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The Resurrection, or Resurrection? (April 21, 2019)

Luke 24:1-12

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, [the women] came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in, they did not find the body. 4 While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. 5 The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. 6 Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” 8 Then they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

This is Easter Sunday! The day of resurrection! This day is the pinnacle of our Christian faith. This day is the celebration at the very core of our identity as Christian people. And yet, we actually don’t talk about it that much.

I want to change that. Let’s begin with how we even use the word “resurrection. Normally, do you talk about “the resurrection” or about “resurrection”?

If we normally say, “the resurrection,” we’re probably talking about what happened to Jesus on that first Easter morning 2000 years ago. On the third day after his crucifixion, the women came and found an empty tomb and two men in dazzling clothes. We have all the different descriptions recorded in the different gospels. Because all of these accounts differ, we don’t really know exactly what we would have been able to video if we’d been at his tomb on that first Easter morning. But still, when we say “the resurrection” we’re likely referring to a Jesus event 2000 years ago outside of Jerusalem.

Many people extrapolate from this event that heaven is now open to us when we die. So the resurrection gives us on the one hand ß an event 2000 years ago, and on the other hand à the promise of heaven after we’re dead.

There’s more to it than that. But the point is that for a lot of people believing in the resurrection isn’t all that difficult because there’s nothing really in it today. This also means that for a lot of people dismissing the resurrection isn’t all that difficult because there’s nothing really in it today.

So for too many people, for a lot of different reasons, this central tenet of all of Christianity ends up as something that doesn’t necessarily affect their lives. For too many people, the resurrection doesn’t have much to say about their current relationships, their struggles, their failures, their worries. And if the resurrection doesn’t bring new life into those real-life issues, why do we use that phrase to talk about new life?

I said there was more to the resurrection than that, and there is. But because we tend to think about it as a 2000 year old event that doesn’t affect anything until after we die, we miss out on its significance today.

For instance, we don’t often talk about the resurrection as God’s seal of approval that Jesus revealed God’s reign, God’s way of living, God’s will for us. The resurrection is God’s validation of Jesus’ life of compassion, mercy, forgiveness, unconditional love, inclusion of those pushed aside. It is God’s endorsement of that way living is of God.

So the resurrection includes not merely an isolated incident in history that can just as easily be believed as dismissed, but is a confirmation by God that Jesus shows us God’s intention for our lives. The resurrection means that in Jesus, we are shown the will of God for human life and all creation. When taken seriously, that is a game changer.

If that’s true, then for those of us who are disciples of Jesus, the resurrection calls us to also live this will of God. If we follow Jesus, we are also to show Jesus’ compassion, mercy, unconditional love, inclusion of those on the fringes. The resurrection means this is God’s will for our lives too.

So as important as the resurrection is, we can’t be casual about it because it’s too easy to make it irrelevant. Instead, we need to talk about not just “the resurrection,” but “resurrection.” Not just the resurrection as a one-time-event where God on one occasion reached down and raised one guy from the dead. But “resurrection” is something that is continuous for God. If God is a God of life, then resurrection is who God is and what God does.

Talking about it that way can free us up to live the life Jesus calls us to live. Because resurrection doesn’t just mean life after you die, but an ongoing newness that is to be lived every day.

Resurrection means that there is real life on the other side of whatever pain or difficulty we encounter.

Resurrection means that God goes with us right through hardships that we are sure cannot be overcome.

Resurrection means God brings us out with new life on the other side of those things.

Resurrection is a game-changer, affecting every aspect of our lives here and now. More than history or a promise of eternal life, when we talk about “resurrection” we’re talking about new life beyond what might seem like overwhelming hardships for each of us, and for the whole world.

Think about what that means. If God is a God of new life, of resurrection, then we are completely free to live this new way in our world. We can face whatever the world throws at us. We can live this new life that is validated by God in Christ in our culture.

As we live resurrection lives, we reveal some pretty powerful hope to a world that for too many seems hopeless.

As we live resurrection lives, we show the world God’s intended way of compassion, mercy, unconditional love, and inclusion of the excluded.

As we live resurrection lives, we reveal the living Christ in the world.

As we live resurrection lives, we bring, along with the risen Christ, God’s hope and newness into the world.

Resurrection means hope for the whole world right now. This is Easter Sunday! The day of resurrection! This day is the pinnacle of our Christian faith. This day is the celebration at the very core of our identity as Christian people. God is a God of resurrection! Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed. Hallelujah!

