Hallelujah! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Hallelujah!
Boy—it’s good to say those words! Those words are the essence of the gospel, the good news. They sum up what motivates us as Christians to face each new day. But the reason those words motivate us is because they mean something for us. It’s one thing to believe that Christ is risen, to hear that he’s risen, to say that he’s risen. It’s a whole other thing altogether to believe that Christ is risen, to hear that he’s risen, to say that he’s risen for us—for me, for you. Just as the angels proclaimed on Bethlehem’s plain the night of Jesus’ birth that the Messiah is born for you, so too is the proclamation of Jesus’ resurrection a proclamation for you. “Do you not know,” St. Paul writes us, “that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore, we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”
Each of us is raised by God into a brilliant life full of Christ’s light, so that we can see where we’re going. And this is the promise that Jesus made us, and the promise that was fulfilled in his death on the cross and resurrection from the tomb. We know that when Jesus was raised from the dead it was a klaxon of the end of death-as-the-end. Never again will death have the last word—not for him and not for us. Because of Jesus, never again will death have the last word for you. And so when we say, “Christ is risen!” behind those words sticks the understanding, the conviction, the core belief that Christ’s resurrection is our resurrection, and jut as he is raised from the dead, so too are we raised from death to newness of life. As we go on into today’s sermon, and into today’s worship, and in the coming days and weeks, ponder anew what the Almighty can do, what God has done for you in the resurrection of Jesus. Ponder anew God’s love for you…
Let us pray. May only God’s Word be spoken and may only God’s Word be heard; in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Reginald was a successful psychiatrist. In addition to having a healthy private practice, he’d published many articles and even a few books, including a textbook he was proud to say his alma mater used for introductory psychology classes. But Reginald wasn’t all work. No—he also had a family, a wife and twin sons. And how different those twins were! Harry was the consummate pessimist. It was like he lived in a constant dreary day. And then there was Arnold. He was the unflappable optimist. It seemed nothing could challenge his positive outlook. So Reginald concocts an experiment to test the limits of the twin’s dispositions. For Christmas he decides he’ll pile up oodles of beautifully wrapped gifts in the middle of Harry’s room. He won’t put any gifts in Arnold’s room, but instead he’ll dump a heap of horse manure outside for him.
Christmas morning comes. Harry wakes up and sees the pile of gifts. He opens them, one by one, and with each opened gift, the look on his face grows ever more dour. Arnold on the other hand, is thrilled to clear the wrapping paper away for his brother as he unwraps ever more gifts. By the time that he’s done, Harry looks absolutely miserable. So, his father asks him finally, “Harry, what do you think of your presents?” Harry, with the most woeful voice, answers, “I just knew I wouldn’t get the Nintendo Switch.” And so it was—Harry was for real the consummate pessimist.
Now to see how Arnold responds to his Christmas gift. Reginald asks him, “Arnold, are you ready for your Christmas gift?” Arnold jumps up, “Oh, yes!” Reginald says, “Follow me.” Arnold follows along behind his father to the front door, and as he opens the door, there sits the pile of horse manure. He says to his son, “Merry Christmas!” Arnold, fast as lighting, dives into the pile of manure and starts digging. Reginald is awestruck and exclaims, “Arnold, what are you doing?” Without looking up from his digging, Arnold yells back at his father, “With all this manure, there has be a pony in here someplace!” And so it was—Arnold was for real the unflappable optimist.
Perspective—we hear people talk about perspective a lot. Particularly in how we view our lot in life. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people frame perspective using the analogy of a glass of water. Is the glass half full, or is the glass half empty? Of course, conventional wisdom holds that a pessimist, someone who sees the world largely in negative terms, sees the glass as half empty, while an optimist on the other hand, someone who sees the world largely in positive terms, sees the glass as half full. The reality is the same for both, however. The glass is simultaneously half full and half empty. The difference is how you look at it, and that’s the matter of perspective.
