Sunday, March 31, 2013

The "idle tale" that changed the world

My sermon for this Easter Sunday is based on Luke 24:1-12; You can hear the audio HERE (13 minutes).

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Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

At first no one believed them. No one.

After all, they were women, and this was a man’s world. The men dismissed the women as telling “an idle tale.”

So it was on this first Easter morning when, as Luke tells us, these women – Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, came with spices to anoint the body of Jesus.

Before dawn, the women walked through the dark and dank streets of Jerusalem to the tombs a abandoned rock quarry outside the city gates. It was anything but a garden. Their walk must have been frightening.

What happened next changed them – and changed the world – forever.

These women encountered two men in dazzling white. The women were so astonished that they fell to the ground and buried their faces in the dirt.

The men – definitely not of this world – spoke to them: Jesus was gone. “He is risen, just as he had told you.”

The women ran back to tell the men, but the men did not believe them. Not at first. Peter ran to look for himself.

Then everything in his life began to make sense.

All of these women and men would soon encounter Jesus as alive again.

They would find him on a road to a town called Emmaus, and they would find him in a closed room, and they would find him in a thousand other places.

At first, few believed any of this.

Roman historian Josephus wrote at the time that these accounts should be disbelieved precisely because they came from women: “From women let not evidence be accepted because of the levity and temerity of their sex,” he wrote.

Are we so different?

These encounters may seem to our modern scientific ears as an idle tale.

But these experiences with the Risen Christ still happen, over and over, in ordinary places like our homes, and in workplaces, in classrooms, in the mountains and in the woods, and even in churches.

The Risen Christ especially comes to the hardest, most desolate, poorest places on earth – to hospital rooms and battlefields, to slums and hollers. The Risen Christ especially comes to the poor and the sick.

And these encounters bring courage and strength, and if we are open to it, will show us how God’s love is infinitely wider than we can possibly imagine.

When the women who came to the tomb saw the angels, they fell down and buried their faces in the ground.

But the angels told them to get up out of the dirt. Stop being so afraid.

That is the message of Easter for each and every one of us:

Don’t be so afraid of death that you forget to live. God’s infinite love is in front of you – and all around you, and in you.

Jesus is Risen, gone from the tomb, and will show us everything. You don’t have to wait for the next life. The door in this life is opened wide for us this Easter morning.

We know him as Jesus Christ, but that was not the name he was known by at first. Christ did not start out as his last name.

Christ began as a description of who he was and what he did.

It comes from the Greek word, Christos, which means “anointed,” and is the same word for healing oil. The word ointment comes from this.

Those who first used this word wanted us to know this crucial fact about their experience of him: they knew him as Jesus, the one who heals.

And on this first Easter, they began to understand this healing extends to the very core of our souls beyond the physical limits of our bodies.

How do I know this? I cannot offer you a scientific proof.

But what I can offer you is proof that the Risen Christ radically changed the lives of those who experienced him. They went from burying their faces in the dirt to courageously building God’s Beloved Community of love and healing, justice and peace here on earth – no matter the odds against them. They’ve done so in the past and are still doing so.

The women who first came to the empty tomb brought us this precious gift of Easter so that we may also be part of the Beloved Community.

But there is a challenge that comes with this gift.

We are challenged to push against the borders of our world that tells us, over and over, that there are limits on God’s love.

Don’t believe that for a second.

The world tells us to find our solace and security in the human instruments of death and greed: guns and money.

But don’t believe that for a second. There isn’t enough guns and money in this world to give us that kind of solace and security.

We are called to proclaim by word and example something radically different than the world believes; we are called to proclaim that the Christ who is Risen still shows us how to live with compassion and courage.

The Risen Christ speaks to us in a thousand ways, every day, in our work and play, in our dreams. And the Risen Christ speaks to us in our love and joy with each other.

The question, of course, is: How will we respond this Easter season, and for the rest of our life?

For those of you who may be new here at St. Paul’s, please know that this is an open, accepting and caring community. We do not pretend to have all the answers, but this is a good place to bring your questions. So please stay and walk with us.

And to those who have been here awhile, we have much to do. There are people to feed, children to rear, the sick and lonely to visit.

We have opportunities to bring justice and peace to our community, and God has given us everything – everything – we need.

My Easter prayer for each of us is that we will hear the sounds of Easter every single day, and that we will live with courage and compassion building the Beloved Community right here. And today, this Easter Sunday, is a good day to start.

“Death is conquered, we are free.”

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

By James Richardson, Fiat Lux

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