order to fulfill the prophesy that He would rise again after three days. Convinced, as they were that He was not the Messiah, they felt the theft of his body would only add to what they felt was a deception. Pilate, ever the politician, agreed to post a guard and seal the tomb.

And after the women had come to the tomb on Sunday morning but finding it empty, the guards reported back to the priests that the body was missing. To keep the guards out of trouble, for failing to have protected the body, the priests paid them off and had the story told that the disciples had stolen the body. Now, in fairness, I should note that this story about the guards only appears in the Gospel of Matthew.

But the other Gospel stories have the women believing that someone else stole the body. As noted in our Gospel reading for today, Mary is weeping at the loss of the Savior when He appeared to her. Her first thoughts were to ask where the body had been taken. Only when Jesus called to her did she realize that it was in fact He and that He had risen from the dead. But her reports of his resurrection were met with skepticism and disbelief. Luke reported that the disciples, upon hearing the report from the women that he had risen, chose not to believe because what the women said bordered on the foolish.

But on their urging, some of the disciples, most notably Peter, went and saw that Jesus had indeed risen. And through the coming days of that week, each disciple came to know personally that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead.

The quickest way to debunk a conspiracy theory is for the truth to be told. And that is what Peter told the crowd in Antioch that day. He told them that each and every one of them knew the story of Jesus, of his message and his ministry. And they might not have believed it then but they should believe it now, for the disciples were witnesses to the resurrection. And that was the key point, for it was not simply the words of someone but the words of a witness, corroborated by others. Throughout the history of civilization, it has been the testimony of witnesses that counted the most.

Paul’s words are an important part of the nature of the resurrection story, for he was not present at the resurrection as were the twelve nor did he personally know many of the early disciples. Rather, his knowledge of the Resurrection story came from other Christians. And if any should doubt the validity of his story, Paul points out that the changes in his life alone should be evidence enough of what the Resurrection is about. And he closes the passage for today by noting that the resurrection is the same whether he writes about it or someone else does.

But it is now Easter Sunday, 2003, and as we hear the retelling of the story, we have to ask if we are not the victim of some cruel multi-generation hoax or some conspiracy put on us over the years. But we know who the people were that came to the tomb that morning and saw that it was empty. We know that they may have not believed that the resurrection was true at first. But later, they did meet Jesus themselves. And we know of those who did not meet Jesus that first day but did so later and came to believe.

We are more likely to be like Paul, whose encounter with Jesus on the road changed his life. We may know of others whose life was changed when Jesus became a part of it. And we know the changes that came into our lives when we personally accepted Jesus as our Savior. We have met Jesus, perhaps dressed as a businessman because we were in our business attire. Or he may have been wearing blue jeans and a tee shirt because we were doing so. He was just as likely to be found, as He said He would, among the homeless, the sick, the needy, and the oppressed.

When the women came to the tomb that first Easter Sunday they asked, “Where was Jesus?” It is a question that has been asked countless times over the years and the answer has and will always be, “Right here in front of you.” Amongst the people we work with and the people we walk by we shall find Jesus.

The Resurrection is not something that happened once many years ago but anytime some one meets Jesus. And the Resurrection will continue because we walk with Jesus as a part of us. For some, there will be a call, as there was to the people of Antioch to whom Peter preached and to the people of Corinth to whom Paul was writing, to see the truth as it was lived in the lives of others.

You might ask this morning “Where is He?” And He will be right there, with you, in your heart and among those whom you live and work with.

2 thoughts on “So Where Is He?

  1. Pingback: “Let’s Think About This For A Moment” « Thoughts From The Heart On The Left

  2. Pingback: An emerging technical problem « Thoughts From The Heart On The Left

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