Christ is Risen!

April 21, 2019 Easter Sunday

Luke 24:1-12

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
Christ is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!  

Hell took a body, and face to face met God! It took earth and encountered Heaven! It took what it saw but crumbled before what it had not seen!
“O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory?”
Christ is risen, and you are overthrown!
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!
Christ is risen, and the Angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and Life reigns!
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the tombs!
For Christ being raised from the dead, has become the first-fruits of them that slept. To Him be glory and dominion through all the ages of ages!

-John Chrysostom   347-407
The Easter Homily

This Easter Homily from John Chrysostom is wonderful; however, I don’t quite think that is the first thoughts that the women that encountered the empty tomb were feeling. Honestly, they were more confused as to what was going on. The two men that show up in dazzling clothes, most likely angels, ask them “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” They are looking because they were just at the tomb right before the Passover had begun! They had seen the body of Jesus laying in the tomb where Joseph of Arimathea had placed him. They were perplexed because things like this did not happen. Surely, someone must have stolen the body!

They looked past the promises that Jesus had made and what would happen once he arrived in Jerusalem. Perhaps they just thought that he was speaking metaphorically. They were not expecting to find Jesus outside of the tomb where he had been laid. They may have recalled his talking about a resurrection, but did he really mean a bodily resurrection?

It is easy for us today to look past where God is working in the world as well. Especially given the war and turmoil that we are witness to on the news. The violence that pervades the daily news stream can bring us down in a darkness. We get frustrated when church attendance declines and we are left with more questions than answers.

Some biblical scholars even argue about whether or not there was a physical resurrection. Does it matter whether Jesus was physically resurrected or not? YES! Paul shares this in 1 Corinthians right before the reading selected from there this morning: “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:13-14).

The women’s initial perplexity at what had happened to Jesus’ body flows over to the disciples when they proclaim to them that he was no longer there. While the women recalled what Jesus has proclaimed to them about being raised on the third day, the disciples are still perplexed, and Peter had to go and see for himself. His faith did not initially carry him, he had to see for himself! How often do we let stumbling blocks get in the way of our own faith?

Perplexity is an honest human reaction. The disciples had spent the last three years learning from Jesus and even began teaching themselves as they went out into the surrounding villages. Jesus had always been there to ask questions of and now they were perplexed in not only his body missing from the tomb, but who are they supposed to turn to now? It is at the empty tomb that the women and Peter began to encounter a new reality.

Jesus promised that he would bring new life and, in the resurrection, we find the promise that God has been sharing with humanity from the dawn of creation. This is not an “idle tale” as the disciples had feared. This is what propelled Peter to get up and see for himself. Once again, we would probably be found in the same place if not for our faith. Resurrection seems incomprehensible, yet God conceives it and comprehends it for us!

The disciples will never be the same! They have been transformed in that very moment when they come to believe in the resurrection and give thanks that Jesus Christ points to new life in creation. God gives us the gifts to help lead us to faith and hope in the new creation to come. We are gifted with sacraments that makes God present for us daily. In the waters of baptism, we become members of the body of Christ and die our own death to only be restored to a new and wonderful life in Christ. Every time we come in contact with water we are reminded of the grace and love of God that washes us clean.

Every time we come forward to the table for holy communion, Jesus Christ meets us. He meets us in the elements of bread and wine to let us know that he is very much a part of us. By eating the bread and drinking the wine, we welcome Christ into our lives and his very presence lets us know that he is alive and well. When it is hard to see God’s activity in the world, know that God is present always, and the physical reminders of the sacraments bring us face to face.

Coming face to face with Christ in the sacraments gives us a peace to go out into the world to proclaim the good news!

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

Christ is risen, Indeed!

It helps us to find God in everything that we encounter, from the beauty of nature on a long hike, to the cats and dogs that curl up on our laps or couch next to us. God is present in our very breath and the winds that blow over this very creation. God is with those that are naked, hungry, thirsty, mourn, and grieve. God has never left us and through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Lord, we are ushered into a new creation that unfolds in front of us.

Let us pray. Creator God, you bring us to new life through the death and resurrection of your son, Jesus Christ. Let us rejoice in this new creation and the light that vanished death so that we too will come to know life eternal. Amen.

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The Good News is New Life!

heisrisen

Easter Sunday

Mark 16:1-8

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

Encountering the unexpected is scary! It can be especially challenging when you have preconceived expectations that do not match up with the reality of the truth that you encounter.