In today’s gospel text, we’re presented with folks who have different perspectives. It’s the first day of the week, and the women who’d been with Jesus all throughout his ministry come to the sepulchre—a great word, don’t you think? They come to the sepulchre, or tomb, and they discover that not only is the stone rolled away, but Jesus’ body isn’t there! Suddenly, two men in dazzling clothing appear—likely angels. We’re told the women are terrified by this. The angels ask the women, “Why are you looking for the living among the dead? He is not here but has been raised! Remember how he told you when you were still back in Galilee that he had to be handed over to sinners, be killed on a cross, and in three days rise up?” When the angels had reminded them of this, the women remembered Jesus’ words. They return to the rest of the disciples and tell them about it. When they tell them about what they experienced—the empty tomb, the angels—the rest of disciples scoffed at it as “utter nonsense,” we’re told. Something to be discounted as lacking credibility or even unworthy of consideration…utter nonsense. But not all the disciples thought it was poppycock. Peter jumps to his feet and runs to the tomb. He stoops to look in and sees a few grave clothes, and that’s all. And we’re told he’s amazed—astounded, marveled, astonished, maybe we might even say gobsmacked.
Three different perspectives on the first Easter morning from the first disciples. And yet—are we any different from those first disciples in how we look at Jesus’ resurrection and what it means for us as disciples today, in the twenty-first century, in Fitchburg, Massachusetts? “Death has been swallowed up in victory,” writes St. Paul to the Corinthians, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” On this Easter Sunday, some roughly 2000 years since the first Easter morning, we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection and what it means for us, that we who are baptized in Christ are united with him in death and resurrection, and just as God raised him from death to life again, so too do we enjoy the abundance of overflowing life—just as God intended for us and for all creation since before the beginning of time. And yet…does what the resurrection maybe scare us, maybe even terrify us? Maybe we dismiss it? Or maybe we’re amazed by it? What does Jesus’ resurrection mean for you? What are you doing with the newness of life God has gifted you in Jesus?
Jesus’ resurrection frees us from whatever takes us away from the full, abundant life that God wants for us and for all creation. Jesus’ resurrection shows us, once and for all, that no matter what, all things work together for good for those who love God—for those who love God can never be separated from his love precisely because of what God accomplishes for us in Jesus that first Good Friday and that first Easter morning.
But we like the first women who went to the tomb—we might find ourselves sometimes scared by the profound awesomeness and glory of God’s love. If this indeed is true…then anything is possible! Anything! Even the death of loved ones, family and friends, isn’t an obstacle anymore. Our sorrow can’t be the last thing we’ll know in relationship with those we love, because God’s promise that life is stronger than death is true! In the end, our death isn’t the worst thing that can happen. We too will be united with our loved ones and friends and with Christ and with God in the New Jerusalem—just as God promised!
But sometimes we’re also like the rest of the disciples, dismissive of God’s promise. No doubt God loves everyone and does great things, but we fail to include ourselves in that “everyone.” We forget that just as God loves the person sitting next to us, or loves our neighbor we can’t stand, so too does God love us—even when we can’t love ourselves. We dismiss God’s love that conquers death when we don’t recognize this love is also for us as much as it’s for the whole world.
For after all, the world God loves includes us. We’re part of it…
And sometimes we’re like Peter—simply amazed. We might fail to find the words to describe what Jesus’ resurrection means, what God’s promise that love is stronger than hate or that light is stronger than darkness means—but we know its truth because we’ve glimpsed it. We’ve peered into the tomb and found it completely empty of distress, anxiety, and isolation, but also found it brimming full of possibility, fulfilment, and ultimately God’s peace. The tomb is simultaneously completely empty and completely full—it’s simply a matter of our perspective, of how we look at it what it means for us.
No matter how we look at Jesus’ resurrection, no matter our momentary perspective, God promises us that nothing will separate us from his love for us in Jesus. Sometimes, when we step back and really consider what this means for us, this promise scares us. Sometimes, it seems too good to be true. And sometimes we simply revel in its rhapsodical, serene peace, God’s peace, lost in awe and amazement at what God has done, is doing, and is willing to do for us. Sometimes, it’s simply a matter of perspective.
Hallelujah! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Hallelujah!
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.