I was thinking a lot about my friend Angie Shannon this week.
She is a Lutheran pastor somewhere in Ohio. She is wise and funny and smart, and a smart aleck. One day, I asked her how she survives in this weird place called the church where things don’t seem very Jesus-ey, no matter what your ideas about Jesus are.
Well, she said, “You learn to eat the watermelon and spit out the seeds.” Which as most of us know is a lot harder than it sounds.
I was going to call her when the phone rang and there she was. (You can think about that and God anyway you want to.) It turns out her aunt had died. Her aunt had lived in Minneapolis. They didn’t have a pastor and needed one for the funeral. “She is kind of a tragic figure,” Angie confided and she told me her aunt’s story. I said, of course I’d do it. I’d do anything for Angie. And in this line of work, you might not know where your next paycheck is coming from, but you also don’t know where the next blessing might show up either.
Angie told me the family had chosen a passage from Job. “I just don’t want to mess up. Are they OK with a white Lutheran woman pastor?” I asked Angie. “Girl” she screamed, “when they see you they see me because we’re sisters, aren’t we? Preach resurrection and just don’t expect it to be Lutheran singing. Amen?” “Amen.” I said in my sort of dumb, white, despondent way. But it is true: preach resurrection and you are aware of summer on your skin and you hear the kids on bikes through the open windows and you feel how warm the earth is when your thumb pushes down that thick watermelon seed.
Preach from Job. Poor old Job, he does not even get a break in the way the editors laid out the order of scripture, nestled in the Bible right before the mighty psalms. It is like the really good kid with the stutter and the dorky friends with bad clothes and acne whose year book picture is next to the rich kid who is an over-achiever, and coolly existential, as the writer of Psalms was. And in the midst of the worst of it, in chapter 19 when Job is at the end of his rope, when the repo trucks are backing into his driveway and the bills are piling up for the family burials, Job spits out, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last will stand upon the earth, and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then in my flesh I shall see God.” (verses 25- 26).
We are people of the crucified one. And we are people of the resurrection. When hope seems most difficult, when we are under fire, when things fall around us, when death seems to have the final say, we shout out, just as foolishly as Job did into the chaos, “Resurrection.” We, even in the cold dark, we know our Redeemer lives. And we know we, too, shall see God.
There are a lot of seeds in this life. But there is a lot of sweetness too. We know what will nourish us, and we feed deeply upon this promise of resurrection. Through this promise, all the saints, all our sisters, brothers, fathers, mothers, lovers, all who we have broken with, all who have gone before, are near. For the thing is, in Christ, we know that even what we spit out, even what is discarded, will bring forth fruit. Probably not today, but one day.