I am sure that at one point in your lives you could relate. Whether moving and starting at a new school and having to make new friends, or beginning a new job and getting to know the details of that job. Personally, I never changed school districts growing up, but my children have had the opportunity to go to several different schools. I encountered more change in my professional life. Going to college I had originally thought I would become a CPA. My sophomore year I started working retail, and for some strange reason fell in love with it. Later in that sophomore year, I discovered that I could major in retail management in the business school, thus leading to a decade spent in the retail industry with a handful of location and company changes. I always went in with my own personal expectations, which would be met sometimes, but more likely than not, they did not match reality.

Can you imagine what the women that are waiting for the sun to rise in our story this morning are going through? Did they get any sleep, or are they just waiting for the sabbath to be over so that they can make their way to the tomb.

They have witnessed the journey of Jesus from his entrance into Jerusalem  to his death on the cross. Throughout our gospels, the women are one of the constants that have been with Jesus, supporting him and caring for him in the aftermath of his crucifixion. I imagine the three women in our story are in deep mourning. They are distraught over what they have witnessed these past few days, and they are garnering just enough strength to go do what is necessary to care for Jesus’ body. Their conversation on the way to the tomb was probably minimal. Perhaps, talking about what needed to be done, and especially worrying about how they were going to roll the heavy stone away from the entrance to the tomb. There is a song, Beautiful Things by Gungor, that could speak to their worries and mourning. The song begins,

All this pain, I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change, at all
All this earth, could all that is lost ever be found?
Could a garden come out from this ground, at all?

They had the expectation of arriving at the tomb with a challenge in front of them. Would the three of them be able to roll that heavy stone away? They are so caught up in these questions and their mourning that they look up and they are there. Yet, what they see is not what they expected. The stone has already been moved! They enter the tomb to be welcomed by a man dressed in white, and the body of Jesus is nowhere to be seen. They are left speechless. It is the words that they hear next that leave them with terror and amazement:

“Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” Mark 16:6-7

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

In the terror and amazement, they rush from the tomb, only to remain silent. And here is where our reading ends! This is the original ending of Mark’s gospel. Mark leaves it quite open ended because the work of the disciples is never complete. Several verses would be added later so that it would come to a resolution! Our own need to be to tie a bow on it and make it complete! We do know from our other gospel authors that the good news was spread from the women. If the women had not shared that good news, we may have not been here this morning.

Good news is scary! The good news is holy and it brings word to us of the divine. Encountering the divine can leave us in terror and amazement. In their reaction, the women knew fully well what they had encountered in the tomb and it may have taken them a little time to contemplate the words and to share it with the disciples.

Why do we get those butterflies in our stomachs and a heightened anxiety whenever we encounter something new?

Because new life is scary! Just like the good news. It is the good news that brings us new life. That is what the goods news of Jesus Christ is all about. With Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are brought to new life. It is a life, where resurrection has conquered sin and death. It is a new life that brings hope to a world that is broken and lost. It is a new life that rises through the old. It is a new life that fulfills the promise of God.

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

The Resurrection is not the end of the story! It is just the beginning of new life! A new life that can be scary, but a life that is saturated with hope. A new life that is the seed for transformation for each and everyone of us. A new life that abounds in a never-ending love.

Yes, you can stop what you are doing and be enamored in the awe of the resurrection, but don’t let yourself remain there. What if you were to look beyond the resurrection and begin to live your life the way that Jesus wanted you to? To reach our to your sisters and brothers with the same love and compassion that he did. To embrace the stranger among you and give them shelter. To proclaim the good news of your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ through not only word, but through your actions in caring for others. This is the new life that Jesus is hoping for in the promise of the resurrection. This new life is beautiful!

Beautiful Thingshas the following chorus:

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

All around,
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found, in you

This morning we are reminded of the new life that is found in Jesus Christ. A new life that is for each and every one of us. A new life for those that have been Christians their entire life. A new life for those that have struggled with their faith. A new life for those that have followed in Peter’s path and denied Jesus.

To live life is chaos! To live life in Jesus Christ and the resurrection is a beautiful thing!

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

Christ Shows Up!

Des_Plaines_River_Trail_Lake_County_Illinois

Luke 24:13-35

We were walking long before we got into cars to drive anywhere. Walking was Jesus’ and the disciples chief form of transportation. Walking is healthy and can burn a lot of calories. No wonder we have many stories of Jesus sitting down to eat, he needed to replenish his energy from all of that walking.

