Saturday, April 7, 2012

Easter Sunday

The Feast of the Resurrection

The Disappointment of Easter


Readings: Isaiah 25:6-9; Psalm 118:14-24; Acts 10:34-43; Mark 16:1-8
When Mozart passed away, he was buried in a churchyard. A couple of days later, a man was walking through the cemetery and heard some strange noises coming from the area where Mozart was buried. Terrified, the man ran and got the priest to come and listen to it. The priest bent close to the grave and heard some faint, unrecognizable music coming from the grave. Frightened, the priest ran and got the town magistrate.

When the magistrate arrived, he bent his ear to the grave, listened for a moment, and said, "Ah, yes, that's Mozart's Ninth Symphony, being played backwards."

He listened a while longer, and said, "There's the Eighth Symphony, and it's backwards, too. Most puzzling!" So the magistrate kept listening; "There's the Seventh... the Sixth... the Fifth..."

Suddenly the realization of what was happening dawned on the magistrate; he stood up and announced to the crowd that had gathered in the cemetery, "My fellow citizens, there's nothing to worry about. It's just Mozart decomposing!"
Your laughter is good for two reasons. One is that in the Eastern Orthodox tradition jokes are told on Easter Sunday to imitate God’s last laugh on Satan, who thought he had won with the death of Jesus. The other is that the rest of this message is a serious one. You see, I am going to speak out about something that no one ever talks about, the disappointment of Easter. The Easter story the way Mark tells it, is a series of disappointed expectations. Nothing in the story turned out the way it was expected.
When the Sabbath was over the holy women made their way to the tomb. They were in a state of shock. They had seen their leader, the one in whom they had invested so much hope, brutally executed. Just a short time ago, they had followed his every move with excitement. The crowds could not get enough of him. They followed him everywhere, hoping for a miracle, looking for healing, and hanging on his every word. Over the last three days, the mood had changed. The same crowds had taken up that terrible chant, “Crucify him!” And now he was dead. They had laid him hurriedly in the tomb. Now they were carrying spices with them to prepare his body for burial.
They knew that there was one formidable obstacle in the way. A very large stone had been placed across the entrance to the tomb. As they walked along the road that morning, they were all wondering the same thing. How would they ever move it away from the entrance? And yet, they went to the tomb anyway. And when they got there the stone had already been rolled away.

Not that it made them feel any better! It just made them wonder, “What is going on? What indignity has been done to him now?” But they entered the tomb. There they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, seated on the right side of the tomb. “Don’t worry!” he said to them. “You’re looking for Jesus. He has been raised. He is not here!” His words of reassurance did nothing to quell their fears. They fled in confusion. It is difficult for us to imagine their terror, but it was well founded. Their allegiance to Christ put them in grave danger. What fear, what confusion, what disappointment those women met on that first Easter day!

Many people are disappointed in Easter. For some the disappointment is that there is no proof of the Resurrection. “How can you believe such a story?” they say. “You are simply deluding yourself. It comes out of your own fear of death. You’re simply trying to paint a rosy picture, because you don’t want to face the fact that once life is over, that's it." Death is always a disappointment; it is an end to expectations. It leaves behind incomplete plans.

Then there are the skeptics. They are disappointed in everything life has to offer: "I'll believe if only you'll give me proof positive that any of this happened." And the simple truth is that neither I nor anyone else can provide them with proof. For one thing, there aren't a lot of facts. And for another, when I look around at a world torn by war, terrorism and civil strife, how can I presume to preach a message of the risen Christ? In a world where it is estimated that sixteen thousand children die of hunger every day, how do I convey a message of hope for a better existence? In a world where we hear of natural disasters destroying peoples’ lives, how can I see anything but destruction? In a world in which 'seeing is believing' how can I possibly convince people to have faith in something as intangible as the resurrection? In a world of fast fixes how do I convince people of the need to commit themselves to a way of life that benefits them, not now but in the afterlife?

And there it is! The disappointment for me! The resurrection is the cornerstone of our faith. Yet it is impossible to prove. The “how” continues to defy us. It cannot be proven in any logical way. There is no historical evidence or contemporary analysis that can offer proof.

But there are signs of resurrected life! We need only search them out! The child’s eye in each of us is full of wonder when we see a flower bloom! Who can help smiling at an animal frolicking with abandon at the mere thought of the arrival of spring? The artist’s eye in each of us is full of wonder when we see a beautiful sunset or the colours of the rainbow following a storm. Acts of kindness on the part of a total stranger can bring new meaning to life. There is new research every day that brings hope for a cure for cancer. Even something as simple as Earth Hour last week as people turned off their lights committing themselves to improving the quality of life on this beautiful planet of ours is a sign for me of the resurrection.

How do we help people get over the disappointment of Easter? The stone has been rolled away from the tomb. How do we get them to go in and see for themselves the emptiness of the tomb? When they have seen how do we keep them from simply running away in fear? How do we make certain that death does not have the final word?

Jesus who lived and walked and taught on earth is not in the tomb. He is not to be sought in the far distant past. His saving work is a present reality in the community of believers. This is where we encounter the risen Lord. It is in you, the people of God, that others will see the risen Christ. And seeing they will believe.

The world expected that the death of Jesus would mean the end of Christianity. But the once defeated and disillusioned disciples became people alive with joy. They became messengers ready to proclaim their faith. They put aside their disappointment and became believers.

So let us put aside our disappointments. Let God's Spirit move us to faith in the resurrection. In doing so we will discover that Christ is alive in us, through us, and forever. Then we too will proclaim: “I have seen the risen Lord. I have experienced resurrection in my life. God has rolled away the stone. I have seen for myself the empty tomb. I believe.”

Alleluia! The Lord is risen.
Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia!

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