The Second Sunday of Easter 2021
I John 1:1-2:2
The Right Rev Brian L. Cole
You may not know this about me, but I consider myself to be a movie buff. I love movies, all kinds of movies, and the experience of getting lost in a visual story.
In days gone by of Blockbuster and mom and pop video stores, whenever I would tell Susan I was planning to rent a movie for the evening, she would always say, “Don’t get anything too depressing,” She might as well have said, “Let’s go for a walk, instead.”
You see, I am always up for the depressing and dark. Show me the broken stuff, the deals that do not work out, the dreams that fade or never were.
Three weeks ago, Susan and I watched the film, The Misfits. We have never seen it before. It was made in 1961 and is the last film both for Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe. The other lead actors in the film include Montgomery Clift and Eli Wallach. The screenplay was written by Arthur Miller and the film was directed by John Huston.
The film takes place in and around Reno, Nevada. Marilyn Monroe’s character has come to town for a quickie divorce. There, she meets a cast of characters, all of whom are broken in one way or another.
As these broken people try to connect and encounter each other, they simply end up finding more ways to break, both themselves and each other. The landscape of Nevada is large in the film. The lives of these broken people end up seeming quite small in the vastness of the West.
While I believe there is a kind of hope at the end of the film, it takes you 125 minutes to get there. It is not an easy journey to take.
So, what does this have to do with Easter?
“If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”
The First Letter of John is a reflection on love. It begins with divine love, with perfect love that can only be expressed by God through the Risen Christ. From that kind of love, you and I are invited to imitate loving the way that God loves.
Even our best attempts at loving will be imperfect, but with God’s grace and help, we can try again and again. The more we try, the more we practice that kind of love, the more that kind of love grows in us and we grow up in maturity in Christ.
What is important to remember is that all of the New Testament is written in order to be read by Misfits. While some of us can do a masterful job of hiding our broken places, like Monroe, Gable, Wallach, and Clift, we also live in a large landscape where shadows still find us.
We want to connect and discover true community. In seeking true community, however, we need to begin so knowing we will also fail each other, too. In those failures, we have a choice. Do we move on to the next dusty town, or do we stay put and seek to reconcile what we broke?
Here is the radical and surprising Easter message of John’s letter to us. We are made in the image of God and we are also Misfits.
In order to reconcile us and make us One, Jesus became a Misfit, a simple preacher/teacher walking around, willing to be broken, utterly broken, in order for us to admit the truth to each other and God. We need each other. Through God’s love and God’s grace, we can find each other and let go of the need to continue breaking ourselves and others in order to feel life, or what feels like life.
John is writing to us to tell us he has encountered real life. He has seen it, touched it, heard it, and now wants us to see and touch and hear. We are invited to real life in a fellowship of Misfits, all joined together by Jesus Christ. Such a life has always been here, since the beginning.
The joy we hope to see complete is not that Jesus removes the broken pieces from our lives, but that through those broken pieces, Jesus finds a way in, and takes up residence in us and we in Him. He enters our broken places, not to exploit them or ridicule us, but in order to truly see us. As Thomas asked, Jesus is willing to show us his broken places, too, and we are invited to touch the wounds that have healed us.
In the film, The Misfits, Montgomery Clift enters the story near the middle, as the last main character to appear. He is a down on his luck rodeo rider, without the $10 entry fee necessary to enter the next rodeo.
We first meet him while he is talking on the phone in a telephone booth to his mother. It is a conversation of good news and bad news. He won prize money at the last rodeo but had to spend all the money because his boots were bad. He had also won a silver buckle for his belt. He tells his mother the silver buckle “has a bucking horse on it with my entire name written out underneath. Aren’t you proud, Mom?”
So much of our lives can be fruitless attempts to find the silver buckle with our entire names written out underneath. If we find it, if it has on our name on it, and we can show it to ourselves or the ancestors or the people who matter, then we will know we fit, we belong, we are no longer broken.
But in order to win that silver buckle, you have to ride the bull or the wild horse. The chances are much greater that you will be thrown and broken rather than end up winning and belonging because of your own effort.
The end of this Sunday’s Gospel lesson tells us that Jesus “did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book.” At the conclusion of John’s Gospel, he will say again that Jesus did so many other things, so many things that you could not write them all day or contain all the books necessary to tell the whole story.
Friends, that is good news. The Risen Christ continues to give signs to us in our presence now, in order to give us his peace. Because of the grace of the Resurrection, we are invited to stop hiding our brokenness, to quit going after the next rodeo, where if we can stay on long enough, we will be saved.
We are saved because true life and real love has been revealed to us through Jesus, the broken and crucified one.
You and I matter and fit because the Empire believed Jesus did not matter or fit. The Empire was wrong. Instead of destroying Jesus on the cross, they ended up breaking him open. All his misfit parts end up as medicine for the world.
Friends, we are invited to be in community, in Christ, to be and live as One. It begins by telling each other the truth. From the very beginning, we are a people still seeking to follow Jesus in the Way, asking each day for help, both from the One we follow and from those we journey with now.
Together, all our broken pieces fit and matter and move. Thanks be to God.