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Easter Sunday C Sermon
Luke 24: 1 - 12
April
21, 2019

 

Sermon Archives
 

 

Luke 24:1-12

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body.While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

Christ is Risen! He is risen, Indeed! May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father be with us in the name of our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; Amen.

What do you expect to happen when you go to a funeral? I suppose you expect to see an open casket with people filing past commenting on how good the deceased looks; some favorite old church hymns – Amazing Grace, How Great Thou Art and maybe Borning Cry, if she was a Lutheran. Readings from the Psalm 23, Revelation 21, Romans 8 and John 14 – In my father’s house are many rooms, I go to prepare a place for you, says Jesus …
Glowing words of praise from friends and family members may be shared; some laughs and tears, and if all goes well, the promise of the resurrection will be proclaimed. You might even participate in Holy Communion. If you are like me, you know the drill. But a Washington Post article just last Monday says that the funerals of the past are being replaced with memorial services which go against all those rules. Funeral Homes now have, “Celebration of Life Planners.” When Hollywood talent agent Howard West died in 2016, a crowd of over 300 people gathered in the Sony pictures studios. A hot dog cart from the famed L.A. stand Pink’s roamed the aisles. Gift bags were distributed, which included a hat with Howard’s message to everyone on the fronts: Life’s Not Fair: Get Over It! A host of speakers remembered him, including one of his biggest clients, Jerry Seinfeld. Now, this is certainly an exaggerated example, but it is true that the traditional funeral or memorial service in a church or funeral home is being replaced by the golf course cocktails & sendoffs and backyard potluck memorials that feature more Clapton and Sinatra than Ave Marias or old-time hymns. My grandmother died when I was in Junior High school, and I remember the school secretary misspelling the word funeral on the excuse slip so that it actually read, “funreal.” It seems that there is a movement today to plan more funreals than funerals!

What did this group of women expect to find when they went to Jesus’ tomb early in the morning on the first day of the week with the spices for Jesus’ body? A large, heavy stone blocking their way? A still, lifeless body of one who has been dead a few days already? A feeling of holy awe that many of us feel when we encounter the dead? Their expectations are blown out of the water just as shockingly as if you were to wear a dark suit to a memorial service and discover that everyone else is in a Hawaiian shirt! Imagine their shock and surprise. Luke says that they are perplexed and terrified.

And what about the apostles? Did they expect the women to tell them that all went well in their mission to care for Jesus’ body? We are told that the women’s words seemed to them an idle tale – the Greek word is “leros”, the root of the word “delirious.” Imagine them telling the apostles, “Jesus is Risen!” and receiving the response, “You are crazy indeed!” The expectation is that the dead remain dead! When this expectation is shattered then all of our expectations are called into question about everything.

Do you realize what good news that is to us? Just think about the expectations that you have based either on your own experiences or what others have told you. We have come to think that failure or defeat or loss at anything is the end for someone or something forever. What are your expectations when you meet someone who is older and experiencing dementia or physical health issues? What are your expectations when you encounter one of those dreaded, “millennials”?? What are your expectations when you hear someone speaking Spanish, Arabic or another language in the line at the grocery store, or wearing a hijab or full burka? What are your expectations when you see that another young black man or woman is shot either by an assailant or by the police? What are your expectations when you remember the anniversaries of Columbine, Oklahoma City, Sandy Hook, 9-11, or other such attacks in our country? What are your expectations when you hear news of a caravan heading toward our southern border? What are your expectations when you listen to a politician from the other side of the aisle speak? If you are like me, you have been trained by our society to only expect the worst, the threats and the death that lingers because of the sinfulness that has tainted God’s good creation.

But the expectations of death for those women who first saw the empty tomb were blown out of the water! Instead of the stench of flesh, they were left with the promise that they were looking for Jesus in the wrong place – he isn’t in a cemetery! He isn’t in a place where we come to remember the dead! He is among the living because he is alive! He is among those people that we meet and interact with every day of our lives, no matter the color of their skin, their gender, sexual orientation, religious affiliation or age! Do you believe that? I am not only asking if you believe that Jesus was bodily risen from the dead those many years ago, but do you believe that God’s love and grace are found where we go every day, usually in places and with people that we might least expect?

It seems that we are living today with a great deal of fear of the unknown, of loss of our own security and our own power, and this fear often leads to division among us. These two things – fear and division – cause us to cast out the stranger rather them welcoming them, turn our backs on those most in need of love, rather than giving to them out of that which has been given to us; as a result, it can even weaken our faith. But the message of the Resurrection is that we are Easter people. And as Easter people, Alleluia is our constant song! We are people of hope and not fear; hope and not division. And it is not a static hope that we hear and grasp and keep just between ourselves and God. It is a living and breathing hope that we do not merely receive, but that we are called to share as well, a lot like those women shared with the apostles. Just as Jesus risked public mocking, abuse and death, we are to risk those exact same things in order to share the hope of our new life with those who themselves are in desperate need of experiencing signs of that hope in their lives.

What should we expect when we encounter sin and death, fear and division in our lives? We should expect the presence of grace! In those times when we encounter joy and life where we only expected fear and death, God renews a sense of possibility within us. There is the possibility of redemption for a people that tends to live by fear and division - that we can come together to hear and believe in the promise of life, and that we can be surprised by the presence of grace all around us. And as we share the hope with those who might otherwise only instill in us fear, then in some small way, we may be worthy of the magnificent love that God has bestowed on all of us through Jesus Christ, our risen Lord.

Easter is a day of shattered expectations for a people who have become lulled to complacency by fear and division, sin and death. Expect the presence of the living Christ, who is not among the dead but the living. Expect the presence of hope which is shared whenever we reach out with the love that was first given to us. Expect the presence of grace, so that all of us who deserve only death may live in the joy of abundant life through Jesus our Lord. Christ is Risen! He is risen Indeed!! Amen.