Sermon For Easter, April 20, 2014

Luke 24:1-12

Screen Shot 2014-04-20 at 7.04.36 AM“Resurrection: Believe It! Nurture It! Experience It!“

Franklin Circle Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Cleveland, Ohio ~ http://www.FranklinCircleChristianChurch.org

Rev. Allen V. Harris, Pastor & Preacher ~ E-Mail: PastorAllen@FranklinCircleChurch.org

Twitter: @FranklinCircle ~ Pastor’s Blog: https://nearwestclevepastor.wordpress.com

To see a video of this sermon being preached, go to: http://youtu.be/FKWTXGnRbYg

 

“But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” I am captivated by this description of the response of “the eleven, and all the rest” to the reports from Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the Mother of James, “and the other women with them.” I’ll be up front with you, this wasn’t the prescribed lectionary text for this Easter, Year A.  It should have been John 20. But there was something that drew me this year to this one line. “But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.”

 

Resurrection, by any standard, is difficult! Resurrection, whether we are talking about Jesus’ resurrection from the dead on that first Easter morn or our resurrection after getting fired, getting dumped, getting dissed, or getting ill, is challenging! Resurrection, whether the first time you’ve ever attempted it or the 99th gajillion time, is tricky at best, and damn near impossible at worst! Resurrection is hard enough without having the folks around us doubt it is even possible!

 

Jesus had told his disciples that he would be betrayed, killed, and in no uncertain terms he would be resurrected on the third day. In Matthew and Mark there are three occasions each, and here in Luke he made it quite clear, “Then he took with him the twelve, and said to them… and on the third day he shall rise again.” In Matthew and Mark the language has more of an ongoing sense, “And he began to teach them that… the third day he shall rise again… but after I am risen again… … after three days rise again…” To be fair, all of this talk of death and resurrection had to have been very confusing for the disciples. It would be for me, too.

Fra Angelico The Resurrection San Marco Museum, Florence, 1400's

Fra Angelico
The Resurrection
San Marco Museum, Florence, 1400’s

 

But here in the story are the words of the women, those you’ve been traveling with for several years, your friends, who have said clearly and unequivocally: the tomb is empty and the report is Jesus is risen. I’m taken by the awareness here and in our own lives that we human beings don’t want to believe in resurrection, even when it is staring us in the face. Today, I want to challenge us to do more than just “believe in” resurrection, Jesus’ and ours, but to nurture resurrection, and, most importantly, LIVE RESURRECTION!

 

But let’s be honest: first and foremost, we have to get our minds and our hearts wrapped around the very possibility of new life, restoration, renewal, revitalization, resurrection. The ancients, long before our scientific understanding of biology had progressed very far, used to believe that knowing and feeling were both qualities of the heart. Maybe spiritually they were right, because I know when I have a hard time understanding something, it is impossible to feel right about it. And vice versa.

 

How can we bring ourselves to truly believe that something as dramatic as resurrection is possible?

For some of us scripture might be enough. From the Hebrew children being led from slavery into freedom, to Ezekiel’s image of dry bones coming back to life, to Jesus resurrecting Lazarus, to Jesus’ own resurrection, some of us just need to be reminded that biblically resurrection is not just a possibility, but a probability. For others of us, we might turn to nature and the cycles of the season. We are seeing a spectacular example of green rebirth and rainbow renewal in our gardens, parks, and hillsides this very weekend. Some of us just need to read the stories of persons who have turned their lives around, from poverty to stability, from addiction to recovery, from cancer-full to cancer-free, from depression to vitality, from timidity to confidence. Believing in resurrection is a first step.

 

Cattails or Cat 'O Nine Tails in the Highline Park in NYC.  Photo by Allen V. Harris

Cattails or Cat ‘O Nine Tails in the Highline Park in NYC. Photo by Allen V. Harris

Then the second step is nurturing resurrection. A lot like growing a plant from a seed to a fruitful plant, resurrection has to be nurtured. For one thing, we need to practice resurrection. A teacher of young children during her first months of classroom work was overwhelmed by the observation that the children in her classroom, unruly and physically abusive to each other, delighted in telling stories about bad things they had seen done in the world around them. On a lark, and desperate to change the tone, she began not only to ask the kids to talk about where they had seen good things happen, but to act them out with their classmates as performers. While difficult for the children at first, this process ended up transforming not only the environment of the classroom, but the lives of these young people. All they needed was permission to share the goodness of life, renewal and hope.

 

A second way of nurturing resurrection is to gather around us people who believe in resurrection. How many of us put up with negative naysayers who not only seem stuck in pessimistic and damaging mental states, but who live lives more about death and despair than anything alive and life-giving? Sometimes, because they are persons with whom we are in close relationship, we can’t cut them off totally and we can only set them farther from our hearts, perhaps find ways to minimize their impact on us. But really, we need to consider just leaving behind those people who are really harmful to our spiritual ways. Especially if you are in danger of tomb-living. Yes, they are still redeemable, but leave them to others who are stronger, or better equipped, to help. Nurture resurrection by reminding others and ourselves it is possible and by gathering resurrection-seekers around you!

 

Sunrise in Ogunquit, Maine.  Photo by Rick Barber.

Sunrise in Ogunquit, Maine. Photo by Rick Barber.

And finally, once our heart/mind believes resurrection is possible, and we have found ways to nurture renaissance in our life, we need to simply experience resurrection! How often has new life filled our world and we discount it, dismiss it, diss it? And we Clevelanders seem to be pros at this!!! Wow, what a beautiful spring day! Eh, just wait… I hear snow is predicted for tomorrow. Can you believe that amazing win by the Indians, Cavaliers, Monsters, Browns?!!  Eh, just wait… It’ll never be like it was back in 19??… Aren’t things really turning around for downtown, with the all the new development, new jobs, more residents?!? Eh, just wait… It won’t last, it’s not for everybody, it won’t really change things…

 

Come on folks! Resurrection Is Resurrection!!! When it happens, EXPERIENCE IT!!! No one promised resurrection would be a constant in life, or a once-and-forever sort of thing! We need to believe it is going to happen, actively nurture it in our lives, and then, when it does happen – LIVE IT! It took a while for the Disciples to get it… but they did!!! We can, too!

 

Jesus called us to live life faithfully, fully and abundantly, and he lived that way. He went to weddings and made more wine. He calmed the storm and walked on water. He entered caves and exorcised demons. He protected prostitutes and welcomed children. He healed the blind, the lame, the leprous. He confounded his followers and the religious know-it-all’s alike. Even knowing that this way of living would pit him up against the powerful forces of religious and secular empire alike, he still lived life like resurrection was not just possible, no just probably, but a reality. We are called to nothing less.

 

My beloved: Resurrection Is A Reality! Believe it! Nurture it! Experience it! Amen.

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