The Resurrection of Our Lord
Acts 10:34-43; 1 Cor 14:1-11; Mark 16:1-8
If you’ve ever doubted the resurrection of Jesus or some aspect of it, I believe you are in the right place. If you’ve ever wondered this whole “raised from the dead” thing is real, then the church is probably a good community for you. If you’ve ever considered the possibility that this whole Easter message is made up, just a story told by the original disciples for some unknown reason, then being part of a church community is likely to be well worth your time. Because if you have doubts, ever wondered, been skeptical, or out-and-out disbelieve this story of Jesus Christ crucified and risen from the dead, then welcome! You’re in good company this morning. I’m not just talking about the doubt of honest Christians here, but even Jesus’ best, first, and closest disciples.
If you read any of the gospels, including the text from Mark today, you discover that none of the apostles, upon finding the tomb empty, say, “Oh, that’s right, the resurrection WAS today! Should’ve checked my day-planner before I left home this morning.” When confronted with the news of Jesus’ rising by an angel, two angels, or (in today’s text) a young man dressed in white, not one disciple proclaims, as we did this morning, “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Hallelujah!”
Every one of them met this news with disbelief, with fear, with confusion, and with surprise. These women in today’s text, Jesus’ most faithful disciples,the only ones who stayed faithful to Jesus all the way through his crucifixion, “fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” The fact that even the most ardent followers of Jesus sometimes wonder about all this isn’t surprising. For those of you who are church members and for those of you who are not, curiosity and honest doubt about the resurrection of Jesus Christ don’t separate us. You see, there’s a difference between “certainty” and “hope.”
When I read of more civil unrest in Syria, more violence in Palestine, and the longest war in US history continuing in Afghanistan, I hope that there is a God more powerful than death. Because that God is also more powerful than violence. My certainty about the specifics of resurrection aside.
When I see more school bullies, hear more racist remarks, come across self-righteous judgment of our gay brothers and sisters, see cruel policies toward the most vulnerable among us, I hope that there is a God who is capable of defeating the powers of sin and death. Because that God can also defeat the powers that keep us hurting one another. My certainty about the specifics of resurrection aside.
When I understand there are church people excluding those who believe differently, and clinging to their their status quo lives instead of giving away everything for the sake of the 47,000 people currently living in poverty in Jefferson County,[i] I hope there is a God who raised Jesus from the dead. Because that God can also raise a church that will lay down its life for those who are different. My certainty about the specifics of resurrection aside.
We can continue to trust our future to politicians, military powers, or human intelligence. But because of resurrection, I have hope there’s something more than that.
The resurrection of Jesus is, above all else, a message of hope. We can stand around and debate the specifics and the details of it all day. The four gospels even differ on the specifics. We can try to convince each other that our personal certainty of what actually happened on that first Easter morning is the only possibility. But more than anything, the resurrection of Jesus gives us hope that the impossible just might be possible after all.
If there is a God who can do the impossible in raising Jesus from the dead, then we can hope that this God can do the impossible by bringing new life in Palestine, in Afghanistan, in Syria. We can hope that this God can do the impossible and bring new life and make schools safe and heal us of our deep-seated resentments and hatreds. We can hope that this God can do the impossible and bring new life and even forgive me for those parts of myself that are dark and shameful.
The resurrection of Jesus creates communities centered on that hope. Rather than fighting over doctrines or competing for levels of spirituality, we can join the God who gives us hope for the future. We can eliminate poverty, not because we are capable of it on our own, but because we act in the hope that we are joining God who brings life from death. We can love our enemies, not because our beliefs are better than others’, but because the God who destroyed the power of death fills us with that kind of love. We can stand with those who doubt, welcome those who are different, empower those who are pushed aside, not because we have perfected the doctrine of grace, but because the God who is more powerful than our differences unites us.
If you find yourself a little low on hope, this is your day.
If you’re not sure about all this resurrection business, this is your community.
If you long for a better future than humanity has been able to provide, this is your story.
On this Easter Sunday, this day of resurrection, we are given the gift of hope. Whether we all believe the specifics of the first Easter morning in the same way or not, we hope for a future that a God-more-powerful-than-death now promises.
So, all doubters and questioners, skeptics and disbelievers, welcome. We join with countless others who have gone before us, and who’ve probably asked better questions than we have, as we boldly proclaim a new reality, a new future, a new hope.
Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Halleluiah!
[i] http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?fpt=table. Accessed April 4, 2012.