Easter 2019 * Luke 24:1-12
Brothers and sisters in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our risen Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.
A friend of mine who serves a fantastic church in Texas shared with me some exciting news about a recent discovery in biblical archaeology. A new fragment of our gospel reading has been discovered. For nearly 2,000 years, there has been a missing verse between verse 12 and 13 in the 24th chapter of Luke.
Peter returns home in verse 12 “wondering to himself what had happened” or “amazed at what had happened” as another translation says. Remember, Peter has gone to the tomb because several of the women had just told him about the empty tomb. He didn’t believe them. He had to see for himself.
The newly discovered verse that follows verse 12 says this. “When Peter returned from the empty tomb, the women looked at him and said, ‘So, what did you find?’ Peter replied, ‘He is not there. You were right, I was wrong.” Mary Magdalene and the other women leaned in and asked, ‘What did you say?’ And Peter, now looking at his feet, said, ‘You were right, I was wrong.’ The women returned to their homes rejoicing for all they had seen and heard!”
Luke’s gospel continues on from there.
In all seriousness though, isn’t it interesting that the men are the ones in all four gospels who have the most difficulty believing the resurrection. Trying to understand what has happened. It’s the women who step up to the plate in all four gospels and proclaim the good news of the resurrection.
Mary Magdalene is one of my favorite characters in the gospels. In so many ways, I think she is a much better example of being a disciple of Jesus than any of the 12 men whom Jesus supposedly chose.
Mary is the woman in all four gospels who is at the foot of the cross on Good Friday and at the tomb early on the first day of the week. Even though Mary Magdalene seemingly disappears from the story after the resurrection, never to be mentioned again in the New Testament, one can’t help but be drawn into just how important she is to the story. After all, she is the one to show us the significance of Jesus’ resurrection and what following this Jesus might look like.
Just like Mary Magdalene, you and I are called by name.
Just like Mary Magdalene, you and I can bring all of our failures and doubts to the cross.
Just like Mary Magdalene, you and I are invited to experience an intimate encounter with the risen Christ with each new day, with every breathe we take. And as we are transformed by those encounters, we take up our cross and live a life of resurrection here and now as God lives and breathes through us.
You see, brothers and sisters in Christ, the resurrection is not only about a historical event that we are asked to try and wrap our heads around in order to believe it actually happened 2,000 years ago. The resurrection is not only about some future event that will happen when we die or at the second coming of Jesus. The resurrection is happening right now. All around us.
Can you see it? Can you hear it? Can you smell it? Can you feel it?
Mary Magdalene and the other women on that first day of the week did. And as the story continues throughout the New Testament, Peter and the other disciples eventually do too.
Clarence Jordan, one of the founding fathers of Koinonia Farms which became what we know today as Habitat for Humanity once said, “The proof that God raised Jesus from the dead is not the empty tomb, but the full hearts of his transformed disciples. The crowning evidence that he lives is not a vacant grave, but a spirit-filled fellowship. Not a rolled-away stone, but a carried-away church.” [www.patheos.com/blogs/carlgregg/2012/03/practice-resurrection-progressive-theology-for-Easter/]
As I close my morning prayer practice each day, I do so with the Apostle’s Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, and I ask myself almost daily, do I believe this?
Do I believe in the resurrection of the body as I claim to believe it when I recite the third article of the creed?
Do I live my life in ways that demonstrate God’s kingdom coming, God’s will being done on earth as in heaven as I pray the second and third petitions of the Lord’s prayer?
This year on Easter Sunday, I’m not wrestling with whether or not I believe in the resurrection as much as I’m wrestling with how am I living the resurrection? How am I practicing the resurrection right now? Because that’s what I think is happening in the resurrection story that is in front of us today in the 24th chapter of the gospel according to Saint Luke.
In a wonderful little book called Just This, Franciscan priest Richard Rohr illustrates much of what I’m trying to offer in this Easter sermon. He writes, “Your life is not about you; you are about Life. You are an instance of a universal, and even eternal, pattern. The One Life that many of us call “God” is living itself in you, and through you, and as you! … All you can really do is agree to joyously participate! Life in the Spirit will feel like being caught much more than being taught about any particular doctrine.”
In other words, Easter is not so much what you believe about the resurrection or whether or not you believe it at all. Easter is about living in the resurrection and practicing it in your life now because your life is not about you, your life is already part of the source of all life, the God of all creation. Whether you like it or not, God has already claimed you as his own child and wants you to be part of this journey called the resurrection that begins now!
In our gospel reading for this Easter Sunday, Mary Magdalene encounters a couple of angels at the tomb who help her remember everything that Jesus had said to her about his death and resurrection. The resurrection didn’t cause them to simply remember the things that had happened, like remembering where you left your car keys. The resurrection caused them to live and breath differently. And that mattered 2,000 years ago. And 2,000 years later, it still matters. What you and I do today matters. Because resurrection matters.
In another book by Richard Rohr called Immortal Diamond [page 211-212], he offers a list that he calls twelve ways to practice resurrection now. I won’t give you the entire list, but here are a few that stood out for me in light of our worship together today and the gospel text that’s before us –
Practice resurrection now by refusing to identify with negative, blaming, antagonistic, or fearful thoughts. You can’t stop having them, but don’t give in to them. Leave them at the foot of the cross.
Practice resurrection now by apologizing when you hurt another person or situation.
Practice resurrection now by undoing your mistakes with positive actions toward the offended persons or situations.
Practice resurrection now by always seeking to change yourself before trying to change others.
Practice resurrection now by choosing, as much as possible, to serve rather than be served.
Finally, practice resurrection now by never doubting that it is all about love in the end.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, don’t just believe in resurrection – practice resurrection! Because in the end, that’s really what Easter is all about. Amen.