RISEN!

A sermon for Easter Sunday, Luke 24:1-12

We begin our morning in mourning at a tomb. There is a somber feeling as we approach this place. There lies our teacher, our leader, our friend, our Messiah. And, this tomb itself isn’t even supposed to be Jesus’ final resting place (although how true that is, is not yet known), for this space was made available by a wealthy follower providing his personal burial site in a pinch, for this is not how anyone expected this story to end. Not this way, not at this time.

But, this is exactly what has happened. Jesus has taught his final lessons. Jesus has challenged the world one final time to see that our relationship to our creator is damaged by the actions we take to further our distance between us. We, as creation, has risen up to silence this teaching because we didn’t want to hear it, because we didn’t want to have a king that held no earthly authority. We, as creation, has given this man over to death, a mocking death on a cross, because we were choosing to only see what was directly in front of our face, we chose to only see what we wanted to see, to hear only what we wanted to hear, to know only what we thought we knew.

God didn’t care though. We rebelled, we turned away, we crucified God’s only son, and God, through the immense grief of a parent losing a child, still enabled us to connect to God in a way that had never been realized or even contemplated. God, through Christ, was about to share with us a new reality that held a new truth so opposed to what we thought we knew of the finality of our creation, that it had to start right there in the tomb. It had to start with a simple message to those who had come to serve Jesus, one final time.

The women come to the tomb today to prepare Jesus’ body for the burial rite. To be prepared to find his final resting place. To afford him the liturgical practice of anointing and prayer. In this manner of death his body has been tortured and violated, but that doesn’t mean that he should not still receive the care and attention in death that he afforded to all who came to him during his life. This work of preparation is the work of women. The disciples, having fled the garden, have gathered together to mourn, to whisper in fear about what comes next, to keep each other from fully giving into despair. These women on the other hand move forward in their grief to do their duty. They are unafraid of being connected to Christ. They are unafraid of seeking Christ once more and ensuring that he is afforded every rite as is his right as a person of faith. And, because of this sense of duty, this understanding that grief is not an excuse for giving up or a barrier to doing their duty, the women who come to the tomb today are the first to bear witness to what has occurred in this space, they will become the bearers of the fullness of the good news that has been realized in Christ’s death and resurrection.

“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”

Christ is not simply no longer in this tomb, Christ is fully resurrected, Christ is living, he is risen. At the end of our service today we will proclaim in celebratory song that “He is risen, he is risen!” and in so doing Christ has “burst his three day’s prison…[he] has won the victory…he has opened heaven’s gate.” The sting of death no longer carries its power. The triumph of Christ is so fully complete that hell is vanquished like a mighty foe and the all-encompassing victory of Christ can be proclaimed in one word: risen!

Christ’s victory over death therefore is not just an avenue, a pathway for us to enter into paradise, but changes our entire understanding of what it means to have life, to be living. Through Christ’s resurrection we are afforded an eternal, everlasting life. Through Christ’s resurrection we will always be operating from a place of victory, never again needing to fight for victory. Through Christ’s resurrection we no longer are counted among the dead, we transcend this mortal life to be living in a wholly new and different way.

Jesus’ life begins, way back at Christmas, with angels proclaiming “Good News!” to those who serve. That a new king has been born. That the world as they know it will soon change. It is fitting then that his resurrected life also begins with angels proclaiming good news once more to those who have come to serve. In this proclamation, the world as these women knew it has changed. Their understanding of Christ, has changed. Their understanding of what is really being accomplished in the life and death and life of Christ fundamentally begins to shift and they cannot help but share this story, this good news.

Of course, the disciples are too concerned with the immediate to hear what the women are saying to them. Peter ventures out to look for himself because something in their story connects, but the opportunity to connect to the new reality, immediately, in these first moments, is lost, because this good news is even more radical and reality-shifting then the good news that was proclaimed to those shepherds in the fields many, many years ago.

This good news changes our understanding of faith. This good news changes our understanding of what our lives hold for us, particularly in death. This good news is what makes us as people of faith, as believers in Christ, “Easter People.”

We are Easter People because we are people of life. We are people of the promise of life, the reality of life, of victory over death, a reality where our lives are pointed towards an everlasting life, a reality that is fully captured in what we call the good news. This good news, news of an everlasting life that is afforded for us as we actively engage in our relationship with God, is fully on display here in Easter. This good news is fully on display as we remember this new reality every Sunday as we honor and practice a faith that is always pointing back to the cross, the empty cross signifying that empty tomb where from Christ has risen. This good news draws us together as a community of believers, as a people of faith. It inspires us. It transforms us. It strengthens and comforts us. It emboldens us to live into an understanding of life that does not stop with death, but rather is focused on living so fully into our faith with this one mortal life that we are ever-ready to embrace our transition into the next everlasting life.

This good news must be shared. We have to be emboldened in this good news to know that even in the face of doubt, even in the face of incredulous followers, in reaching out to the outcast, downtrodden, forgotten, othered, that we can make a connection deep within their soul, that something of this story will spark a curiosity, will ignite a flame to seek Christ for themselves. This sharing is modeled for us today in the women who have come to do their duty and find that duty completely changed. This spark we can ignite is found in the incredulous reception of the disciples, and Peter, who nonetheless hears something in this absurd, unbelievable tale of good news, that inspires him to seek his own experience of what has been told. That’s the reality of sharing good news sometimes. We have the truth, we share the truth, and no one listens, no one believes. But, we can’t not share the good news. And, when we do, we may just spark something, we may just open that door to hearing, to seeking and finding, of knowing that the good news we share is not an idle tale but a new reality that has fundamentally shifted the reality of our creation.

As we journey together as Easter People, we go out into the world to love and serve the Lord, to share the reality of the way of love that has been left before us and fully realized in this day as Christ is risen so that love may always triumph. As we go out from this place today to live once more into the reality that awaits us through the resurrected life of Christ, we go in strength and faith that the good news of this resurrection, the good news of this victory over death, the good news of what all of this means for us and our relationship with God, through Christ, empowers us to live into our life without fear for what may come, for we know that through the risen Christ all things are possible, through the risen Christ we live into a new life, a promise of eternal life, a life full of good news that we can’t help but share to the whole world.

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

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