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.
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.