We walk when we are happy. We walk when we are sad and grieving. We walk when we are angry and cannot decide where to go. I am sure that at least a few of us have gotten into an argument with their spouse and said I am going out to get some fresh air and went for a walk. Walking seems to calm our minds and settle our anger. Walking can also help us think and work through problems. Steve Jobs, one of the greatest minds in technology, liked to go on walks to talk with those he disagreed with and try to come to an understanding. Inspirations came to him on his walks.

What do you think the two disciples walking to Emmaus had in mind when they slipped on their sandals and headed out the door? Did they need some fresh air? Did they need to walk off their lunch? Were they simply just trying to cope with Jesus’ death?

Whatever their reasons, the conversation turned towards the happenings of the last few days and they shared their grief with one another. There was possibly even some anger that had built up, because everything they had hoped for died with Jesus on the cross. Or so they had thought. How often do we put our hopes and dreams into something, only to find out later down the road that things just did not pan out? This is how the disciples are feeling. According to Jewish thought, they were hoping for a Messiah that would save them from everything and make the Kingdom of Heaven come to earth. Instead they got a teacher that suffered death on a cross and left them feeling empty. It is true that the women had found the tomb empty earlier in the day, but they still have not seen a sign from Jesus.

Remember, this lesson comes from the gospel of Luke. Jesus does not appear to the disciples in the upper room first as he did in our lesson from John last week.

Some walks are longer than others. The two disciples in our story start out on a seven mile walk to Emmaus. A walk that is very doable. A distance that some of us may perhaps go every day. I know we put in those miles almost every day while on vacation last week. These are literal miles. Figuratively, we can walk for many miles to encounter a faith that is even just the size of a mustard seed. And, you know what, some of us put in many more miles than others. And at times, it may feel as though we are going backwards.

While the disciples are gripped with doubt, fear, and grief, they still desire to continue on in the journey that Jesus started; not sure where it may lead them. What are we doing in our own lives while we are on that walk? Like the disciples, we walk many miles with blinders on, where we do not even recognize the presence of Jesus in our midst.

It is not realistic for us to place our expectations of what it looks like to be Christian or Lutheran upon anyone else because everyone’s walk is different. The expectation for others to pick things up as quickly as we may, is unfounded. All we can do is continue to proclaim our faith in the Risen Christ and share our story.

In the disciples walk, we witness a healing of sort. One that many of us are hoping to encounter in our own walks. First, their doubt, fear, and grief is revealed as Jesus shows up to walk with them. Have you not heard what happened in Jerusalem? They are dumbfounded that this stranger has not heard the news and possibly a little irate. They share that their hope for the redemption of Israel died on the cross. Jesus’ response is to quote scripture and point towards the Hebrew Bible where it prophesizes the death that he died, so that salvation is made possible.

Their anger and hurt runs deep and it is hard to judge whether or not they have truly listened. It is not until they sit down to break bread together that their eyes are opened and they truly see Christ for the first time.

Our entire service every Sunday could be considered a walk along the road to Emmaus. We walk together as we come to worship. We welcome the strangers within our midst. We hear the word proclaimed. We share a meal together. A meal in which we recognize the Risen Christ. With this Good News, we go to proclaim it to others.

Our walk reveals the opportunity for open and honest conversation. It is in our walk that we can allow ourselves to be vulnerable and bear all. We too experience doubt, fear, and grief. Some of us more than others. In our walk, just like the walk of the discples, JESUS CHRIST SHOWS UP!

How will we recognize him when he does? We will move from doubt, fear, and grief to a space of faith, hope, and love? Remember though, this walk is longer for some than for others. Even families are on different parts of the journey.

What can we do along the way? We can provide a space for open and honest conversation. Are we listening to others before we quickly interject our own stories? Are we allowing room for the Holy Spirit to breath within our relationships?

In the Good News of Easter Morning and the empty tomb, may we be a place open to doubts, fear and grief.  Yet as we reveal our vulnerabilities, may Christ reveal to us a faith, hope, and love that can change hearts and minds, and foster community.

