Christ is Risen! (Christ is Risen indeed! Alleluia!)
If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. The first to return from death to life…
For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being;
for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ.
But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming, his return at the end of all time, those who belong to Christ will also be made alive.
No one saw Jesus walk out of the tomb. The event of resurrection, of life after death, was without witness.
No one can tell you and I how the stone was rolled away…there are no reports of earthquakes upon the coming of new life to the body of Jesus of Nazareth, there were no reports of sudden blooming of flowers or bursting out of song birds. Resurrection was, by all indications, a silent moment of God’s action in a specific place with a specific person to bring about a specific result.
I do not believe that God preordains our lives; nor does God plan out every moment, every action or every person who comes to you. God does not set up the outcome of the KU game or the ballet competition. God does not work to make you win the lottery or go to the poor farm.
But in every moment, as we turn to God through the power of the Holy Spirit, God works through us to bring about the best possible result of our actions, our thoughts, our relationships, and God empowers us to live as God’s people, moment by moment, breath by breath, …silently, without fanfare…resurrection from our sinful self occurs.
I once knew a man named George…not my dad, another man, I worked with him while I was in college. George had been a drunk on the streets of Chicago. He was not just a drunk, he was a black out, never be sober, throwing up, ruining his health, killing brain cells daily, come to seizures and finally a stroke kind of drunk. and, during detox, literally believing himself to be dying, he asked the Emergency Room folks to let him die.
George had ruined his brain to the point that he lived in a home for adult autistics. George was not autistic but was no longer physically capable , of taking care of himself. He could not remember how to cook from one day to the next; once a strong, fit construction worker with a muscular physique, he could no longer grip a pickle jar to open the top. He had ruined his body. But George had one thing going for him, in that group home, he could still think and reason. He could tell a great story. George, at 60, came to have a purpose that he would never have imagined at 20, when he started drinking for fun…George was the champion of the autistic males in the home. He would calm them like no one else could calm them. He could ramp them up when you wanted them to calm down. He was their emotional engine and he knew it. George had a twinkle in his eye that told you he knew just exactly what he was doing…most of the time…and he enjoyed playing this role of emotional barometer. The other men loved George and he loved them back; they accepted each other in a way that typically functioning folks can never understand. They were kindred spirits, living together through need, growing old together as a family.
George and i had a conversation one night, as I was working late, most of the men were in bed but George couldn’t sleep so we sat at the kitchen table and he told me about his life. When he had finally gotten sober, was clean enough to think and enjoy life, George came to an awareness; he said, “I don’t know why God has saved me for this”….and he spread out his gnarled, slightly shaking hands, looking around the simple yellow kitchen, Formica topped table, darkness outside the windows…”but I am so glad he let me know love again. I am so glad he didn’t let me die in the hell I was living on the street.”
Resurrection happens in the strangest places.
George gave to me, that night, a testimony as powerful as the one received in the tomb. Those men in dazzling array said to the perplexed women, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”
I don’t imagine those words made them feel better, or even made sense. What does it mean to a baptized drunk, living on the street, that Christ will rise from the tomb? What does it mean to the losing player that God loves them? When you have poured your whole heart and soul into something and it turns out to be nothing….well…what does it matter?
“Remember,” said those dazzling fellas, “remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee? that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified and on the third day rise again.”
Remember, George, that you are baptized? That God will never leave you nor forsake you? That there is a purpose for your life?
We all make decisions that are sinful; we all take chances and do things that are not loving to ourselves, to our families, to our friends, our children, our spouses, our neighbors, our co-workers, to creation itself. WE all do this. We are sinners. We fail, we are going to die in this life because when Adam and Eve took the bite from the forbidden fruit, when they violated the most simple rule God has ever offered humanity, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” when they did that, they opened for all of us the knowledge of good and evil and in every time, every situation, we are tempted, we are turned by our own will to the evil of self-importance; we desire to base our actions out of our own experience and understanding, not the mystery of God’s will. We move and live and have our being through Him who continually revises and re-works our focus to love and we continually shun that action in our lives because it is NOT OUR WILL to love and to be in constant relationship DESPITE God’s love for me. MY WAY or the HIGHWAY…and God shakes his head, hears the nails, tears the curtain in two and dies again for our sins.
To come again…awhile later…angels, prophets, singers, poets, friends, lovers, teachers, coaches…come to us over and over to share with us the blessing of God’s will for us, the path to love and hope, the ways of forgiveness and peace.
Resurrection sneaks into our being…God lifts us quietly up…and we continually push away that grace; “I KNOW!!”
But this morning at the empty tomb…correction…at the tomb empty of Jesus, but filled with the mysterious and dazzling light of strangers…the women, “remembered Jesus’ words.”
Resurrection testimony number one had taken place. They received the good news of God’s living, God’s presence, God’s not forsaking them. They had come to remember the words and to believe them. The power of the Holy Spirit was alive and working through them…
Returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to the rest. Even though they were women who were respected, a part of the group, welcomed and reliable…these words seemed to all those who hear them, an idle tale, and they did not believe the women and their words.
But Peter, Peter who had so miserably failed Jesus at Jesus’ trial, Peter who must be harboring his own shame, Peter who might have wanted to apologize, or to see if Jesus would look him in the eye and still love him, Peter ran to the tomb and saw the linen cloths by themselves and he went home, amazed…
The last enemy to be destroyed is death. Peter must have known in his heart all the words of Jesus were true…as was the prediction of Peter’s betrayal…Peter wrote this testimony “We are witnesses to all that he did…. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
What do you name as your own moment of resurrection…that moment when you knew, beyond a doubt, that God was with you? You have probably not thought of that moment often. WE put aside those moments of profound mystery because they are too deep for everyday notice. ON this day of resurrection, we hear testimony of God’s blessings to us, God’s mysterious, profound, unconditional and continual relationship with us through the resurrection of Jesus, the Christ, our Lord and Savior.
May you be empowered to share your resurrection, to name in others the moments when you see them being resurrected, empowered and loved by God to come to a new way of being, a new awareness…and may you continually be turned to God’s will and God’s ways through prayer, praise and thanksgiving.
Christ is risen!