Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Sunday

"But these words seemed to them an idle tale." Luke says in his gospel, when the disciples first heard that Jesus’ tomb was empty.

And why WOULDN’T they think that? They saw Jesus die with their own eyes. They helped put him the grave. They sealed the tomb with their own hands. Jesus wasn’t coming out. Of COURSE they didn’t believe the story that the tomb was empty. Why would it be?

They weren't the last to wonder if announcement of the empty tomb is simply a fairy tale. You hear TV personalities mocking Christians by referring to the risen Jesus as a "zombie."

Or there are people who write deeply ideological books passed off as "history" who claim to "prove" that Jesus never existed, much less rose from the dead.

Still others, while affirm that, yes, Jesus did, in fact exist, say that resurrection couldn't have happened. Some folks say that Jesus walking out the tomb under God's power after being dead for three days is simply too incredible to be believed by rational, thinking, people. They say that it's impossible to open one's eyes after the body has shut down and after the heart stops beating.

So some folks say that the resurrection only took place in the minds of the delusional or the deceived. Either the gospel writers were using a metaphor, a literary device borrowed from another culture, a myth to tell a pointed tale, rather than reporting an actual fact, OR they were just making the story up to justify the new religion that they had created.

These words, seem, to them, an idle tale.

While much of the bible is, in fact, literary. I tend to believe the gospel writers were BOTH reporting what they had heard AND they were telling a story to prove a point.

But today it's not my intention to somehow "prove" the historical accuracy of the gospel stories, because I don't think that's what they’re trying to do.

The point of the gospels - and the rest of the bible - is to bear witness to what God had done in their lives. And we can go back and forth, arguing over the evidence, looking for solid proof for the resurrection's truthyness.

But the gospels don’t do that. The gospels just proclaim what has been reported. And they were probably convinced of the resurrection, not through rational argument, but through the changed behaviour of the disciples. Their lives bore witness to what they had seen.

In just a couple days, they had gone from grief to joy, from terror to testimony, from being a crowd of scattered cowards to a courageous community. They had gone from hiding out in an upper room to standing on main street proclaiming what God had done in Jesus.

For among them, Christ IS risen indeed.

In this story, and in the lives of the disciples...

...we hear that Easter is NOT just about a dead man opening his eyes.

...we hear that Easter is NOT just about our sins being forgiven. 

...we hear that Easter is NOT just about the miracle of victory in the midst of defeat.

We hear that Easter is about God's undying commitment to LIFE.

Easter is about how God making life THRIVE in the world. 
Easter is about how God is making EVERYTHING new.

Easter is about a God building a world...
A world...

...where setbacks are turned into comebacks.

...where the fearful find faith
...where the hurting find healing
...where the addicted find freedom
...where the broken find wholeness

...where the weak find strength

...where the sinful find forgiveness

Wherever evil is defeated, there is Easter! It is there that Christ is Risen!

Wherever selfishness rises into generosity, there is Easter. It is there that Christ is Risen!

Wherever enemies become friends, there is Easter! It is there that Christ is Risen!

Wherever hungry bellies are filled, 
wherever tears are wiped dry, 
wherever the grieving find comfort, there is Easter!
 It is there that Christ is Risen!

Wherever justice destroys oppression, 
wherever the lowly are lifted up and proud are de-throned, 
there is Easter! It is there that Christ is Risen!

Wherever life bursts from death, there is Easter! It is there that Christ is Risen!

And today, Easter descends upon June, as she is received into our family of faith through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. It is today that God is joining her to Jesus’ death so she can live in the power of his resurrection.

It is today that God has claimed her for God’s own resurrection purposes. Through the water and the Word of God, God is announcing to everyone here, and to everyone she will encounter in her life, that God has a purpose for June’s life that is not of her own making. That June will shine with God’s love to a world so often lost in darkness.

That the death-dealing powers of this world that seem to triumph so often, will not claim her.

That, with Jesus’ help in the power of his resurrection, she will rise beyond self-interested expectations, and meet the world with love and healing.

And that promise is not just for June. That promise is also for YOU.

YOU who have been named and claimed as God’s child, joined to Jesus’ death and resurrection, 
YOU who have been washed clean of sin, 

YOU who have been given a second chance at life, 

YOU who have been set free from the sting of death,

YOU who have tasted the bread of life and drunk from the cup of salvation,

Jesus is working in YOU, changing YOU from the inside out, so that YOU will be a healing presence, God’s resurrection love in the world to those whom you meet. It is because Christ is Risen that God has called you into that resurrection life.

That is the Easter message, the reason why we gather and the reason that we celebrate.

We celebrate because...

...Christ is Risen so that YOU may have abundant life.
...Christ is Risen so that YOU can live in the freedom and joy of being God’s child.
...Christ is Risen so that YOU can be forgiven of sin and set on a new path.
...Christ is Risen so that your past will NOT dictate the future that God has for you.

Because of Jesus you have a new chance at life.
Because of Jesus your painful past is buried and your new future begins.
Because of Jesus you can know that the God who created the universe holds you in the palm of his hand, and you will NEVER be abandoned.

So now you can go back out into the world carrying Jesus with you, giving birth to life and hope wherever you go.

You can go out into the world spreading peace and joy to those you meet.

You can go out into the world shining God’s light into life’s dark corners.

You can go out into the world as a resurrection people, proclaiming with your lips and with your lives, that Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen, indeed! Alleluia!