Let us Rejoice and Laugh!

risen_christsea

John 20:19-31, Holy Humor Sunday

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

Easter is a time of surprises and unsurmountable joy! The women that visited the tomb first were clearly surprised that they had found it empty. Then their hearts were lightened with joy as they realized that the promises Jesus had made before his death had come true, he was raised on the third as he had said he would be. We have the choice to be full of piety and take everything seriously, or we can truly celebrate with joy. To quote William Shakespeare, “Whether its nobler in the mind to control the impulse and maintain decorum, or to give in and enjoy this day is totally up to you!”

Holy Humor Sunday is an opportunity to continue in our joyous Easter Celebration and proclaim the Risen Christ! The history of Holy Humor Sunday goes all the way back to the fifteenth century when priests would share funny stories and jokes with their parishioners the second Sunday after Easter. The celebration gained momentum again in the late 1980’s when the Fellowship of Merry Christians and The Joyful Noiseletter began sharing it.

G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly. Never forget that the devil fell by force of gravity. He who has the faith has the fun.” It is because of our faith in Christ and the resurrection that we are able to laugh and have a fun time. The resurrection brings hope and a promise to our lives and in that hope we rejoice with one another praising God in various ways; singing, dancing, and laughing to name just a few of them. Sometimes we forget that when we are in church while we are trying to focus on getting everything just right. In our joy there aren’t much better ways than to share laughs with one another.

Did you hear about the church member that was baking cookies last Saturday for Easter? A gentleman came to her door looking for some work and she had been meaning to paint her back porch. She told the gentleman that there was 2 gallons green of paint to paint the porch out back. He was excited to have a job and make a little money. He came back after awhile and told her the job was completed, however, he told her “That is not a porsche, that is a mercedes.”

Laughter truly does give us new life and restores us when we are feeling down and even when we are in need of healing. As much celebration and joy that went into last Sunday, we are still confronted with the realities around us. We still have violence and senseless deaths around the world that we fail to understand. At times it seems as though it would be easier to be like the disciples and lock ourselves up in our houses in fear. It is the surprise of Jesus coming to be in their presence that they slowly start to understand and our eventually restored with new life.

They disciples were living in fear of what may happen to them if they were to share with others that they are followers of Jesus. There is a proper time for mourning, yet as Jesus appears to them there is also a time for rejoicing! What do you think that rejoicing looked like behind those closed doors? Was there singing? Was there dancing? Was there laughter? I like to believe that there was probably a little bit of all of them.

Jesus brings the peace of the Lord to them when they need it most, in their mourning and desolation wondering where they were going to go from there. Jesus’ peace means so much more though. The peace that Jesus shares with them is meant to bring peace to their past and all of the things that have transpired in their lives and ultimately on cross. It is also a peace that comes to them in their current dwelling of questioning. The peace Jesus shares also speaks to their future as they will go out proclaiming the good news that they have now received, rejoicing in the risen Lord.

In that peace Jesus brings hope to a broken world and knowing now that he lives, we live in that peace too. This gives hope to us for a future with Christ present by our side in all we do. “Peace be with you,” makes a difference for all of us and it marks our life with a purpose, meaning, and a new direction as we look towards the risen Christ.

Psalm 150 this morning encourages us to Praise the Lord! We are to praise God in the sanctuary, which we do every Sunday. We praise God for all of creation and the resurrection of God’s son, Jesus Christ. We praise God by playing our instruments with joy and celebration and lifting our voices up to the Lord. We praise God by dancing. We praise God by laughter and having fun. It is all of creation that praises the Lord and we join in with all of creation in doing so.

This Easter season we celebrate God’s creation by surrounding ourselves with it and being intentional in witnessing God’s promise in our lives. Let us Praise the Lord!

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

 

 

He Has Risen!

HeisRisen

Easter Sunday, Luke 24:1-12

Grace and Peace to you, from God, our creator, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

Alleluia! He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!

Our journey to Easter Sunday began more than 40 days back as we came together as a community to mark the beginning of Lent with the sign of the cross marked on our own foreheads in ash, reminding ourselves that we are dust and to dust we shall return. A sign of that very same cross that Jesus was crucified on Friday morning. We have experienced the temptations and the suffering, some of us more so than others. We have walked through heartache and we have dwelled in the valley of the shadow of death.

It is for this day that we have walked through the desert and wilderness. It is for this day that we have endured through all of the pain and suffering. It is for this day that the disciples have came to the tomb to ensure Jesus is prepared properly in his burial, only to find the tomb empty!

