check this link right here now The Sunday Sermon: Easter Sunday – March 27, 2016
chico x chico valencia Greetings
Jesus Christ is Risen Today! Alleluia!
Listen for the Word of God … Read Matthew 28:1-10 … The Word of the Lord …
We could read from any one of our four Gospels this morning to share the Resurrection Easter story. The lectionary this year gives us the choice of Luke or John, so of course, I chose Matthew. But I did so, not just to be contrary.
I love the New Revised Standard Version’s translation of this piece of scripture that gives the Christian community our hope, our identity as a faith tradition and our vocation as children of God, disciples of Christ, and members of the Church.
On the third darkest day of their lives – with no reason to believe that tomorrow or the next day, or the next will any different; as the two Mary’s walk heavily to the tomb; after an earthquake caused by the moving of the “tomb’s-stone;” after an Angel of the Lord appeared to them and spoke words of comfort that terrified; and as they are fleeing to find the comfort of the others – these two women run into … who? Jesus, himself! And what does Jesus – not in the tomb but newly raised from the realm of the dead, cleaned and unblemished, radiant and pure – what are Jesus’ first words to us on this first Easter morning?!
Greetings! I love it, the first word the resurrected Jesus says to the first people who see him in his first resurrection appearance in Matthew is “Greetings!” On this Sunday, Easter Sunday when we see even more members, visitors, extended family and friends, I spend so much time trying to put together some thoughts and words that are powerful and provocative and ponderous, and all I, all we, really need say to one another is … “Greetings.”
Greetings … I love it.
It’s a translation, as I mentioned. A translation of a customary Hellenistic salutation. Accurate enough, I’ve read, but still very simple for the first words of our Resurrected Christ. In today’s parlance is like “Hi there.” I love that.
Other versions don’t include a salutation, they just note that Jesus met the disciples and “greeted them,” or they record his first words as “Don’t be afraid.” In The Message , Eugene Peterson’s scriptural translation into the vernacular, he has Jesus saying “Good Morning.” I love it – The Resurrected Christ. “Greetings. Good morning. ‘Sup?” It’s so … ordinary. So everyday. As if this sort of thing might happen all the time. Hmm …
Pray with me …
Every day Resurrection? But, this day is like no other Sunday in our entire church year, in our lives together on our Christian journey through life itself. Easter is special, Easter is lilies, and flowers, and Matthew 28, or Luke 24, or Mark 16, or John 20. Easter is … Easter Morning – all this and much, much more. It’s a day like no other day for us. Something very real took place two thousand years ago on a strange, confused morning. We “believe” that. We give our hearts to that. And something very real is taking place this morning for each of us, because it’s Easter morning. We “believe” that, too. But it’s supposed to because, well, because it’s Easter. Not much strange and confusing for us.
I’ll bet you a nickel very few if any of you found this Sunday morning too awfully different from other Sunday mornings – outside of the “heightened,” Sunday of all Sundays (kind of a Sunday on steroids) sort of awareness. Maybe you couldn’t find your Easter shoes, or your Easter tie, or Bonnet. Maybe last year’s Easter suit didn’t fit your fourteen old this year and you found that out only hours ago, but most likely nothing more strange or confusing as that. Still, something very real should be taking place this morning for each of us, if we allow it – Easter 2016. However mysterious and difficult to explain: Resurrection.
Because that’s it … Resurrection. That’s why we’re here. To read and hear and remember the stories of those who first experienced Jesus’ resurrection. So what is it?! Resurrection?
What is Resurrection? We Presbyterians, progressive and intellectual as we are, determined not to check our brains at the door of this or any other sanctuary, even (and perhaps especially) on Easter morning, struggle mightily with a response.
We might say that Resurrection, the stories of the Resurrection, mean that the teachings of Jesus are immortal … or that the spirit of Jesus is undying … and that the Resurrection language that the Gospels use is the language of poetry and it articulates the profound possibilities for all creation to be re-born.