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2019 in Sermon

 

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Resurrection Life: No Longer Fighting for Scraps (Easter Day, April 1, 2018)

Mark 16:1-8

When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3 They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” 4 When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6 But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” 8 So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

This is it! The big day! The day of resurrection! The day we celebrate with joy Jesus being raised from the dead! We sing, we shout Alleluia! We proclaim victory! Jesus has triumphed over the grave, he is vindicated, the powers of this world ultimately couldn’t hold him down!

This is great news. It is central to Christian faith. For those of us raised in the church, we have been taught about this from our very earliest days. The resurrection of Jesus is a cornerstone of our life in the church.

What’s interesting, though, is that as I listen to Christian people who are willing to be honest, not everyone agrees on all points of Jesus’s resurrection. There’s a rather wide spectrum of views about it. Like it or don’t, but it’s true. We’ve got this foundational pillar of faith, and, quite a bit of diversity as to what Christ’s resurrection from the dead actually means, what it’s actually about, and, quite honestly, what actually happened that first Easter morning. Right, wrong, or indifferent, that is the reality of faithful people in Christ’s church.

I’m actually grateful for the richness of interpretation on this. Because with each person I listen to who shares their perspective on resurrection, I gain a fuller awareness of God’s gift of new life that scripture describes. This is about what God does, and not so much about what we believe about it. It’s become clear to me that resurrection life isn’t just going to heaven after we die. The scriptural witness is that resurrection life is God’s gift to us here and now. It is the assurance through Christ that God has the last word for us. That word isn’t death, it is life. It is new life. And it begins now.

Resurrection life means we are no longer tied to our own self-serving attitudes. We are new in God’s gift of resurrection life to serve the other.

Resurrection life means we are no longer dominated by the powers that try to dictate who we ought to fear. We are new in God’s gift of resurrection life to love the other.

Resurrection life means we are no longer isolated, struggling to make sure we get ahead—even if it’s at the expense of another. We are new in God’s gift of resurrection life to reach down and lift up the lowest.

Jesus came to show us this new life. He came to reveal what God’s gift of new life looks like. And when he faced the powers of this world—that keep us oppressed in our fear, they arrested him.

And when he faced the forces that keep us separated from each other in mistrust, they tortured him.

And when he faced the violent tendencies of our world that keep us killing each other, they killed him.

And when he faced the powers of death itself, God’s gift of resurrection life still couldn’t be stopped.

That’s the gift that is for us today. Resurrection life isn’t a retooling of an old life of selfishness and isolation. It’s not just protection from things that cause us fear. It’s not just reducing violence to manageable level. Resurrection life is a completely new way of being in this world. It is freedom from the forces that keep us from loving and serving and showing compassion to all. We are made new, and this new resurrection life doesn’t look at all like the old life. It looks like Christ.

Take a look at these little scraps of material. You can do a lot of different things with each one, but they remain torn scraps. Wash each one, iron each one, dye each one a different color if you want. It’s still just a different version of an old scrap. You can use them to clean up a small mess, or to plug a hole in drywall. They can do some good things, make some adjustments, try harder. But no matter what, they are still small scraps of material.

Until they are given a new life.

Marilyn Karsten took a bunch of old worthless scraps like these that were not much good for anything and gave them a new life. Look at this beautiful quilt made from throwaway scraps of material!

These are no longer little scraps. They are now beautiful! They are no longer old, but completely new. No longer torn, but re-created. No longer separate, but whole.

This quilt is something new. This is God’s gift of resurrection life. It’s nothing like the old life that the powers of this world can offer. The best the forces of our culture can do for us are ways to be better scraps. As scraps, we can improve, try hard, we can even be useful and do good things. But we remain separate. And as individual pieces, we will always be ruled by fear: fear of not having enough, of not being good enough, of not being safe enough, of someone taking what belongs to me.

Resurrection life cannot even be compared with that. With this new life we are set free from fear, We recognize the value of every other scrap of material and know we are bound together with them. The beauty of this new life comes from giving away our identity as scraps because we are remade into the body of Christ. We are new, we are free to love and be loved, We live Christ’s compassion for others—not because we try harder, but because it is now who we are.

And the best thing of all is that this new, resurrected, whole life has already been given to us. We are already joined with Christ in a new life. Today is the day we get to let go of the scraps. Today is the day we get to see the beauty of what we now are. Today we get to love the unlovable because they are part of this new creation. Today we get to live Christ’s compassion because Christ lives in us. Today we get this new life. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Hallelujah!

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2018 in Sermon

 

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