16 October 2006

A Sermon from Sunday, no foolin'

Some Kind of Wonderful
October 15, 2006
I Corinthians 15:3-11 & Luke 24:1-12
text: “He is not here, but has risen.”
Apostles’ Creed teaching:
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come again to judge the living and the dead.

Oh brother we are in for it now; words found in between the lines of the gospels, after Jesus was executed by means of crucifixion. We can easily imagine the first disciples saying to themselves the Roman officials and Jerusalem elite “got” Jesus, they will surely get us too.

On the first Easter morn some brave and courageous women ventured out behind locked and shut doors to prepare Jesus’ body for burial; women were the least likely to be apprehended by the authorities if they were caught – women also possess much more genuine bravery than men, they deliver babies, men watch and eat sandwiches.

The women arrived at the tomb and found it empty. Can you imagine the terrible sinking feeling, the ones who killed Jesus have took his body – again.

Jesus was crucified as an enemy of the state, he openly challenged Rome’s imperial rule of Palestine with his teachings, healings, work and way of life. Jesus called for his disciples to give allegiance to God and to God only. Jesus wasn’t the first and he wouldn’t be the last crucified person. Rome practiced a prime theatrical procedure known as crucifixion, a method that killed a human being not in a slow manner full of pain but also one that produced the maximum amount of shame and humiliation. The criminal was stripped naked, beaten the nailed to the cross just outside the entrance to the city. It was a bold proclamation, you mess with Rome and this is what happens to you. If that wasn’t enough once after a few days of public viewing the naked corpse was taken down and thrown into a ravine, left for the wild dogs.

We can trust the gospel accounts as accurate, with a firm brush of whitewashing. They told the story of God being killed, not an easy one to tell. If the gospel accounts are accurate then the spirit-broken disciples went to considerable lengths to bury and care for Jesus’ body. A sly way of reading the actions of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus is to see them as buying off Pilate who let him retrieve the body. However they did it, the first disciples were able to retrieve the body and place it in a tomb. So imagine the terrible sinking feeling the women had when they arrived Easter morning only to find an empty tomb.

The tomb wasn’t totally empty, the gospels record that either one or two men were present in dazzling white clothes asking “Why are you looking for the Living One in a cemetery? He is not here, but raised up. Remember how he told you when you were still back in Galilee that he had to be handed over to sinners, be killed on a cross, and in three days rise up?” (The Message translation)

We cannot know for certainty beyond question what took place on that first Easter morn. No one was physically there to witness how Jesus was resurrected. We are all here this morning because of what took place on that odd, fearful, and amazing morning we call Easter. We are here because of a small fledging courage-troubled group of disciples were open to God’s new creative beginning. Without the experience of Easter, Christianity ceases to be a religion, without the Resurrection, we cease to be a community with 175 years of history.

We have explored the free acts and choices of God in Jesus Christ to fully become human, the free choice to fully suffer, the free choice to live with the reality that one day he would die, and the free choice to finally die. The free choices of God in Jesus Christ did not stop on Good Friday but continued on Easter. God in Jesus Christ came back, he returned.

Despite that we threw at him the worst of humanity. We denied him, we were silent when they accused him and we killed him. And yet God in Jesus Christ did not abandon us but freely chose to come back to us again in an act we can only label as some kind of wonderful; another awe producing continuation of Divine Love.

The Resurrected Christ came back with the comforting words, “peace be with you” and with the trusting words for us, “feed my sheep.” Think about this, The Resurrected Christ returns back to us, humanity and creation, and asks us to continue the movement he birthed. God in Jesus Christ trusts us, doubt-prone humans to continue the movement!

Instead of words of peace and trust I would expect God to thunder down some serious judgment upon us. I would expect God to pull another great flood where God wiped out all of creation for its waywardness.

The words of peace and trust from and the continuing presence of the Resurrected Christ did a number on those early disciples, as they do on us. The Resurrection of Jesus gave witness to the fact that not even the bounds of death can stop God’s movement here on this earth. The terror of the end of our existence could not stop the wrecking ball of God’s love for humanity and creation.

The great story of the Resurrection reveals how relentless and pursuant the Hound of Heaven is on our trail. God in Jesus Christ is seeking, by extreme measures to find us. God in Jesus Christ is seeking for us to live a free life; a life free of the fear death, free to see creative possibilities in the midst of death and dire straits, and free to practice disinterested love.

That’s right disinterested love. Most of the time we love because of what we can get out of it. We love others because we get loved back, we love because we get a warm meal, flannel sheets on the bed or to feel good about ourselves. God, luckily, doesn’t love this way. God loves didn’t stop with Good Friday, God love continued on Easter morning and everyday since. We are there to live a life of Resurrection loving not because what we get out of it but because it is the way, witness and example of God in Jesus Christ.

Brothers and Sisters may we believe that on the third day he rose again. May we find the courage to have our lives for the first time or for the 1000th changed by a resurrected God

Let us pray,

God of Resurrection and Disinterested Love,
may we look around at our lives
and discover all the ways you are reaching to us.
So that we may live lives
full of peace,
full of trust
and full of resurrection.

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