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Easter Sunday C Sermon
Luke 24: 1-12

March 27, 2016

 

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Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

If you are like me, you have been joining in that response with your pastor on Easter Sundays for a long, long time. It isn’t even a question – we pastors don’t ask, “Is Christ Risen?” We simply put the emphatic statement of faith out there, “Christ IS Risen,” and we expect worshipers to say, “He is risen, indeed!” But I guess I haven’t really thought about what it means to repeat back this statement of Easter faith, with one of the very few adverbs in the English language that doesn’t end in “ly” emphatically on the end. I checked with Webster and found out that “indeed” means, “without question, in reality, truly and undeniably.” We are bold enough to say this little confession that we believe with all of our hearts that Jesus was really, bodily, historically raised from the dead … and yet I wonder if our hearts are always really in it. In the present reality where scientific discoveries and logical arguments rule the day, placing our faith in an event that defies science and logic makes one want to end that response with one of the antonyms of Indeed: “He is risen … fiddlesticks, phooey, or pooh” for example.
I want to propose to you today that it has been, and will continue to be okay for us to say, “Christ is risen indeed,” even if there may be nuggets of doubt in our words. Let’s go back to that first Easter day – the day when the women came and found the tomb empty, and were told by these two figures that they were not to look for the living among the dead. These women, some named and some not, then hurried off to find the disciples and to tell them what they saw – to give their eyewitness account of the resurrection. Instead of being ecstatic about this and celebrating, we are told that they found it to be an idle tale. The Greek word for idle tale is, “leros” – which happens to be the base of our word, “delirious.” The men thought the women were delirious, maybe they had seen something, perhaps because it was early in the morning or they wanted Jesus to be alive so badly that their brains conjured up some new kind of reality. I would not doubt it if their verbal response was the 1st century Hebrew version of, “fiddlesticks!” Evidently, Peter, even though he was lumped in with those apostles in their disbelief, held out some kind of hope that he would have a second chance with Jesus. Remember that the last time he was seen by Jesus in Luke’s gospel was just as the rooster crowed, signaling the third time that Peter denied knowing his Lord. The guilt and shame he felt must have been overwhelming. He yearned to be forgiven, to have another chance, so he runs to see if their deliriously told story was true, and he found that it was true … INDEED!

Even Peter needed personal evidence in the midst of doubt. He needed a personal encounter with the risen Lord, and even though we don’t hear of it in this passage this morning, we know that he will have that encounter, and he himself will become a strong witness for the risen Christ for the rest of his life, even to giving up his life in witness to the resurrection.

Author Rachel Held Evans has openly wrestled with her faith in a book entitled, “Searching for Sunday: Loving, leaving and finding the Church.” It was one of the books I read last summer, and was on my book list. Maybe some of you read it as well. Rachel also writes a blog where she wrestles honestly with issues of the faith, and this last week she talked about Holy Week Doubts, especially as they pertain to the reality of the resurrection of Jesus. Rachel very poetically describes the experience of feeling all of the eyes in the church upon her as she, in her best Easter dress, doubts any of it is true. Finally in the car ride home there is strength enough to ask aloud, “What if we made this all up because we’re afraid of death?” And here is how she describes what happens next to the doubter who does this: You won’t know how to explain why, in that moment when the whisper rose out of your mouth like Jesus from the grave, you felt more alive and awake and resurrected than you have in ages because at least it was out, at least it was said, at least it wasn’t buried in your chest anymore, clawing for freedom.

And, if you’re lucky, someone in the car will recognize the bravery of the act. If you’re lucky, there will be a moment of holy silence before someone wonders out loud if such a question might put a damper on Easter brunch. But if you’re not—if the question gets answered too quickly or if the silence goes on too long—please know you are not alone.
There are other people singing words to hymns they’re not sure they believe today, other people digging out dresses from the backs of their closets today, other people ruining Easter brunch today, other people just showing up today. And sometimes, just showing up - burial spices in hand - is all it takes to witness a miracle.

You don’t have to be “doubt-free” to celebrate the resurrection of Christ today. You don’t even have to be fully confident to say, “Christ is Risen, Indeed!” You are here, in a place where I truly believe that the risen Jesus meets you in the midst of your doubts and your sorrows, your struggles and your insecurities. And the fact that you are here means that you are “indeed” open to the story of God’s victory over death. I watched a recent interview with the lead singer of the rock group U2, Bono. Bono is a faithful Christian person, and many of the songs from U2 reflect that faith. He told the interviewer how he and his wife of 31 years and their kids often gather on their large bed to read the scriptures, looking for poetic truth, and praying to Christ to know the will of God. When asked who Jesus was, Bono said that he was not just a great teacher or philosopher, and that he himself claimed to be the Son of God – which was really what got him killed in the first place. When you consider something like that, he was either right or he was crazy. And Bono then said this: “I find it hard to accept that all of the millions of people – half of the earth for 2,000 years – have felt their lives touched and inspired by some “nutter”; I just don’t believe that.” When asked if he believes in the risen Jesus he said, “yes.” When asked if he believes that the risen Jesus has made promises which will come true, he also said, “yes.” I imagine that the rock and roll scene and culture is a very difficult one in which to think, let alone live, this way. And I am sure that Bono will say that he has doubts. One of the U2 songs has a verse that goes, “You broke the bonds, and you loosed the chains; carried the cross of my shame, oh my shame; you know I believe it. But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.”

You might have expected a confident preacher proving the resurrection of Jesus when you came to worship on this festival Sunday, and I am sorry I am not going to be that preacher. What I am is a preacher who believes, and yet has doubts. In the midst of my own wrestling with those doubts, I can honestly say that the risen Christ makes himself known to me – in prayer, in my reading of scripture and other authors like Rachel Held Evans, in the songs of U2 and other Christians who encourage a life of faith, and in the conversations that I have with folks of every walk of life and every faith conviction.
No matter where you find yourself this morning and this week, know that the risen Christ is meeting you there – not among the dead, but in the midst of your own real life. And I hope that you can respond to that good news with the good and proper response now and in the days to come, for Christ is Risen! He is risen Indeed! Amen!