First, the women come to the tomb, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and others that are not named. The women are the first to truly know what the empty tomb signals. They are reminded of the words of Jesus by the two men in dazzling clothes who spoke words of comfort and reassurance that what Jesus said was going to happen truly did. It is in the resurrection that their belief grows stronger and they experience the hope and promise of the empty tomb. Their response is one that we should all be able to support and follow in our own path. They respond by breaking their own silence of grief and mourning to speak the truth that they now know. This is what God expects and asks of them, and it should also be an example for us.

Even though the women return speaking the truth that they now believe deep down in their hearts, there is still doubt and confusion among those that have not seen for their own eyes. Perhaps Mary is the first one to preach a sermon proclaiming the risen Christ, “I have seen the Lord.” In all honesty, do we need to say anything more than that on Easter?

This first sermon seems to fall on deaf ears. Luke goes as far to say that the other disciples do not believe their “idle tale.”  The disciples more accurate response to the women was that the story of the empty tomb was pure nonsense, or garbage if you want to put it in other terms. They doubted the word of the women and it was guilt-ridden Peter, whom had denied Jesus, that was the first that had to get up and run to see for himself. He leaves the tomb amazed, yet maybe still not fully comprehending what he has just experienced.

What has your experience been this Lent and Holy Week? Has it been one of repentance and forgiveness? Has it been one of contemplation and prayer? It is even possible that you have just went with the flow of the season and have not thought too much about it.

More importantly, have you seen the Lord? Have you witnessed God’s promise? Maybe it was in the love shown to you by a loved one or even possibly a stranger. Maybe it was in the action of others as they went beyond expectations to help their neighbors. Maybe it is in the joy and celebration that we encounter today in the resurrection. Christ is present in all of the above. I had the opportunity to witness the Lord Thursday evening as people came forward for the foot washing and was reminded of the actions of Jesus during that last supper as he bent down to wash the feet of all of his disciples, most likely even Judas. It was again on Friday as I was folding the towels used during the foot washing after they had been washed. I was reminded of the feet and hands that they touched and the love that a community has for one another through Christ.

In all of this God’s promise shines through with a dazzling brightness that is first proclaimed through the men that appear to Mary and the other women in the empty tomb, “He is not here, but has Risen!”

Alleluia! He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!

God Works in the Midst of Disruption

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Saturday Easter Vigil Sermon

Grace & Peace to you, from God, our creator, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

Alleluia! He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!

In all of the stories we have heard this evening, disruption of various kinds occur. In the story of the flood all life as they knew it was forever disrupted as the raging waters rose and all that was left was Noah and his family and the vast cargo of animals that were brought aboard the ark. Moses disrupts the life of the Israelites as he is called by God to lead them out of the land of Egypt and across the Red Sea so that they may come to the land of milk and honey. Ezekiel surely knows something about disruption as he is placed in the midst of the Valley surrounded by bones that appear to have been there for centuries.

The stories of disruption seem to have no end. As we listened to the story of Jonah, we are made aware of the calling that he is eager to get as far away from as possible. He has no desire to take on the challenge that he is called to until his life is totally disrupted by rough waters and a big fish. We could argue about whose life got disrupted more in the story of the fiery furnace, was it Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, or was it possibly that of King Nebuchadnezzar? The three had to tolerate the inconvenience of spending time in the furnace, however, it was King Nebuchadnezzar whose plans got changed.

Disruptions do not have the final word. It was in the aftermath of the flood that God made a new covenant with Noah that the earth would not be destroyed by a flood again and all God’s creature are called to go forth and be a fruitful part of creation. Even though the lives of the Israelites in Egypt were disrupted, the sign of God’s promise can be seen as they are protected and delivered through the waters of the Red Sea. In the Valley of the Dry Bones, the Spirit breathes new life back into the bones that have given up all hope.

Jonah turns to prayer as he contemplates what he ran away from and is restored to new life as he finds himself once again on dry ground, with a stronger confidence, ready to go speak to the people of Nineveh. The faith of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego carries them through the fiery furnace as they refuse to bow down to another god. God protects them and carries them through the furnace and the heart of King Nebuchadnezzar appears changed.

The disruptions that occur in these stories, as well as those that happen within our own lives, are just that, disruptions, yet God is present to see us through. It is in our own baptisms that we are brought into the life of Christ and experience the never-ending love of God. It is at the table that we are fed with the bread of life and experience God’s grace. May we rejoice in God’s promises in the waters and meal as God creates, promises, delivers, provides, and saves.

Alleluia! He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!