Sunday, April 8, 2012
Holy Covenant UMC
Rev. Matthew Johnson, preaching
“Their words struck the apostles as nonsense, and they didn’t believe the women.”
When I was in the 5th grade, I got my first watch … at least it was my first watch that didn’t come by way of cereal boxtops. It was one of those Swatch watches that were all the rage at the time. Many of my friends had them … in fact they each had many of them. It was the height of fashion then to wear as many of them as you could.
At $35 each in 1985, they were hardly toys. But it wasn’t uncommon to see children with a couple hundred dollars worth of them on their arms. I was fortunate enough to receive one of them. I did a great deal of persuading to convince my mother that it would be a wise investment. They were precise Swiss movements, I’d say. I could be more responsible if I had a more accurate timepiece, I’d argue. Of course, looking back now, I don’t believe my mother really cared about those things. When she took me to the store to pick out that watch, she did it because she loved me. She knew that my brothers and I didn’t ask for much. And, unless it was from our grandparents, we got even less.
So when we were at the mall … in Marshall Fields, I believe … I knew it was a very special thing. And when I got my to make my choice from all the watches that were in the case, I choose the one that was the most special and unique … the one that was unlike any that my other classmates had. I remember it vividly. It had a white case and bands. The face had colorful dots on it the size of pinheads. The hands were green and red. I even got some of those goofy rubber-band things they sold you to prevent scratches in yellow and blue.
I wore it to school every day for a couple of weeks and was constantly fussing around with it. I took it off occasionally to change the those rubber bands. I should have known better, I suppose. Because in was in a moment like that when it got stolen off my desk. I was mortified. That watch was so more more than a thing … it was a symbol of love and trust. And it was gone. Later that afternoon, I saw it on the wrist of another boy. It had joined the many that he was already wearing. I told my teacher and she sent us both to the principal’s office to sort things out. I had never been to the principal’s office before, so I was very frightened by this.
The administrative assistant ushered us in and shut the door behind us. The principal sat us down around a conference table, which my classmate promptly put his elbows on, showing off all the watches (mine included) and tapping his fingers together together in a sort of rhythmic arch-villain style taunting.
“I was just taking it back, because he stole it from me,” my classmate said. I was dumbstruck. “It is my watch,” I replied. I pointed out my initials on the battery cover. He rebuked it, said it wasn’t an “MJ” at all … rather a candy cane and his last initial, denoting it was his Christmas gift. “It is my watch,” I said again. There was less confidence in my voice. It was at this time that the weight of it all seemed to overcome me. My lip began to quiver, and my eyes welled up with tears. “It is my watch,” I said one last time.
“I don’t believe you,” the principal said to me. “You’re too emotional to be telling the truth. Criers are liars,” she said. She called my classmates mother, who confirmed his story (and with as many watches as he had, how could she keep track). “Tell your father I’ll see him at the school board meeting next week,” the principal said to my classmate as he left with a big smile on his face. As an educator, she should have known better, but I never got my watch back. Instead, I got my name on the board and a “Feel fortunate that I didn’t suspend you” from the principal.
“Their words struck the apostles as nonsense, and they didn’t believe the women,” Luke writes. I remember that watch every time I read these words. I can empathize with the women. I get what it is like to not be believed. I get what it is like to have someone tell you that what you know as truth is, instead, nonsense. I got a glimpse of what it is like to have people distrust you because of who you are, or rather who you are not.
When I read this passage from Luke, I imagine the women returning to the place where they had all gathered on Friday evening, out of breath from running; eyes swollen from days of mourning; hearts racing because of what their discovery might mean; and tongues stuck to the tops of their mouths by the gravity of what they have to say.
“He is not there. He lives again! This is what he said would happen,” they explain. “We were together when he said it. Don’t you remember?” The men then, I’m sure, scoffed “We’d know if he was raised. Remember, we were the ones who he was actually teaching.”
“Nonsense,” they say. “We don’t believe you.”