Tag Archives: Easter

“Christ is Risen!” 2018 Easter Sermon 04.01.2018

Easter 2018 * John 20:1-18 * April 1, 2018Easter 2018 * John 20:1-18 * April 1, 2018

Brothers and sisters in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus the RISEN Christ. Amen.

So this year, Easter falls on April’s Fools Day. The last time this happened was in 1956 and there will only be two more occurrences of Easter falling on April Fool’s Day this century. In case you didn’t know this, the actual date for Easter changes each year. It’s not a set date like Christmas. If you were paying attention as we received the gospel readings over the past four days of Holy Week worship, you’ll note that scripture doesn’t tell us that Maundy Thursday or any of the other days have a specific calendar date – only a specific day of the week. After all, God’s time is not the same thing as human time. It may surprise some, but God, in fact, does not have an Apple Watch.

I’ve never explored this too far but…the date for Easter is determined as the first Sunday, after the first full moon, on or before the Spring equinox.

OK – before I keep chasing after that squirrel, let’s move on.

Since the very earliest days of the Christian movement, there’s been a very significant, and somewhat foolish I might add, greeting used to signify Easter and the resurrection. Someone will say “Christ is risen!” And someone else will say “He is risen indeed!”

Let’s try it.
Awesome! You guys are great.

BUT – wait a minute. Weren’t you listening? Why are we shouting for joy?

In our gospel reading on this Easter Day, Peter and the other disciple whom Jesus loved have been to the empty tomb, don’t seem to understand what is going on so they decide to head for home in order to continue their Xbox video game tournament. Or something like that.

And Mary, one of Jesus’ closest friends and someone whom I believe we should see as one of the first disciples, is weeping.

So why are you and I, followers of Jesus nearly 2,000 years later, shouting for joy?

Here’s something about the resurrection that has rested on my heart this year. Peter, the other disciple, and Mary Magdalene don’t know what’s going on – they don’t know the end of the story. At this point, all they know is that Jesus – this friend of their’s whom they thought was the Messiah – has been brutally killed just a few days earlier. They don’t see any reason why there is going to be anything more to this story than the horrific, bloody death of their friend on a cross. They have to be thinking – this is the end. Nothing more to see here. Let’s move on with our lives.

Early on this first day of the week, they come to the grave where they thought Jesus was to be buried, and he’s not there. Is that all there is to their story? Is the story of Jesus, God’s son, our Savior, over?

You and I know that death on a Friday we dare call Good, is not the end of the story. The first disciples to witness the resurrection didn’t know that, at least not yet.

As Mary is weeping, she doesn’t recognize Jesus, but Jesus recognizes her. Not because of anything she does, but because of what God does for her through Jesus.

We began worship today by giving thanks for and affirming our own baptism. In the sacred and holy waters and words of promise from God that is the sacrament of Holy Baptism, God claims us. A sacrament when we see Jesus recognizes us. Not because of anything we do, but because of what God does for us through Jesus.

Peter and the other disciple have no idea what is going on at the tomb “for as yet they did not understand the scripture.” Over the next few weeks in our worship life together, we’ll discover that they will begin to understand the scripture as they experience the resurrected Jesus first hand. Again, not because of anything they do, but what God does for them through Jesus.

After all of the Easter candy has been consumed – or hidden by wise parents – and the Easter dinner is over, and family and friends have returned to their homes and busy lifestyles; what does any of this mean? What does it mean to be a follower of this Jesus?

This Jesus who couldn’t even be stopped by death. This Jesus who recognizes and calls each of us by name as precious children of God – loved and claimed and freed – in spite of all of the ways that we try to turn and run from God. All of the ways that we try and put God to death expecting that we, somehow, can keep God dead.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the resurrection of Jesus is not simply a historical event that we remember each year like a national holiday or birthday. And the resurrection of Jesus is not only about some future hope that we have for ourselves and our loved ones after our earthly death.

I’m sorry, but if we focus all of our attention on a past or future event, we are completely missing the resurrection promise that’s right in front of us today. The resurrection promise of Jesus that calls us to live with a hope that we can experience and witness each and every day of our life together as part of the body of Christ. Hope that is only possible because of what God has already done, and is continuing to do for us, through the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the savior of the world.

So don’t worry about Easter falling on April Fool’s day this year. You don’t need to ignore it. It actually might be helpful.

One ELCA pastor, Paul Lutter said – “Through his death and resurrection for us, Jesus Christ is God’s foolish power on the loose among us. Our strength is toppled by his weakness. Our wisdom is toppled by his foolishness. And we are never the same again. We are made new. We are turned upside down for the sake of Christ, who dies and is raised from death for us. We are given new identities. Marked with the cross of this foolish Christ and sealed by the Holy Spirit in the waters of baptism, we are made fools for Christ.” [“Foolish Power,” Living Lutheran, April 1, 2011]

So for today, let’s greet one another as fools for Christ with foolish joy and proclaim “Christ is Risen!” “He is risen indeed!”

And just like Peter, the other disciple, Mary Magdalene and every follower of Jesus since that first resurrection day, let’s not be afraid or stand around weeping. Let’s proclaim truth every day.

The truth that God has, is, and will always be a God of resurrection. A God of resurrection that conquers every death we will ever experience. A God of resurrection that sounds foolish to some. A God of resurrection that brings forth new life, always and in all ways.

And so tomorrow, on Easter Monday, let’s continue being fools for Christ as we greet one another with joy and proclaim “Christ is risen!” “He is risen indeed!”

