Tuesday, March 29, 2016

What Can We Count On?

This is the sermon I preached on Easter Sunday, March 27 at St. Timothy Lutheran Church and St. Mark Lutheran Church. The gospel text is Luke 24:1-12. 

I read recently that a seminary professor wrote, “If it's not hard to believe, you're probably not paying attention!” (David Lose). He was talking about the resurrection.

Does that shock us? After all, let’s think about this. For someone to rise from the dead is not an everyday occurrence. We’re not talking about having a near death experience. Nor are we talking about a mere resuscitation of Jesus’ body.

The account of Jesus’ crucifixion makes it clear that those wanting the crucifixion made sure Jesus was good and dead. Jesus was so dead that no one really believed that he would rise--in spite of the numerous times Jesus told this to his followers.

How did the women who were the first to go the empty tomb respond? Did you hear them say, “Praise God! He is risen! I knew this would happen just the way he told us!” When they saw the empty tomb, they were concerned that someone had stolen Jesus' body. The women expected to find a dead body, not an empty tomb. 

Why did the women go to the tomb in the first place? They weren’t waiting for Jesus to come out of the tomb. They went to anoint Jesus’ dead body. This is what friends and family members did for their loved ones who had died.

It wasn’t until they saw the angels that they even remembered that Jesus had talked about his resurrection. Can’t you hear a collective, “Oh...that’s what Jesus was talking about. Now I get it.” The women were psyched. They could not wait to tell the disciples what had happened. The women could barely contain themselves.

So how did these great men of faith respond??? The disciples thought the women were crazy. According to the Greek, they believed the women to be delirious!  So much for our great men of faith! But can you really blame them? There was no precedent for this experience. After all, if the dead don’t stay dead, what can we count on? Isn’t death one of the two great certainties of life?

Resurrection breaks all the rules. The old rules may not have been perfect--but we could count on them. They were predictable. We knew what to expect and what was expected of us. The dead stay dead. But now we have a new paradigm, someone who was dead rising to life? It is certainly unexpected. And doesn’t that makes us uncomfortable?

In typical fashion, Jesus totally upsets the apple cart and our neatly organized lives will never be the same. I say “Thank God.” I need a God that can’t be kept in a box or a tomb. And don’t we all need a God who is too big and unruly to stay put where He’s expected to be?

Because Jesus conquered death in his resurrection death does not have the last word!

This is such a familiar story for most of us that it’s hard to grasp just how shocking this is. If we find it a little hard to believe, that’s ok because we’re in good company. The thought of someone rising from the dead has bothered the most intelligent people in the world for the last 2000 years.

Now that the rules have been broken and our expectations shattered, what do we do? This God who cannot be tamed wants us to do more than just sit back on Easter Sunday and say, “What a nice story. Isn’t that reassuring? This is why I come to church every Easter.”

Surprise--this is NOT why we come to church on Easter. God expects us to tell others and not keep it to ourselves. Do we bemoan the smallness of our congregation and the age of many members? If we are, then let’s do something about it—let’s share the good news.

If we are here just because that’s what we do on Easter or if we think it will give us some heavenly brownie points—then we are missing the whole message of Easter! There is comfort and hope because Jesus conquered death. This life here is not the end of the story. The God who loves us best wants a dynamic, earth shattering relationship with us.

After all, the Christian life is all about relationships--relationship with God, relationship with each other and relationship with our community.

Don’t worry if you’re not sure what you believe or if you believe. Resurrection faith came slowly for the disciples but when it came it changed everything. God has a future in store for each and every one of us. All things are possible for our God who conquered death.

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