Saturday, April 3, 2010

Easter, Year C

It’s Too Good!

Readings: Acts 10:34-43; Psalm 118:14-24; 1 Corinthians 15:19-26; Luke 24:1-12

The women got up early and headed for the tomb.  They went despite their fear and apprehension at all that had taken place over the last three days.  They went filled with disappointment at what might have been.  They went filled with grief at the death of the one they had come to love and trust.  But while others had run away in fear, they were drawn to the tomb.  They had some unfinished business.  Because of the approach of the Sabbath, Jesus’ body had not been properly prepared for burial.  They went bringing the spices that they had prepared for that purpose. 
They knew what to expect.  They had stood at the foot of the cross when the others had fled.  They had watched as the life ebbed out of him.  When you watch someone die, the reality of death stays with you.  They had received his body when the soldiers took him down from the cross.  They had lovingly laid him in the tomb and watched, dumbfounded as a huge stone was rolled into place.  And yet, they could not help but feel that this dead man was more alive than any of them. 
And our God is a God of surprises! When the women arrived at the tomb the stone was rolled away.  When they entered the tomb, they did not find Jesus’ body.  The tomb was empty. 
“Why look for the living among the dead?” they were asked.  Why, indeed! He is not in the tomb.  He is risen!

And they believed it. They remembered what Jesus had told them. They believed it enough to proclaim it. They went and told the others, “Christ is risen!” And we still echo those words.  In the 1920’s Nikolai Bukharin was sent from Moscow to Kiev to address an anti-God rally.  For an hour he ridiculed the Christian faith until it seemed that there was nothing left to believe.  Then he invited the people to ask questions.  An Orthodox priest rose and asked to speak.  He turned, faced the people, and gave the Easter greeting, “Christ is risen!”  What do you suppose happened?  All the people rose to their feet.  “He is risen indeed! Alleluia!” they replied, loud and clear. 

Belief in the resurrection is the greatest sign that it happened. The women at the tomb saw and believed. It cannot have been easy for them. Faith in the resurrection was risky business for the early Christians. People gossiped about and plotted against those who believed that Jesus rose from the dead. The idea was so absurd and laughable. Christians were ridiculed and shunned, even persecuted for their beliefs. But that did not stop the faithful from spreading the message that Christ indeed was risen from the dead.

It has not stopped in over two thousand years. When asked ‘What do you believe?’ Christians still respond, “Christ is risen!” Today though we live in a world that is often indifferent to faith it is still possible to proclaim, “Christ is risen!” and have millions of people respond, “He is risen indeed! Alleluia!”

What you say yourself in reply to the question is a choice you must make. And you can argue with me and say that you cannot believe because there is not enough evidence, but we believe because we take it on very good authority.

One of my favourite writers, C. S Lewis writes the following about believing. “Believing things ‘on authority’ only means believing them because you have been told them by someone you think trustworthy. Ninety-nine percent of the things you believe are believed on authority. I believe there is such a place as New York. I could not prove by abstract reasoning that there is such a place. I believe it because reliable people have told me so. The ordinary person believes in the solar system, atoms, and the circulation of the blood on authority – because the scientists say so. Every historical statement is believed on authority. None of us has seen the Norman Conquest or the defeat of the Spanish Armada. But we believe them simply because people who did see them have left writings that tell us about them; in fact, on authority. A person who balked at authority in other things, as some people do in religion, would have to be content to know nothing all his life.”

And if it seems too good to be true, look for the signs of resurrection around you. Like the women on that first Easter morning, we frequently find ourselves heading into the tomb, to places and circumstances where we expect only death.  It is so difficult to believe in the resurrection when all around us we are experiencing death. There are the environmental issues that the world faces. Is our planet facing extinction? Many people seem to think we cannot possibly do anything about Global warming.  We must simply learn to cope with environmental changes.  We need to prepare ourselves better for the natural disasters which are inevitable. 
Do not assume death in any situation.  Expect the possibility that God has been here before you.  Even a small rolling away of stones indicates resurrection.  People have become more aware of their need for stewardship, of their need to conserve God’s amazing creation.  The grass roots take on the responsibilities that governments opt out of. 
Are there signs of Resurrection in our community of faith?  There certainly are! We have a vision for this parish. We have dedicated leadership that works hard on behalf of this congregation. So many people participate in the life of our parish. We have a strong sense of community. We are meeting our financial obligations. We are a diverse community of faith. That brings so many dimensions to our life together.

Are there signs of Resurrection in people’s lives? Many in this congregation are experiencing difficulties in life. There are those who struggle with employment issues. Relationships can falter. We can experience economic hardships. Once again, do not assume death.  Maybe God is taking you in some other direction in your life.  Look at what God is doing in your life.  Look at where God is leading you. 
And at the heart of the resurrection is the one who participated in it, who died for it, and who in a way we will never understand and must accept in faith, moved through death to us to build the kingdom of God in our own lives and in our society and time.

And if the message of Easter is too overwhelming to to believe, consider this little story.

A young boy was an avid fan of both Captain Kangaroo and Mister Rogers. He watched both of their television shows. Then one day it was announced that Mister Rogers would be making a guest appearance on Captain Kangaroo. The little boy was ecstatic. He could hardly wait. He kept asking, “Is it today that Mister Rogers will be on Captain Kangaroo?” Finally the day arrived. The family all gathered around the television. The boy watched for a time and the surprisingly got up and wandered from the room.

His father was puzzled. He followed him and asked, “What is it? Is anything wrong?”

“It’s too good,” the boy replied. “It’s just too good!”

Jesus is not in the tomb! He is risen from the dead. That is the Easter message.  And it’s too good!

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

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