“But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held by its power.” – Acts 2:24 (NRSV)
We sometimes overuse the little word: “but.” We say something nice to our spouse or partner as a prelude to “But, dear…” Or we express appreciation for something said by a speaker while our words are a build-up to our “But…” We discard a good idea, saying, “But I can’t do that.” We scatter our little negations like weed seed.
Here, however, it’s not our word of negation. It’s not our “but.” It’s God’s.
Here in Acts, Peter has told the story of Jesus. He repeated all the sad words of the story: “betrayed,” “handed over,” “crucified,” and “killed,” each word a nail in the coffin. The world had done its worst. But that wasn’t the end of the story. Peter went on: “But God.” But God has the last word. And that word is life. That word is resurrection. “But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held by its power.”
Amid the terror of the Nazi years in Germany, a leader of the Confessing Church, Martin Niemoller, preached a sermon called, “But God.” He spoke of all the ways that Hitler, the Nazis, and their brutality and mendacity seemed to have utterly triumphed. Then he said, “But God.” “But God raised him up because it was impossible for him to be held by death’s power.” But God. God will have the last word.
When it seems the end has come, “but God.”
When you see no way forward or out, “but God.”
When death has done its work and it seems all hope is gone, “but God.”
Because of these two littles words, because of the defiant divine disjunction everything is different now.
O God, we give thanks that you have both the first word and the last one. Trusting this, may the words we speak and the lives we lead between be faithful to your Word. Amen.