We might say all of those things, answer the question in that way, and more ways. But when we’re pressed to say what it was that actually happened, we come out with is something pretty meager. A “miracle” … of … doubt turning into faith, and fear into hope. That’s not quite enough, so we gather together here to see if anybody else is doing any better understanding it, explaining it. (Like me?! – How am I doing so far?!). Well we do have the bible, our scripture, our Gospels. How does Matthew, or Luke, or Mark, or John describe and explain the Resurrection? Anyone? We just read Matthew. Do you remember?
A bit of a trick question, actually. You don’t because they didn’t … describe it or explain it. Matthew doesn’t narrate “the resurrection.” None of the Gospel writers in our bible do. Each one of them “renounces all speculative interest” in describing this mysterious center of our faith. In all four Gospels, the miracle, the actual event of “death moving to life” happens offstage. The Resurrection, you for all four Gospel writers and for the first disciples, was a matter of experience. It wasn’t something that could be “seen.” It was something that must be “felt.” It couldn’t be, shouldn’t be, described, because it needed to be, must be, experienced.
And, here’s what I think: The Resurrection we try so hard to understand in our lives, now, wasn’t that “something” that happened two thousand years ago to a human being named Jesus of Nazareth. The Resurrection that we can’t quite put our finger on is something that happened two thousand years ago to Mary and Mary in Matthew’s Gospel. And in other Gospels, to Peter; to an unnamed, but “beloved” disciple; to two travelers on the road to Emmaus; to doubters like Thomas and fearful followers like Nathanael and the sons of Zebedee, James and John. It was something that happened to hundreds, of thousands, of millions of others in the two millennia since that first Easter morning because of them. That’s the Resurrection that happened only hours ago for each one of us. It’s why we’re here. It’s the something mysterious and difficult to explain, but the something very real, that happens to us every time we dare to proclaim that “Jesus is alive.” And we dared again this morning. With our very presence here, we dared.
Now here’s what I believe: The reason that it’s so hard for us to explain and describe this ‘thing we’re feeling, this day, every year is because Easter is not a day. And Resurrection was not simply something that happened two thousand years ago to Jesus and it’s not (or it shouldn’t be) a “once a year” event for us. It happens, or can happen (should happen) every day of our lives. That’s why it’s so difficult to explain this day, so different from every other Sunday, but so … not different. So extraordinary, but so “normal.”
It’s like: “Greetings.” I mean, on the one hand … “What? From our resurrected Lord?” And on the other hand … “Yes. Greetings. You shouldn’t be surprised. I’ve been telling you this since I’ve known you. It’s shouldn’t be anything new. Die to your old self and begin again.”
It seems to me that the question we face every Easter should not be “Does this really happen?” That query misses the point entirely. The question we should ask every Easter (in fact, the one we should ask every day of our lives) is, “Since we believe that this does happen – new life, life redeemed, life made worth living again, where in the world is it most needed? Resurrection?”
Where in the world is redemption and reconciliation and resurrection most needed? … Now, if your mind works anything like my own, you think of a few places in this world very quickly and very powerfully. But … before you jump across the Atlantic to the Middle East, or across the country to the next Political Primary, or across the aisle to someone else here this morning, I want to suggest what I do on so many other “ordinary” Sundays: Let us start with ourselves.
If you are having a single thought of violence or hatred against anyone in the world at this moment, far or near, then you are contributing to the wounding of the world. And we all are. Let us start the changing of the world right here, right now, on Easter morning 2016.
The “something very real that happened” on that strange and confusing morning two thousand years ago was that those who followed Jesus, those who mourned his death, and felt profoundly abandoned by his absence, finally found the answers to their question within themselves: Faith, Hope, and Love. Trust, Fidelity, and Love. Justice, Righteousness, and Love. Joy, Peace, and Love. And in those moments as they understood that the Love of God they had all experienced in Jesus was, indeed, alive in them, they experienced the love of God and the God of love that they had lived with for three years in this One of Nazareth. And in those moments … they were given new life, they were transformed, resurrected – from scared disciples, or followers, of Jesus, to courageous champions of Christ. Now that’s much, much more than a profound memory or immortal words. That’s Resurrection and it begins right here.
And it begins with (and I still love this) … “Greetings.” So ordinary, so everyday. May it be so. Resurrection … every day.
Reverend Joel Weible, Pastor / Pewee Valley Presbyterian Church / March 27, 2016