Sunday of the Resurrection + Year C Fr. Robert R.M. Bagwell+
27, March 2016 All Saints Church, Hampton, SC
I saw a humorous cartoon on an Episcopal Church Calendar that show an Easter bunny looking through a book called "the Easter story" and seems perturbed that he does not find himself mentioned in the "story." Despite the world's take on Easter with bunnies and baskets and bows, we gather to celebrate resurrection.
The Episcopal Service for Burial of the Dead begins in this way: "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die." (in the original text Jesus adds, "Do you believe this?” Do you believe this? There are our brothers and sisters in the middle east are dying because they believe this!
This morning I am seeking in the midst of this congregation to proclaim this. Something happened that turned the world upside down on that morning and that something changed time and eternity forever. They said that it was Jesus risen from the dead that gave them the passion and drive to take this amazing news to the whole earth. This is a celebration of belief, belief in a person who has changed the world and changed our lives forever.
In Revelation 21:5, we read: And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. Revelation 21:5 Is that not was the bodily resurrection of Jesus was all about, the beginning of making all things new, beginning with the human soul. Resurrection is not resuscitation as some try to make it. Jesus really died and when he arose, he was in a glorified body as we will have in heaven. For Jesus' disciples their grief, their fear and their tears must have flowed abundantly on that day that it seemed all was lost. For three years, Jesus had told them, he would rise, and for three years they did not seem to hear him. The consequences of their deafness were heaped upon them for this was not just tragic, but horrific.
Today we are gathered as the assembly of those who have reaped the rewards of the AAccomplished One@. Jesus, on the Friday we call Good, with the voice of a Super bowl champion proclaimed in the Aramaic language, Atetelestai@ Bit was finished, AAtetelestai' it is finished!" and it was. Salvation is won. It is accomplished !@ But for those scattered disciples, those women at the foot of the cross with John the disciple, it made no sense, it was literally unbelievable!
On this day, we are confronted with an empty tomb. The body they believed would be there, was not there! The last vestige of the person they loved was missing! When the women came to the empty tomb in this morning=s text, they were perplexed. In other words they were riveted on some reality that they could not deal with. For them, the Lord is gone. The tomb is empty! He has been stolen away ! They could do nothing to stop the events of His Passion, and now, they could not even get closure! (As this contemporary world likes to say) Yet Jesus had not left. He would never leave again. His death and resurrection made him bigger than life. Seeing was not believing...but soon, that would change and believing would bring about seeing.Two men, presumably angels, seated in the tomb said to the women but one word in Greek. Egerthe: He is risen
There have been many teachers, philosophers, do-gooders over the centuries. Jesus didn't proclaim something new except to continuously proclaim the kingdom of God. The religious authorities did not receive his words with any affirmation. So much did they fail to receive him that he became a threat, and the High Priest "Caiaphas had advised the Jewish leaders that it would be good if one man died for the people. "(John 18:14)
In our day it is remarkable that it is amazing that in a culture where we make such a great issue of the cruel death of animals that we can rather impassively hear of the cruel death of Jesus every Sunday without so much as a hint of emotion.Perhaps that is why Mel had to make his movie. The Passion of the Christ. The shock affect. The bystanders who did nothing to stop it. You know it wasn=t their affairBthey didn=t want to get involvedBwhy get themselves in trouble by interfering? Now of course if it had been us on trial..
You may have gathered that it wasn=t a simple matter at all. We have learned to expect things. Indeed, we take the death of Jesus for us for granted I fear. We just don=t get what he did for us. That he didn=t have to do anything! ]We look at God figuratively and say, Aof course God is good@,@of course God is merciful@. But do we realize what radical statement that is? Do we realize how powerful it is that we profess that we are Amade in the Image of God.?@That God has likewise, made Himself into our image? What do you do with a GodBMan? Yet he let himself be crucified. At every moment Jesus could have stopped it, but Philippians 2 tells us: Who, being in very nature[a] God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant,being made in human likeness8 And being found in appearance as a man,he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death even death on a cross!
How demeaning, stripped naked, how humiliating, God punished by man how amazing, such Divine and inexhaustible love…for you and me. Roman crucifixion was the most cruel manner of execution in Jesus' day. Many died at the scourging that Jesus survived. Jesus was serious about us. Yet we dare not assume or presume with God. Jesus did what we could not or would not so that we can and may will to become what he is. He lives in those who believe in him. Jesus did what we could not or would not so that we can and may, will to become what he is with him, from the moment we enter into that relationship until forever! He lives within those who believe in him.
No matter the assets we have in this world. No matter the physical beauty or strength or prowess, the monetary securities or the popularity. What is all of that when you are faced with your own mortality? How does it even stack up here? Material things do not have spiritual values and will not satisfy the soulBthat which keeps us going. But the life of ease free of cares is not this life in Christ. The disciples great sorrow became great strength when Jesus suddenly appeared in their midst and said: "Shalom". Our sorrows also can bring forth great strength. The uniqueness of the Christian faith is that we worship a living founder, not a dead one. And he also has a track record. Theologian Frederick Buechner said Ahe really conquered sin and death. That in Him and through Him, we also stand a chance of conquering them.@What is the fear of death anyway? Certainly the uncertainty, but what else? Only Jesus. Only Jesus can satisfy the soul and give give us peace in the hour of our death. . We say, AJesus destroyed the power of death.@ Rejoice ! To those who enter in faith into that wide gate of God=s mercy, there is no law officer waiting to arrest, no judge in a court room ready to throw the book, no executioner with an upraised axe, rather, there is a welcoming of a child coming home. We say: Jesus is a friend of sinners. Count me in!
Take Simon Peter for instanceBthe first leader of the Disciples. Simon Peter had a rough week. He denied that he even knew Jesus three times! The lives of the disciples were shattered at the cross. Their faith was tested and found to be wanting. Perhaps later they would look back and see that this worst of times prepared them for the mission yet to come. Perhaps this trial and affirmation of Jesus from doubt and fear into resurrection was what turned their cowardice into bold proclamation!Did you know that everyone of the apostles died a martyr except for John? They practically took the gospel of Jesus to the ends of the known world in their times. How many people do you know that you would ever call friend or even associate with if they publically said they didn=t even know you, that they would be embarrassed to be your friend. But Jesus forgives! His forgiveness is amazing as is His grace! When He forgives, it is with authority. When He forgives, it is not simple, not just forgiveness of a debt or a wrong, it is the bestowing of a new identity. A...you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.@ (Col. 3:3) in other words: You=re in ! Pastor Max Lucado once said : In Christ, the last day of your life is the best day of your life.
I read this week: Athe resurrection Jesus Christ is the glorious manifestation of the victory of love over death. The same love that makes us mourn and protest against death will now free us to live in hope.@ God has taken the matter into His own hands. Living in this world requires hope. Living in this world requires love. We thank God for the vestiges of it we have, as imperfect as it may be. The resurrection tells us that God loves. God cherishes you and me.
Today celebrates that God has flung wide the gates of His loveBHis mercyBHis grace. God is not like us, and yet he is. We are not like God and yet we are. What our human nature cannot transcend, make right, Jesus made right. What our image of God likeness could not approach, Jesus has begun the approach for us. It can be stated with little dispute that no event in human history has shaped the world like the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And every human being must respond to the evidence. For the next few weeks, we will hear the evidence. Today we face the Empty Tomb. The tomb is empty, but the whole world is full for HE IS RISEN He is Risen and He will be with each of us if we but call upon His Name.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit