Tag Archives: Resurrection

“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.

Advertisements

“The Fuse of Resurrection” 4.15.2012 Sermon

John 20:19-23 • April 15, 2012

Click here to hear an audio recording of this sermon.

The Fuse of Resurrection: Fear Behind Locked Doors or Mission in the World

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

One of my favorite holidays is the 4th of July. You see, I’m a bit of a pyrotechnic. Granted I do enjoy other parts of the 4th of July – being with family and barbeques and parades, but I think I enjoy something else just a little bit more. I like fireworks. I like watching them and I like shooting them off. Since I was a child, I’ve enjoyed fireworks and the anticipation about what they will look like or how they will sound or how high they will fly.

My fascination with fireworks is just one unique part of who I am as a child of God. There’s just something about lighting the fuse, getting out of the way and anticipating what will happen. Or occasionally what won’t happen, because sometimes nothing happens. Times when the fuse doesn’t work or the firecracker is a dud.

So here we are – the first Sunday of Easter. One week after Christian churches around the world were filled to capacity, or in the case of Good Shepherd, filled WAY beyond capacity a few times for grand and glorious worship celebrations of the risen Christ. Easter is a day of worship that is the most magnificent display of the Christian church’s fireworks. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead. God defeating and conquering death and all that darkens this world – forever.

I know I’m still feeling a little worn out after another year’s journey through Lent and Holy Week and Easter Sunday worship. I’m not even sure if I’m still as excited as I was last week. A question that I’ve been asking myself, is whether the magnificent display of Easter Sunday is still with me today, just one week later?

I mean, is that really all there is? Or, did I miss something? Is the excitement of the fuse that was lit in the resurrection 2,000 year ago still with me? Is it still with you?

In our gospel reading today, the disciples are huddled somewhere – the Greek text doesn’t say that it’s in a “house” like our English translation offers. Let’s not get stuck in a biblical Greek lesson today. What the text does offer us is that the disciples are somewhere, locked behind closed doors, and afraid. They don’t know that the resurrection has occurred. All they know is that Jesus has been crucified and there is a pretty good chance that they will be next in line if anyone finds them.

So, brothers and sisters in Christ, take note as to what happens right smack dab in the middle of the disciples fear behind locked doors, behind uncertainty for their very lives, behind a fuse of change in the world that Jesus had lit; a fuse that they think has been extinguished forever in the death of Jesus on the cross.

In the disciples’ moment of fear and darkness and hopelessness, Jesus enters with a greeting of comfort and a message of unimaginable hope, “Peace be with you.” Jesus comes to the disciples, and to you and me, and shows us that what has happened is not the end. It’s just the beginning. And to help us understand what is happening, Jesus offers a second greeting, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

In Jesus life and ministry, a fuse that will change the world forever has been lit. In Jesus’ resurrection, this fuse of change in the world is set free. And this is not a fuse from a dead firecracker – a dead man hanging on a cross. The resurrection ignites all of us as children of God to be active participants in the most spectacular display of God’s love for all creation that the world will ever know.

A dear colleague of mine recently said that, “Easter Sunday is the only way she knows how to both deal with and be honest about all the Maundy Thursdays, Good Fridays and Holy Saturdays in her life. Christ has risen makes all the difference in the world for her.”

Whether you worshiped on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, or Holy Saturday is not the point I want you to hear. The point I want you to hear is that if you and I are waiting until the dark days in our life stop or until we have everything in perfect order before we get started as resurrection people in the world, you and I will never begin. We’ll never get beyond the locked doors that we hide behind in fear.

The resurrection isn’t trying to force us to church once a year. The resurrection enters us into a relationship with God through the risen Jesus Christ. A relationship that challenges us to live together united in community. A relationship that allows us to joyfully seek out and serve our neighbors in need; like Good Shepherd did this past Thursday evening by serving a meal with The Banquet ministry at Trinity Lutheran Church in Bismarck. A relationship that empowers us to lift up brothers and sisters in Christ that we will never meet like we’re doing in the Central African Republic through congregations just like ours across the western North Dakota synod.

Pastor Thomas Long wrote, “John’s gospel gives us a snapshot of a church with nothing – no plan, no promise, no program, no perky youth ministry, no powerful preaching, no parking lot, nothing. In fact, when all is said and done, this terrified little band (Jesus’ first disciples) huddled in the corner of a room with a chair braced against the door has only one thing going for it: the risen Christ. And that seems to be the main point of this story.” Long continues his thought with this, “In the final analysis, this is a story about how the risen Christ pushed open the bolted door of a church with nothing, how the risen Christ enters the fearful chambers of every church and fills the place with his own life.” [Whispering the Lyrics, Thomas Long, CSS Publishing]

The risen Jesus Christ has filled this place that we know as Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, and the entire world for that matter, with his own life. It’s the most magnificent and glorious gift, relationship, and calling that humanity has ever received. And you and I are part of that.

As you leave today, I hope you take note of the signs near every exit of this church. And I hope those words from the risen Jesus Christ guide you in your journey as people of the resurrection this week.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the fuse of resurrection has been lit. Let’s not stay behind locked doors. Let’s go from this place and share the good news of our risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.