And next weekend we will greet one another with joy and proclaim “Christ is risen!” “He is risen indeed!”

And later this year, we will greet one another with joy and proclaim “Christ is risen!” “He is risen indeed!”

Thanks be to God! Amen.

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“Christ is Risen. Prove It.” Sermon 04.06.2013

English: Jesus Christ - detail from Deesis mos...

English: Jesus Christ – detail from Deesis mosaic, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

John 20:19-31 • April 6, 2013

Click here to hear an audio recording of this sermon.

Brothers and sisters in Christ grace and peace to you from God our Father and risen Lord and Savior Jesus. Amen.

Christ is Risen! (He is risen indeed)

Is he?

Today is the second Sunday in the season of Easter. It is also known as “low” Sunday because historically it’s one of the lowest attended Sundays of the Christian calendar. I always find that interesting because, of course, it just happens to be the Sunday that immediately follows one of the highest attended Sundays of the church year – Easter Sunday.

And the other interesting piece about this Sunday is that it includes the same gospel reading that we have before us today from Saint John every year on this day. A gospel reading with disciples cowering in fear behind locked doors, a lonely disciple named Thomas who has for centuries been given the awful title of “Doubting Thomas”, and gospel writers concluding thoughts on why he bothered to write his gospel in the first place.

In his book “Wounded Lord”, New Testament professor Robert Smith says, “On the Sunday following Easter, when all the disciples including Thomas are together behind closed doors, Jesus comes just as before. ‘He stood among them and said to all, ‘Peace be with you.’’”

I don’t know about you, but in the world in which you and I live today, peace isn’t the first thing that comes to mind.

Do you know what one of the fastest growing and most profitable industries in North America is today? Security. Anything to do with security. National security. Personal security. Home security. Financial security. Internet security. We invest abundantly in “Lifelock” and “Lifealert” and “ADT Home Security” – hoping to safeguard our financial and physical and really every aspect of our lives. It’s an effort to contain the chaos of the universe and lock ourselves safely in rooms that we think we have complete control over.

In John’s gospel, Jesus appears to his disciples locked behind closed doors. Despite the vision of the empty tomb, despite the version of the resurrected Jesus that Mary Magdalene had reported to them, despite all that they have seen and heard as they have walked with Jesus, the disciples were still shuttered up and shuddering in their sandals – clamped down and closed off from a threatening world.

Jesus blasts through their ADT security system, blows out their LifeLock walls, stands before them, and says “Peace be with you”.

Here’s another thing that I think is so amazing about the opportunity we have to receive this gospel reading from John every year on the second Sunday of Easter. In the other gospels – Matthew, Mark, and Luke – we are told almost nothing about the disciple Thomas except his name. In John’s gospel, he emerges as a distinct personality, even though only 155 words are written about him.

Thomas helps everyone who has ever claimed to be a follower of the risen Jesus Christ to take very seriously two of the most challenging pieces of our life together in Christ: belief without seeing Jesus and a radical message that you and I are called to proclaim from Jesus that says peace be with you.

You see brothers and sisters, the resurrection is way more than showing up for worship somewhere on Easter Sunday, way more than just inviting Jesus into your heart so you can carelessly say that you believe Jesus loves you, way more than trying to put up as many walls of security as you can. Remember that Jesus doesn’t just say to the disciples “Peace be with you.” He also says, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

Not a week goes by that someone doesn’t say to me – “Prove it to me pastor. Where’s you proof that God exists? Where’s your proof that Jesus rose from the dead?”

As I think about questions like those, I also think it’s important to remember that by the time John’s gospel is written, there is probably no one left alive who has seen Jesus – alive or resurrected.

I just finished reading a wonderful book called “When ‘Spiritual but Not Religious’ Is Not Enough: Seeing God in Surprising Places, Even the Church” by Pastor Lillian Daniel. I think the first Christians that initially heard Thomas’ story, who first proclaimed the peace and good news of the risen savior of the world even though they had never met Jesus in person may have appreciated what Pastor Lillian wrote in this book from 2013. I hope you appreciate it as well. Here’s what she wrote in the chapter “I Don’t Have to Prove It”.

“I can’t prove to you that Jesus lived, died, and was resurrected, nor that he healed people on the Sabbath or that he forgave his tormentors. I can’t prove to you that one God can also be three in one, and that together that force has parted the waters, burned bushes, and fed thousands on short rations. None of this can I prove. But I can tell you that I have faith in it.

I can say it because ‘faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen.’ I can hope and believe in what is not before my eyes. I don’t have to be logical, and most of all, I don’t have to prove it. Not to you, not to anyone.

In our culture, it seems like people of faith are always on the witness stand being asked to prove things, and we Christians tend to cooperate. We come up with the search for the historical Jesus and scholars who vote on whether Jesus said this or that. or archaeological studies that will finally prove whether or not Jesus was resurrected. Documentaries on the History Channel draw us in, as if finally we might look reasonable to the viewing public, as though finally we will get our proof.

I’m tired of playing by that dull and pedestrian set of rules, which has everything to do with a litigious, factoid-hungry culture and nothing to do with following Jesus. I don’t come to church for evidence or for a closing argument. I come to experience the presence of God, to sense the mystery of things eternal, and to learn a way of life that makes no sense to those stuck sniffing around for proof.”

Christ is Risen! (He is Risen indeed)

Christ is Risen! (He is Risen indeed)

May you hear Jesus saying to you this week, “Peace be with you.” May that also be proof of the resurrected Jesus that you share with others. Amen.