Dazzled – April 21, 2019
A Sermon by Rev. Karen A. Mendes
Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019
Main Idea: We experience resurrection
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
We are in need of resurrection. Our community, our nation, our world needs resurrection. We are tired, cynical, and overwhelmed by suffering. Just this week we watched Notre Dame in Paris burn. We heard of fear in Colorado and violence in Burma. We felt sick to our stomach at the political vitriol let loose after the release of the Mueller report. And that was just this week! This winter we watched as massive storms battered Africa, the American South and MidWest, leaving death and destruction in their wake. We have watched the rise in hatred and violence around the globe. We are in need of resurrection.
And today is Easter! Today is the day on which we declare that sin and death, and grief, and violence are not the end of our story. This morning we did not sing “Jesus died 1,985 years ago, give or take a few years”. We sang “Christ the Lord is risen today!”. Today, we declare that Christ’s resurrection is a present reality.
On that first Easter morning, the women rose in the dark to go to the tomb. They walked in silence for their bodies were tired and their hearts and minds were overwhelmed with grief. When they got to the tomb their grief was compounded by bewilderment. Who moved the stone? Where was the body? Suddenly, two men in dazzling clothes stood before them. The women fell to the ground, holding their faces, for they knew they were in the presence of the holy and they were terrified.
The men spoke to them. “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” What a question! What a statement! The women did not understand. They had seen him die. They had seen his body taken down and put into this grave. They remained there, faces down, as they tried to make sense of what they had just been told. The dazzling men continued “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.” Remember? Remember what he told you? Remember what he showed you? Remember what he did for you?
All of the women slowly sat up, each engrossed in her own memories of Jesus. They looked around and saw the two dazzling men with encouraging looks on their faces. The men smiled and gestured for them to get up and go. So they did! They picked up their bags of spices and burial clothes and headed down the hill. This time they walked quickly and they talked and laughed about what they had just experienced and about their memories of Jesus. Their hearts were filled to bursting with joy. Why had they looked for the living among the dead? Why had they not understood? “He is risen!” they said, over and over. Each time they said it, it made them laugh.
By the time they got back to the village, the sun was up and people were stirring. Those who were up looked exhausted. Nobody was smiling, in fact, they became angry at the women’s loud, raucous approach. “What are you laughing at?” they asked. “How can you smile at a time like this? Jesus is dead!” “No!” the women said “He is risen! Just as he said he would!” They spoke of the empty tomb and the dazzling men and what the men had said. But the apostles did not believe them. They thought the women were ranting in some kind of delirium. Only Peter seemed to take them seriously. He ran all the way to the cemetery. He too, saw the empty grave, and then went home “amazed at what had happened.”
Why is it, that we seek the living among the dead? Why do we hold on to old ideas, old patterns, old grievances, and old griefs? Is it because they are comfortable and comforting? Is it because we don’t trust the future? Why are we afraid to let go of the familiar and embrace something new? Do we fear the challenge new ideas and new people bring? Why is it that we can’t see or recognize the new life that Christ is always bringing to the world? As Jesus traveled around Galilee, he said that he was bringing new life in God’s love to the world but his followers could only see the powers of this world; the powers of greed, political might, and violence. They could only see his suffering. Jesus calls us to let go of our comfortable constructs, that limit our engagement with the world. He calls us to let go of our cynical inertia that excuses us from even trying to make change. The power of Christ challenges everything that is static and exclusionary. Jesus wants us to seek him in new patterns, new ideas, new opportunities for ministry. The power of Christ is bursting out in new life all around us, if we but open our eyes to see it.
In the midst of all the pain and hardship obvious in the world today, we can see resurrection. Notre Dame Cathedral will be restored and the people of France, who were so divided are now united in their love for that sacred space. In the North Atlantic there has been observed a right whale baby boomlet; seven calves born to this most endangered species, when no calves were born last year. In the climate change crisis, there has arisen the voice of a high school student, Greta Thunberg, who has profoundly inspired people around the world. The young people of Parkland Florida and the people of New Zealand have shown grace and resolve in the face of hatred. Light is being shown on many abuses that had lain hidden for so long and now justice can be done and peace can be restored. These are but a few examples of resurrection.
The cynical among us may say, “So what? Nothing really will change. There is nothing certain but death and taxes.” When we think this way, we are parroting those who dismissed the women’s testimony as delirium. Do we really want to identify with them? Those so sure of themselves, they would rather sulk in their misery than consider something new? No. Let us identify with the women who testified to the truth of Christ’s resurrection. We are Easter people, we know that Christ is alive, love is alive, hope is alive.
The Resurrection is not a singular event which happened once, long ago. The Resurrection is an ongoing reality in which we participate when we choose faith instead of fear, peace instead of violence, love instead of hate, generosity instead of selfishness. The resurrection is humanity choosing that which brings life and community rather than that which brings death and isolation. “It is an invitation to live as Jesus lived, a doorway to a life in which meals are shared with enemies, healing is offered to the hopeless, prophetic challenges are issued to the powerful. Only now it is not Jesus who does these things – it is we ourselves who see at last the subversive power of the resurrection in order to live it now.” (Nancy Claire Pittman, FOTW, p. 353)
On this Easter Sunday, and every day, may we proclaim the glorious news that Christ our Lord is Risen, victorious over sin and death, and evil, and despair. May we identify moments of resurrection and work to further the inbreaking of God’s love and peace.
Let us pray,
God of life, we praise you. We are filled with Easter joy and hope and peace. Empower us to share your love with the world. Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia. Amen.