Filed under: Sermons | Tags: easter, empty tomb, Jesus, kingdom, Luke 24:1-12, resurrection
Alleluia! Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia!
Jesus Christ, who died on the cross and descended to the dead, rose from death. In his resurrection to new life, Jesus opens the kingdom of God to us today! Jesus shows the power of God to bring life. This resurrection life is for you.
You responded with great enthusiasm this morning: Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia!
But if in your heart you aren’t sure about the resurrection, or what it means that Christ is risen, you’re not alone. Even the disciples, who heard Jesus tell them that he would rise from the dead, weren’t expected it.
The Gospel of Luke describes women coming to the tomb at early dawn. They are bringing spices to anoint the dead body of their teacher and friend, according to their custom. They’re hoping to cover some of the smell of decay. They do not expect to find anything other than Jesus’ body laying in the sealed tomb.
They are terrified when two men in dazzling clothes appear next to them outside an opened and empty tomb. But as these men remind them of Jesus’ teachings, their hearts are filled with joy. Their proclamation is: Alleluia! Christ is risen! They go to the other disciples, sharing this good news.
But the disciples do not share our response: Christ is risen indeed, alleluia. Instead, they laugh, shrug their shoulders, or shake their heads. Maybe they even have bitter words and call the women liars. Most do not believe their story, but one wonders if it might be true. From the cloud of doubt and disappointment, Peter gets up and runs to see the tomb for himself. Not content to trust the word of others, he is amazed to find their witness is true. The tomb is empty, what can this mean?
The empty tomb means Jesus is alive. Jesus’ resurrection means that God is able to bring life out of death, joy out of sorrow, and creation out of nothing.
Even as people who trust in God’s power to work life, desire to heal creation, and love for us, it can be hard to understand resurrection. It can be hard to see resurrection. Difficult to see God’s life-giving power in our world and our lives. Where is resurrection, where is this new kingdom, as we mourn our loved ones? As war escalates? As children are abandoned? As people go hungry? As hope for the future is lost?
There is an image that helps me think about this tension between the kingdom of God being here and also not yet, resurrection being won and yet to come. Imagine an asphalt road. Then picture it cracking and a seedling emerging and blooming.
If you’ve planted a tree too near your sidewalk or driveway, you know the power of plants to move and break up cement. Tree roots can choose a path and crumble anything in their way.
In this manner, the kingdom of God is breaking into our world. Jesus’ death and resurrection has shattered the powers of evil and the kingdom of this world which draw us away from God. Jesus continues to work to finally dismantle these powers. The new creation in God’s kingdom is coming to be, but is not yet fully here.
Unseen by us, there is work under the pavement. Jesus, in death, was under the pavement. He was sealed in the tomb and descended to the place of the dead. As a strong shoot pushes against cement, splitting it apart, Jesus was not contained by death. Jesus broke the bonds of death. God’s power for life has proven to be stronger than death.
Jesus’ resurrection has forever changed death. Jesus is crumbling the cement of death. God’s life-giving kingdom is dismantling the death-dealing kingdom of this world. Rejoice- this new creation in the kingdom of God is coming. Jesus’ resurrection is a sign of all that is to come.
Even as we celebrate Jesus’ victory over death, we know the pain of grief. We long for resurrection out of love for those who have died. They will be given new life. God is at work, holding our loved ones in the promise of resurrection. A day will come when death will finally be no more.
Paul calls Jesus the first fruits, as we read this morning, “in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. (I Cor 15:20). Jesus is just the beginning. Jesus’ resurrection is like the early daffodil shoots, poking through the semi-frozen earth bordering our home. Arriving here in winter, we couldn’t see how the yard was landscaped. The snow melted first around the house. Then we could see the tips of daffodils. Now the tulips are beginning to emerge as well. Soon all the flowers will be in bloom, the trees will have leaves, and the grass will be green. The rich life of summer will come. In the midst of summer’s joy, I’ll remember that its arrival was heralded by those first daffodils.
We live in the early spring of the resurrection. Jesus has been raised from the dead, the first. His resurrection is a sign of what is to come. God is bringing the fullness of summer, the life of resurrection, to all the world. All who have died will be raised, all that is decayed in creation will be renewed.
Even in the midst of signs of death and decay, we can find God working resurrection, God’s kingdom breaking in to our broken world. On Good Friday, I joined the people of Reformation Lutheran Church in Milwaukee. Together, we walked in the neighborhood of the church, looking for signs of God’s work even as we acknowledged signs of brokenness. We stopped to pray in front of a soon to be completed Habitat for Humanity house. Many of the neighboring houses were boarded up, upper window panes broken, signs stating “property of the city of Milwaukee.” Yet in the middle of this destruction was a freshly recreated home, a place of hope for a new family, a symbol to the community of the transformation that is in process.
I invite you to take a similar walk this week. Physically walk through your neighborhood or mentally walk through your day. Where have there been signs of resurrection? Where has God been active, bringing life, healing, forgiveness, or hope? Where has community been restored? Where have the hungry been fed? Where have words of grace been spoken?
I’ll be posting some stories of God-sightings, or resurrection-sightings throughout the week on my Facebook page and invite you to join in on that conversation, both online and as you gather in person.
As a congregation, as followers of Jesus, you are called to join in God’s work to bring resurrection to this world. Be like the women, who told of the amazing sight of the empty tomb. Be like Peter, whose joyful wonder grew into bold welcome. Be like our partners at Reformation, who have committed themselves to work for the good of their neighbors and persist in celebrating the new life Jesus is bringing.
Jesus came to earth, became human, died, and rose from the dead, not for himself, but for you. It is for your sake that resurrection was won. Jesus has opened the way to bring life for you. New life, kingdom life, is yours today because- Alleluia! Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia.
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