Sermon – April 16, 2017 (Easter)

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***Sermons are meant to be heard, so listen along here***

He is Risen!
(he is risen indeed)
He is Risen!
(He is risen indeed)



By a show of hands, how many of you can tell me what eggs, chicks, and bunnies have to do with Easter?
Believe it or not, they are connected.
Ok maybe loosely.
But this day is all about new life.
And eggs, chicks, bunnies, flowers, they all are a part of this new life.

(Not jellybeans, which explains why they are horrible and disgusting and should be left out of Easter altogether)

Here in MN Easter often feels like the unofficial start of spring.  
Even the years where we’re wearing winter coats over the Easter dresses.
And spring, especially up here, is all about new life.
Even today, we’re starting to see bits of green pop through on the trees and on lawns.  
There are crocuses and violets popping up, and I even saw a daffodil on a walk in my neighborhood this week.
New life.

This day feels so far away in January.
When it’s 30 below and there’s snow on the ground and in the forecast.
And our winters can feel pretty dark.
But then, spring.
New life.
We were right in the middle of the darkness on Friday.
If you were with us, you know that we didn’t hold back, and we were witness to the pain and horror of the death of Jesus.
It’s not something we really like being a part of.
It’s too dark, if we’re honest.
But it’s on this day, this Easter Sunday that we’re reminded death didn’t win.

Theologian Frederick Buechner said that “Resurrection means that the worst thing is never the last thing.”

We’ve been a part of the worst thing.
We watched as Jesus was arrested, tried, beaten, and put to death.
We watched as he was taken down from the cross and buried.
We felt the weight of the worst thing.
And it’s uncomfortable.
Really uncomfortable.
Perhaps this is why attendance on Good Friday is less than the celebrations of Easter Sunday.
We don’t like to think about the worst thing.
The darkness of death.
But today – we remember the worst thing is never the last thing.
Death doesn’t win.

Early in the morning, as the sun was just beginning to rise, Mary Magdalene and Mary mother of James came to the tomb.
They believed that death had won.
They weren’t there to witness a miracle.
They were there to mourn.
It’s not anything out of the ordinary, even today.  
We do this very thing.
We go to cemeteries and resting places and remember and honor and cry and pray.
The Mary’s were there alone.
The other disciples weren’t with them.
Not Peter, not John.
Just these two women.
And there was an earthquake, and the stone was rolled away by an angel and then he sat on it.
The accounts of this moment vary from Gospel to Gospel, but Matthew’s is one of my favorites.
Because that picture, of the ground shaking and and angel moving the stone and then just casually sitting on it like it’s totally normal.
And the soldiers? They faint.
I actually think that’s what most of us would do in that scenario.
But those ladies.
They don’t faint.
Oh no.
The angel says to them – do not be afraid.
Jesus is not here.  
He has been raised.
Look for yourselves.
He has been raised from the dead and is on his way to Galilee…Go.

These ladies – the ones who aren’t often counted, who aren’t seen, who aren’t listened to, are the first ones to hear the good news.
One of my favorite authors Glennon Doyle Melton says that this isn’t a mistake. She says
“Women are the first to know and to believe miraculous nonsense… and it is our faith in miraculous nonsense heals the world.”
They didn’t do anything special.
They just showed up.
Kleenex and burial spices in hand, ready to mourn.
And they witnessed a miracle.
Resurrection. New life.
Right there in front of them.

The women go, just as the angel told them, running to tell the disciples what they have seen.
One of the reasons I love Matthew’s version of this story is when the angel sends the women out – Matthew makes note of how they felt.

With fear and great joy they ran from the tomb.

I can almost see it.
These two women running back from the tomb on outskirts of town.
Talking to each other as they go.
Did that really just happen?
Did we just see what we think we saw?
Was that real?
Did Jesus really rise from the dead?  
Can it be true?
Is it even possible?
What does that mean?
Back and forth as they run.
They playing back the moments they experienced with Jesus the past few years and wondering if maybe all the things he said were really true.
Fear and great joy.
This person they loved, the teacher in whom they put their trust, he was no longer dead.
He is alive.

And that might just mean that everything changed.
Fear and great joy.

And on the way they run right into Jesus.
He says do not be afraid.
He gives them a word of comfort first – he sees their fear and joy and says do not be afraid.
And then he follows it up with a command.
Go and tell the others what you have seen.

And they do.
Obviously they do.
Because the good news has made it here.
It made it past the tomb, past the road to Galilee,
Past the room where the disciples were gathered.
It made it here.
He is Risen.
The tomb is empty and the worst thing is not the last thing.

This Easter we too have encountered the empty tomb.
We too have wondered what it means for us.
What might it mean that the things that were killing us don’t have any power over us anymore?
What might it mean that your own sin and death and pain and addiction and hopelessness and grief are no longer in that tomb?
What does it mean that you are no longer dead but YOU have been given this very same new life?
No wonder the women left the empty tomb with joy AND fear.
But just as Jesus comes to the women on the road, he comes to us.
And he says do not be afraid.
This is real.
This is really happening.
And just as it mattered to those women on that first Easter, it still matters right now, on this day, for us.
God is here.
Still giving new life to things we thought were dead.
Still bringing light into darkness.
Still creating joy amid our fear.
Still inviting us to step outside ourselves and share this good news.
And Easter is more than this one day.
It’s more than eggs, and candy and bunnies.
Easter is a promise.
A daily promise.  
A daily promise to new life.
A daily promise that the worst thing is never, ever the last thing.
And it’s a call to not be afraid, to not give into the fear, but embrace the joy, and then go and tell.

He is Risen.
(He is Risen Indeed)
He is Risen!
(He is Risen Indeed)