The last time I was able to visit my grandson, I hummed an old Frankie Valli tune to him as he drifted off to sleep, “You’re just too good to be true. Can’t take my eyes off of you.” Though the Four Seasons were probably not singing of a sleep-heavy toddler, their lyric put words to the melody in my heart. Some faces, some people, some events, some moments, are just too good to be true. It is certainly the case with my little Theo.
Many years ago, my family moved from Iowa to Connecticut, uprooting our then eight-year-old daughter from the only home she had known. The summer after we moved, we visited Iowa again to see family and friends after a year’s absence from one another. I had arranged a visit between my daughter and her best friend, Devin, without either of them knowing about it. On the morning of the visit, we walked up to Devin’s house and rang the bell. When the door opened, the girls gaped at one another through the screen door, speechless. The friend’s mother said, “Honey, its Madelene. You remember Madelene.” Devin said to her mother, “Have you ever wanted something so much that when it happened you were afraid it wasn’t real?”
You’re just too good to be true . . .
So much of the news around us seems too bad to be true, even though it is, sadly, very true. Usually a voracious consumer of news from both radio and newspaper, I have lately been turning the radio’s volume down and skimming the morning paper. There is so much sorrow in the world, in our lives—I can’t bear it for it all to be true.
This Sunday marks the Third Sunday of the Easter Season, and once again, Jesus has to prove himself to be true. (Luke 24.36b-48) We have had 2,000+ years to make peace with the idea of “resurrection,” but Jesus’ followers had three days. No one had ever been resurrected from the dead before, so even though Jesus had told them it would happen, when they saw him, they only gaped. Like long-time friends staring at one another through a screen door, they had no words.
On Easter morning, Jesus was, for some reason, unrecognizable to Mary Magdelene, one of his most faithful disciples. It was not until he said her name, “Mary!” that she allowed herself to believe it was him. (John 20.11ff)
On Easter evening, Jesus walked all seven miles of the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus with two disciples who, inexplicably, did not recognize him. It was not until they gathered at the table, and Jesus was asked to offer the blessing that they saw his face. (Luke 24.28ff)
Later that same evening, Jesus made an appearance to other disciples back in Jerusalem. In one account (John 20.19ff) Jesus emerged bodily through a locked door. It was not until the disciples saw the wounds that they would be convinced it was him. In another take on that same event (Luke 24.36ff), Jesus seemed to them a ghost; their doubt relieved only when Jesus ate something in front of them. “A ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”
It was simply too much to believe. Jesus alive. Death defeated. (Cue Frankie Valli.)
Please join us on Sunday for live zoom Worship, as we remind one another that Jesus is alive; that death has been defeated; that some things are not too good to be true. Though violence and illness and disparity and willful ignorance roar all around us, we know a greater truth.
All the world is on the edge of its seat, as evidence of the pandemic’s gradual waning becomes more convincing. Though hot spots, like wild fires, continue to threaten, and it is far too soon to declare victory, the trajectory of the recovery—in terms of both public and economic health—is slowly moving in the right direction. And we are learning that as hard as it was for some to believe the virus and its violence were real, it is as hard for us to believe the crisis might one day be tamed. I find myself afraid to hope, as anxious now that our conversations turn toward a hopeful future, as I was when the days were so dark.
Our leadership teams and staff are in discussion about a gradual return to in-person worship and community life. Our staff and leaders are getting vaccinated—both for our sake and for yours. It is as though, like the door slowly opening between my daughter and her friend, the thing for which have longed is about to take place. What will we say when we see one another again? Or will we have no words? Only smiles? Only tears? Only song?
Forgive me for planting that ear worm Frankie Valli tune in your head, but, of all the songs to accompany our day, we could have chosen worse. To one another, to Jesus we sing, “You’re just too good to be true. Can’t take my eyes off of you.”
“See” you Sunday,
Pastor JoAnn Post