God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God
Approximate Notes for Easter Sunday Message; Easter 2015
4 April 2015Posted by on
He is Risen! – He is Risen, Indeed!
Easter week is hectic by any measure of the imagination. As soon as palms are put away after the Palm Sunday service, the church is prepared for Maundy Thursday. As soon as Maundy Thursday services are done, the sanctuary is prepared for Good Friday services and a black cloth is draped over the cross inside and out. Then on Saturday there is anticipation and excitement; lilies are being delivered and the sanctuary is decorated. Finally Easter gets here; there are people in the sanctuary whom we have not seen since Christmas; “Alleluias” seem to hang in the air, memories of Easters gone by put us in a good mood and we realize how good it is to be here, to be alive, and to look forward to Spring.
If you Google “Images of Easter” you will see lots of pictures of Easter bunnies and Easter baskets. The truth is that these images of bunnies and chickens and candy are the worst possible images that we could use to represent Easter. Easter is about celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus. Easter is about celebrating a new life in Christ, and all the pictures of bunnies and chickens and baskets filled with candy are the worst images of Easter that we could possibly pick. I suspect we fill our imaginations with these images because the truth is so difficult to digest.
The Easter story is found in all four Gospels (Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-9; Luke 24:1-11 and John 20:1-18). None of the Biblical accounts of the Resurrection are either pretty or cheerful, or sentimental.
In Matthew’s account all the women see Jesus and worship him but not until they see an angel; Matthew describes their emotions as “afraid, yet filled with joy” (Matthew 28:9).
In the story that Luke tells is, the women found the empty tomb and had an encounter with two angels. That was a scary experience (Luke 24:5) and neither women nor disciples saw Jesus that day. Jesus appeared to two men on the road to Emmaus however, and they (these two men) were the ones to go back to Jerusalem to bring the news to the Disciples.
In the story that Mark tells us, Jesus’ body is missing and the women ran away, scared out of their wits: no sighting of Resurrected Jesus.
In the story that John tells us, Mary mistakes Jesus for the gardener, and we know that later in his gospel Jesus shows himself to the disciples (who were scared and hiding from their own people). It is in that atmosphere of fear and anxiety that Jesus shows his wounds that are so raw that Thomas can actually dig into them.
Jesus’ body is resurrected and the wounds sustained on the Cross come with it.
It is kind of disturbing. It is also hopeful. When we strip away all the glitter, the cloying sentimentality, the Easter outfits and the sweet smell of lilies in the sanctuary; when we remove these things out of the story, we are left with what we really need – Hope. So let’s unpack it.
In the third (3rd) episode of Season four (4) of Downton Abbey, the character of Carson says, “The business of life is the acquisition of memories. In the end that’s all there is.” At least some of those memories are memories of wounds: emotional, spiritual as well as physical wounds that we have sustained in the process of day to day living. It is those memories and wounds that shape us into who we are.
The promise and the hope of Easter is that although we still have our wounds, they are redeemed; we are made new NOT because our wounds are gone but because it is in our wounds that Christ works his mercy. It is in our fallenness and sin that Jesus offers us forgiveness. It is in our deepest valleys that we become consciously aware of Christ bringing us new life. These gifts are offered to us without price by God’s Grace.
The promise and the hope of Easter is that God’s Grace doesn’t disregard our wounds. God’s Grace redeems them, recognizing that these wounds make us who we are. Our wounds matter to God so much that God was willing to be wounded himself in order to redeem our suffering.
And that is the Good News! It is the Good News for a person who is fighting cancer or a medical condition. It is the Good News to the parents who have lost their child. It is the Good News for the family whose breadwinner cannot find a job. It is the Good News for the person who finds himself or herself at the end of their rope and cannot imagine how to proceed with their lives. It is the Good News because Jesus himself gave birth to the church where we can come together and share our lives, help each other to dream dreams; encourage each other to reach for the stars and, most of all, be the place where our friends and neighbors can come to find hope.
No matter what we are going through, our wounded lives matter to God. Jesus’ wounds were not pretty and neither are ours.
So as we celebrate Easter, let us remember the WHOLE story of redemption. The story that started in the wedding in Cana in Galilee and led to the celebrations of Palm Sunday, the desperation of Good Friday, continued with the Resurrection, and now continues with us.
He is Risen – He is Risen Indeed!