Friday, April 2, 2010

John 20:1-18 - Easter Sermon - Living the Resurrection

John 20:1-18

Living the Resurrection


On Saturday, March 20th at 1:32 PM Eastern Standard Time it became official, Spring was here. That was the official time for the Vernal Equinox or Spring Equinox. On this day the Sun rises and sets on the equator and all over the world, for those 24 hours, the day and night are the same amount of time. Skip ahead ten days to March 30th and it is the first full moon after the Spring Equinox. Now we are here on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox, that must mean one thing. It’s Easter! That must mean, HE HAS RISEN!

Here we are. Easter morning. Our bellies are full of the wonderful breakfast. The end of the long 40 days is here. You can eat whatever you gave up now or you can stop what ever you added. Our journey into our souls can now rest for another year and we can bask in the reality that death could not keep our Lord. Sin has now been defeated and we can find assurance that we are going be with God one day because of all this. Because he sent his Son. Because his Son died our death on Good Friday and then rose again today. HE HAS RISEN!

Tomorrow we will stand on the other side of Easter. We will celebrate this for 50 days. The Great 50 days start today. The season of Easter is longer than the season of preparation for it. That is because as we dived into the depth of our souls, confessed our sins and then witnessed what God did for us, we then celebrate because we are Easter people. We get the chance to live on the other side of the resurrection. We have to figure out how to do that though.

Did you hear the one about the preacher, the lawyer and the stand-up comedian? Her name is Rev. Susan Sparks from Madison Avenue Baptist Church in New York City. You heard me a woman Baptist minister who went to school for a lawyer and became a stand-up comedian who then went on to become a minister. Her life is a joke. I was introduced to her through the podcast I listen to from Day 1. As I listened to her sermon for today I was touched by the way she framed her Easter message.

Before we get there though let’s back up. Each Sunday is called a little Easter and each Sunday we should come here to celebrate, proclaim, and worship the one who was resurrected from the dead today. Every Sunday we should shout with joy, HE IS RISEN. But we don’t always. I don’t always preach about the resurrection and I have to confess that the only other time I talk about life after death is a peppering of sermons throughout the year and at funerals. That is where we think most often the message of the resurrection to be true. As we stare death in the eye we thank God that our Lord does not let that be the end for us.

Yet the resurrection is not something that we should wait until our funeral to proclaim. As Rev. Sparks said, “Death can come long before the end of life.” She went on in her sermon to talk about Resurrection Biscuits. Her grandmother lives in South Carolina and apparently is a great cook, like most southern grandparents. Yet there is one thing her grandmother can’t cook and that is biscuits. This is where any good southern person would then chime in, “Bless her heart,” which makes it okay to talk about someone’s grandmother like that. Apparently what would happen with Rev. Spark’s grandmother is that she refused to use baking soda or baking powder in anything. When her biscuits came out of the oven they made hockey pucks look soft and fluffy. Her family said that if you dropped one on the ground that it could wake the dead, thus their nickname for them, “Resurrection Biscuits.”[1]

All her grandmother needed was one more ingredient and her biscuits would come to life instead waking the dead. Rev. Sparks in her sermon goes on to explain how we all need that one ingredient in our lives to make us whole and that ingredient is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Without it, “death can come long before the end of life.”

Do you know anyone who is walking around dead in this world? They exist only because they are here and there is no other purpose for their lives. Life has smacked them hard across the face and now they are stunned and lost. They couldn’t believe that they had to bury their own child. They don’t know what to do since they haven’t worked in 2 years. They just can’t fight this disease any longer. They can’t see past the day of the accident. They are stuck, without purpose, without vigor, without life. They are the dead walking in this world.

Mary was like that. After the Sabbath was over she collected the things she needed to prepare Jesus’ body and she made her way down to the tomb. The Gospels name her as one of the women there who actually watched Jesus die on the cross. She heard the hammers hit the nails that pierced his hands and feet. She heard his cries of pain and watched him attempt to push himself up in order that he could breath. She was there when the solider stuck the spear into Jesus’ side and water and blood ran out. She had watched Jesus die, her Lord, the one she followed, the one she loved. Pain brought her to the tomb. Anguish and depression guided her to the place of her Lord’s burial. It was there she was prepared to meet the worst thing that had happened.

We have moments that we cannot stand to relive. We have places of pain and of suffering. In the book “The Shack,” that we read last summer, the main character Mack is called by God back to place of his greatest pain. He was called back to the cabin where they found his daughter’s dress and blood. It is there that the reality of her kidnapping and murder came crashing down upon him. We have those shacks as well. Places we cannot go, issues we don’t want to face, people we don’t ever want to meet again because death takes over in our souls when that happens. Then we transform into the walking dead as we are consumed.

As Mary headed to that tomb early in the morning she carried the weight of solitude, for no one else was with her. She carried the weight of the oils and perfumes to seal death around Jesus. She carried the pain of what she witnessed on Friday. All that weight bore down on her soul and she wept. Then she arrived at the tomb and saw the stone rolled away. She ran to tell the disciples who came running as well. After Peter and John headed back home, she sat there and wept outside the tomb, once again alone. There she feels dead.

Life is hard. There is nothing about life that is easy. Kids just don’t sleep well and they get sick, which means that you don’t sleep and soon you will be sick. The people in our Sunday School classes get smaller and smaller as we bid them farewell and celebrate their lives. Family issues seem to never go away and consume all of our thoughts and time. Loneliness keeps creeping in and devours our passions and hopes for the future. It is there we feel dead.

Then a man asks Mary, “Why are you crying.” "They have taken my Lord away," she said, "and I don't know where they have put him." At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. "Woman," he said, "why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?" Thinking he was the gardener, she said, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him." Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!"

It is in our despair, in our grief, in our pain, in our suffering that the Risen Lord and Savior meets us and calls out our name. It is in life that our Lord transforms us to be an Easter People. Yes, one of the perks of following Christ is eternity in the presence of God after death but before we get there Christ, through his resurrection, saves our life.

Today as came into worship death was still all around us. The cross was still dead and the altar still barren. Now it is full of life. Where death used to be there is now life. Death could not keep our Lord and the small and big deaths in our life do not keep Christ from meeting us there and calling our name. That is the promise of Easter; that is the promise of resurrection.

Resurrection is promised at the end of our life but what is wonderful is that we can proclaim its power now as we live. We can live in the resurrection knowing that no matter what happens to us and no matter where life takes us, the Risen Lord, will be there. As Mack spent the weekend with God in that cabin of his worst nightmare he was transformed. As we see God in our midst when we visit our pain and our issues we too will be transformed, from death to life. Because today, TODAY, we proclaim boldly that he has risen, He Has Risen, HE HAS RISEN!

And all God’s people said…Amen.

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