The Easter cliffhanger...
Easter Sunday – April 21, 2019
Acts 10:34-43, Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24, 1 Corinthians 15:19-26, Luke 24:1-12
(In the name of the Father, +Son, and Holy Spirit)
I may be late to the game but I’ve recently been watching “Fan Reaction Videos” on YouTube and Social Media. Fan Reaction Videos are exactly what they sound like. Videos of people reacting to events or situations they encounter…
Over the last few months I have been interested mostly with how people are reacting to teasers and snip-its of small low-budget Indy movies like Avengers and Star Wars.
And there are other videos of sports fans reacting to their favorite team winning the championship. There are even videos capturing the reactions of people opening gifts.
I confess these videos seem silly, but we are emotional and social animals and so this is just another way we can find connection in this world.
I will also confess that I find they are entertaining to watch and I want to see if people reacted the same way I did to that Star Wars episode 9 teaser.
The title of the movie is... The Rise of Skywalker? Revealed the week before Easter?!?
What does that mean????
This morning we huddle around the chief and central festival of the Christian Church, Easter Sunday.
On Good Friday we heard again of how Jesus was arrested, tortured, crucified, and killed by a political empire and popular opinion. He was then shut in a borrowed tomb.
And it seems like that is the end of the story.
It seems the Jesus movement was snuffed out.
On Maundy Thursday Laura shared that at the end of our service when we stripped the altar and left in silence she heard one of our youth in the children’s choir say, “what just happened?” And in response to that fantastic question another youth said,
“it felt like a cliffhanger.”
We left here on Passion Sunday, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday with a cliffhanger… they/we killed the Messiah… he was sealed in a tomb... they/we left in silence.
Maybe that’s it? Maybe that’s the end?
A lot of people believe it was.
A lot of people still do.
But today we boldly proclaim loud and clear that the story continues…
“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.”
Now I know as we gather in this space on this particular day hearing this particular story, we all come from different places, backgrounds, points of view and a diversity of beliefs.
When we hear this Easter story, we all react in different ways…
Shock, joy, doubt, amazement, “I’ve heard it all before”, exhaustion, excitement, skepticism, hope.
And all of that is OK.
Within our Easter story from Luke the emotions and reactions to the news that Jesus is no longer dead, but rather alive is all over the place as well.
Sadness, confused, worry, shock, joy, grief, doubt, fear, amazement, skepticism, hope… it’s all in the story as well.
And the story continues…
“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, the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”
Perplexed and terrified… and yet, upon hearing this startling news “they returned from the tomb, (and) they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest.”
And did they all believe right away? Did they jump for joy?
Did they live happily ever after?
Luke is brutally honest, “But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.”
“it seemed like an idle tale”, of course it did…
Doubt, skepticism, disappointment, deconstruction…. they aren't anything new.
“and they did not believe them.”
Of course they didn’t believe, the dead just don’t get up and walk out of their grave.
That's just plain logic.
The Greek word for “idle tale” is "lay-ross" (transliteration)… and this is the only time it’s used in the whole Bible… lay-ross can also be translated as “nonsense” or “worthless” (for modern ears... BS).
And yet the story continues…
“But these words seemed to them (like a bunch of nonsense, like a bunch of BS) 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.”
It seemed like nonsense… and yet Peter ran to the tomb anyway.
And he went home amazed.
This story and claim that Christ rose from the dead may seem like nonsense and we may react to it in all kinds of different ways, and yet wherever you are in life and faith, whatever you are feeling, however you react to this day and this story…
All that you are... Easter embraces all of it.
Easter embraces you.
And the story continues…
The word “apocalypse” is another Greek word that means “to unveil” or “to reveal”…
it’s often associated with “the end of the world” (you know... Zombies, Robot's, Nucular fallout, etc.) but within the Bible it’s used as a means of God uncovering that which was hidden. God revealing the true nature of things.
And so Easter is the ultimate apocalypse revealing and uncovering God’s true nature in Christ.
The crucified and risen Christ fully unveils to us what God is like.
This includes the grace filled ability to see people beyond the labels and narratives others place upon us.
This includes the radical inclusiveness, love and healing Christ offered to anyone around him, and his willingness to suffer for us and die on the cross.
Easter transforms the cross from being a meaningless abuse of political power to the good news that death will not have the final word over our lives.
The good news that God’s love for us is stronger than death.
The good news of Easter is that in the resurrection of Christ there is a new creation, a new big bang expanding and unfolding in our midst.
Within our baptism into the crucified and risen Christ we are now called to live as an Easter people in the world where this story continues in and within us.
We are called to live as an Easter people growing and expanding in the unconditional grace of God that leads us to see the world and the nature of all things through new eyes.
There is a story of Danny Wuerffel, a football player who played quarterback for the University of Florida and who won the Heisman in 1996.
After he finished a decorated college career he was drafted by the New Orleans Saints. But even though he had a great college career he struggled in the pros.
He shares the story that on one particular Sunday as he was sitting on the sideline waiting for his big chance, the starting quarterback got hurt and they called his name to get in the game.
Nervous but excited he put on his helmet and ran onto the field.
And so in his first play, he hiked the ball, he turned to hand the ball to the running back and as he turned around he was blindsided and was hit hard by the defensive lineman.
He was hit so hard, all he remembers is that he was laying on the ground and when he opened his eyes he couldn’t see.
He shares that at this moment he began to pray and suddenly football didn’t seem as important anymore.
He prayed, “God please don’t let me be blind, I’ll live for you, I now see what’s most important in life.”
At that moment, some of his teammates helped him up.
Still dazed and he still couldn’t see…
one of his teammates yelled out…
“Danny, Danny, Turn your helmet around!”
It’s a miracle.
It’s a funny story, but Danny shares this story to reveal that for him it was still a miracle. It helped put things in perspective for him.
His eyes were opened to a new way of seeing the world.
Easter unveils for us a new way of seeing the world.
Fear and death no longer has its stronghold on our lives.
In Christ death has been defeated, and so death does not and will not have the final word in our lives, and the promise is, because Jesus lives, we will live also.
And so this Easter story continues in us and within the story of our lives here and now.
The story continues at the font in the grace filled waters of Baptism, and at this table where the Risen Christ promises to be present to continue to nourish us with his own body and blood as we live our faith in the world.
And because Easter has embraced all that we are therefore, we now belong to a love that calls us to see the world in a new way, the way Christ sees it.
Because we are an Easter people we are called to live in a community of faith where we can be honest with one another, hold each other accountable, and wrestle with life and faith together. Reminding one another over and over again that we are embraced by a love stronger than death.
Tomorrow is Earth Day.
And you see I don’t believe this is merely a metaphor or a parable… but rather the bodily resurrection of Jesus is a confirmation of God’s commitment to the material universe God called good at the Genesis of all things.
God likes matter, God created it, and so your matter matters.
So therefore, our call now is to be and Easter people and good stewards of those material, real, and tangible things entrusted to us… our bodies, the earth, our environment, our community – the Body of Christ in the world.
You see Easter doesn’t merely wisk us away into some disembodied spiritual realm, rather it grounds us with the real emotions, reactions, dust, and matter that are a part of our lives here and now.
If you look closely at our Easter story this morning, it ends on a cliff hanger too….
“then Peter went home amazed at what had happened.”
What happened next?