The Resurrection of Our Lord/April 1, 2018/Community Lutheran Church/Pr. Joe Vought
If preaching is anything it must be honest for the Gospel is a true story not of perfect disciples but of real people struggling to believe. Were you listening to the Gospel? The women went to anoint Jesus. Instead they found an empty tomb, a messenger and news of Jesus gone. Mark says, “They went out, fled from the tomb, terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone for they were afraid.” You call that Easter?! No risen Jesus meeting them. No Easter Hallelujahs, No women telling Good News. Really?!
I’ve been with many grieving people, mourning for a beloved spouse, family member or friend. When life brings change or loss, we grieve and are confused. We know grief is a natural and loving response to death and change. In some ways you never get over it, you just carry it differently. Alan’s wife Sue died after 50 years of marriage and mental illness that robbed her of her youth and tested Alan’s patience and faith. When I asked him how it was going he said, “There are days I think I am making progress, then there are relapses of pain, grief and it seems more cyclical and strange. But I am moving forward, I am glad for family, friends and the Church.” I remember inviting my dad to come to Easter a few years ago, he said, “Oh I have to spend Easter in the nursing home with your mom, even though she doesn’t always know me. Some days I shake my fist at God and say, ‘It better be true because I am counting on better days and the hope of heaven!’” How’s that for Easter faith walking with doubt?
The women went expecting to anoint Jesus. But it took time for them to believe a journey of grief can also lead to discovery; to realize we can never go backward, we can only move forward into life and God’s new future. For the women it meant realizing the tomb was a dead-end before they could see it was a doorway to life. And there was a point where they had to leave the spices to carry something else, the news of Easter which the young man told them to tell. “Go, tell his disciples he is going ahead of you to Galilee, there you will see him.” All the Gospels agree it was women who went to the tomb and left with a message of Jesus raised up and gone ahead of them.
If it took time for the women to grieve, to turn and believe, it may take time for us too. In this life of faith that we share let us be patient and forgiving of one another, for we are all trying to grow up and be people of faith. Maybe that’s why Easter is not just a day, not just a week, but a week of weeks, 50 Days of Discovering the Crucified and Risen Jesus who goes ahead of the women, the disciples and all of us. To see Jesus meeting them and us behind closed doors and breathing peace; Walking our Emmaus Roads when we are downcast and breaking bread at the table; A Loving Shepherd who never tires of gathering the lost and feeding His sheep. Or maybe it’s like Jesus’ Parable about a Barren Fig-Tree and a patient farmer who spares the tree from destruction, who works and prays for fruit. Or a story about an angry brother who isn’t sure he wants to go into the Father’s party to be reconciled to his brother. I expect we’ve all got family work to do. We realize these are stories about us growing-up and becoming more Godly. I said it on Good Friday: To be people of faith and trust is to believe that the one who created and made us from the dust of the earth, can lead us like a Good Shepherd and raise us up in our dying to new life.” Yes, for our God to die on a cross looks terribly weak and foolish but we proclaim on this April Fools Sunday of Easter, “God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.”
Like those women, we may not stay at the tomb and we cannot remain in this Church. Time for us to get up and walk into the world where we live. Easter is not just about Jesus’ resurrection or our resurrection at the end of our lives. This life is not just about us and what happens to us, our pain and our grief. It is to believe that Jesus will be with us through all of our Good Fridays and will go ahead of us to make all things new. With Isaiah, “To believe that God will destroy the shroud that is cast over all peoples and he will swallow up death forever.” To say with the Psalmist, “I shall not die but live and declare the works of the Lord.” So we can laugh and cultivate a holy sense of humor this Easter day and throughout our lives because our Lord has destroyed death. And, we can be present with those who weep because we have a Savior who shows us how to serve. The thrill of Easter is a Risen Lord, a Loving Father and the Holy Spirit, in the words of Gerard Manley Hopkins “coming to Easter in us.” What an amazing thought, “God coming to Easter in us!” Time to believe that Jesus loves us and believes in us even when we don’t always believe in ourselves or Him. Time to see Christ in the face of a brother, sister or stranger and to be Easter People. Time to receive Christ in bread and wine to sing our song, to proclaim Good News to Live, Love and Serve like Jesus. This is our faith and this is our hope: “Alleluia, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!”