It’s no secret. The way of the world is getting smaller, more portable. We’ve become a little obsessed with carrying the world in our pocket; having at our fingertips every bit of information we could ever use and even more information we’ll never use. No matter, it’s all just a few taps away. And this Easter, for those of us who are part of this mobile revolution (myself included), I have good news. I’m here to announce even more progress: a Pulitzer Prize winning group has recently begun offering pocket-sized truth on your smartphone. That’s right for just $1.99 on the App Store you can download their Truth-O-Meter and, “Get the truth any time, anywhere… find out who's telling the truth and who's stretching it.” Truth-O-Meter does have some practical limitations. In particular, it only works for political questions (at least so far). We may hope Truth-O-Meter will extend its range of possibilities but for now, “Whether you're checking claims by presidential candidates,” or even promises by the President himself, Truth-O-Meter will check their facts and also rate them on a scale ranging from “True” all the way (this is my favorite) to “Pants on Fire” (in other words: liar, liar, pants on fire).
For those of us who are Christian these new, pocket-sized truth machines may seem… unimpressive. It may surprise us that it’s taken the rest of the world so long to catch up with the Church. After all, we’ve been carrying around our own version of portable truth for thousands of years. Mobile, lightweight, and yes today, even pocket-sized: our Scriptures. Now it’s true, the Bible hasn’t always been literally pocket-sized but from the very beginning it’s been mobile, cutting edge technology - because our truth has always been a truth on the move.
There’s pretty good evidence that it was Christians in the ancient world who first began producing books in large quantities because a bound book is much easier for traveling than a bag of large scrolls. Not only that but our best evidence suggests that leaders in the early Church were travelers - they got around. To make a loose comparison we might say that some of the earliest App Stores in existence were portable versions of Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John - these Gospel stories that were downloaded all over the ancient world as messengers ran from town to town and village to village announcing the risen Jesus.
And perhaps the biggest difference between the mobile revolution then and now isn’t so much the technology but the inspiration. Perhaps the biggest difference is the motivation behind it. Here’s what the inventors of Truth-O-Meter have to say; they say "We're not just going to pass along what the politicians are saying." Instead, they’re going to become fact checking referees - calling fair and foul in the game of public opinion. Truth-O-Meter is about making sure you don’t get bowled over by fast-talking politicians and that you have enough information to make up your own mind. The inspiration behind Truth-O-Meter is about making the world a more reliable place.
The inspiration behind the Gospels is the exact opposite. On Easter morning the discovery of these first women is about the world as a shockingly less reliable place than anyone could have imagined. On Easter morning these three women only have two concerns: a stone and a corpse. Those are two pretty reliable concerns. They’re concerned about the stone because everyone knows that big stones - this one described as “very large” - don’t just move themselves. Except on this morning, for some reason, it has.
It’s not what they expected but it is what they wanted. It’s good news. So they take a few more steps, and go inside. As they enter the tomb, you can bet none of them were thinking, “Maybe Jesus got up and moved the stone to let us in.” Because dead bodies are just as fixed as dead stones. They’re not going anywhere. Except on this morning, for some reason, the body of Jesus has moved. And for 2,000 years the burning questions have been: how and why? What do the moved stone and the missing corpse actually mean?
Could it mean conspiracy, hallucination, metaphor, or hoax? They’re all good answers, if we’re trying to make the world a more reliable place. But the Gospels give us something different. Instead of reliable, predictable answers they give us a witness and a living word about the meaning of the moved stone and the missing corpse. There are plenty of reliable explanations we might have imagined, from body snatchers to an honest mistake - but this young, angelic man in a white robe tells a different story: “he’s been raised.”
It’s a story that makes the world less reliable - but more alive. And after they’ve heard the living witness it sends these women running in terror. Because if our safest, most reliable bets about dead stones and dead bodies have suddenly moved; if they’ve become mobile, then what other fixed, reliable assumptions about wisdom and folly, weakness and power, hope and meaning will also need to move? The world is no longer just an old, familiar place going round and round, but it’s suddenly become a place of new life sprouting through a crack in a concrete slab. On Easter morning the world is alive with new hope, new responsibility, new risks, and new life.
It may not surprise you to hear that Truth-O-Meter does have some critics. Not everyone is a fan of this so-called truth-telling machine. One critic says: A lot of times people behind Truth-O-Meter aren’t highlighting errors in fact — they’re suggesting their interpretation is just better. Some critics say that Truth-O-Meter is actually part of the problem with politics because it takes a broad issue with many big parts and boils it all down to a few bite-sized chunks. And eventually the whole issue - healthcare, taxes, you name it - just becomes a debate about who controls the little bite-sized chunks.
For Christians the same thing can happen at Easter. We can get so focused on those bite-sized questions about things like the stone and the corpse that we forget about our living witness. No Truth-O-Meter is ever going to tell us what happened to the stone and the corpse. It will never answer these questions on a scale ranging from “true” to “pants on fire”. But our living witness does. “Christ is Risen… he’s going ahead of you… you will see him like he said” - that’s the truth of Christian Scripture. And for 2,000 years our truth-telling machine has been a mobile, hi-tech, living witness on the move.
This Easter, for those of us who are part of this mobile revolution (myself included), I have good news. I’m here to announce even more progress with our living witness. A group has been chosen to share this living witness in ways that have never been heard or seen; they’ve been chosen to continue expanding this living witness into the world with grace, charity, creativity and courage like the world has never seen. This group is the church and it’s sitting right here, today.
Now, this group does have some practical limitations. In particular, it only works when we’ve heard the living witness and allowed Jesus to turn all our reliable assumptions on their head; our assumptions about wisdom and folly, weakness and power, hope and meaning. It only works when we learn that the folly of the cross is wiser than human wisdom, that the least among us the greatest; when we learn that hope and meaning are about sacrificial love - like Christ loves the Church.
Those are the only things that limit our living witness. The rest of the world may hope that we find some way to extend our range of possibilities - because all creation is longing for a world that’s alive with new hope, new responsibility, new risks, and new life. “Christ is Risen… he’s going ahead of you… you will see him like he said” - that’s our living witness. Our mission is to be that group of people who show the world it’s true. Amen.