Sunday, April 4, 2010

How do you preach Easter?

Westminster Presbyterian, Santa Fe.  Luke 24:1-12
How do you preach Easter?

You may think this is a question for me, and you better believe this question went through my mind many times this week.

But how about you, disciples of Christ:
How do you preach Easter? Resurrection?

Do you try to prove it?  God does something mind bogglingly impossible.  
Raising Jesus from the dead is absurd, and we do not believe because we are argued into thinking it is less absurd that it is; you don’t prove it.   Do we try to make it into a metaphorical: changing seasons, and sprouting flowers?

How do you preach resurrection? I wonder if that’s what the women said to themselves as they scurried back from the tomb to meet up with the rest of the disciples.  What are we going to tell them?  Will they believe us? 

They barge in on the huddled, conflicted, fearful men: breathless (Matthew); forgetful (Luke); terrified (Mark), dazed (John). He's not there!  a man or was he an angel, dazzling clothes.” “Remember - he told us?” They were clumsy stutterin Easter preachers.[1] All that gets recorded of their sermon was that it was an idle tale.  Other translations say, nonsense. 

Actually, I have that verse of the bible memorized.  I spent my first three years of college at a Christian school. I'm a good boy, didn’t you know. I lived in Traber dorm on the third floor. All the floors had a tradition of making a floor t-shirt. And Traber 4, which wasn’t my floor.  They being good Christians put a bible verse on their shirt.  The verse: for they did not believe the women for their words seemed to them...nonsense.  I bought one of those shirts!  I think my sisters stole it from me...probably burned it...  

The irony, had it not been for the women and their nonsensical Easter preachin...those boys wouldn’t have been at that Christian school. You and I would not be here in this place this morning, either.

What was it about their Easter preaching, and the Easter preaching that has taken place from generation to generation, that results in all of us coming here, to see, was that tomb empty?

Seeing everyone here on Easter kind of reminds me of the Easter card our friend Gayle Lomax sent me a few years back.. With a picture of a dignified preacher on the front of the card...”Today's Easter sermon is titled:  (open the card) Where in the [heck] you been since Christmas? 

With everyone here it makes me wonder, What difference does resurrection make in your life? Or in mine?

The message of God’s victory over death through Jesus Christ, certainly provides comfort and hope in the resurrection for us as we face the reality of death, be it our own or that of someone we love.  Trust, assurance, that in life and in death we belong to God. That just as we were buried with Christ in our baptism, we will be raised with him in life eternal. This is very good news.

And maybe that’s where you are right now, seeking this kind of comfort. But, for me, I think we need the Easter message right now, because death can come long before the end of life.  

How many people do we know who are walking this earth physically alive but their spirits seem dead?  Maybe you are one of them.  Life certainly can beat us down. 
- when we work night and day in a thankless job that just seems meaningless? 
- we wake up one morning and realize nothing matters to us anymore?
- when we grow older, our bodies fail and frustrate us, or we look back on our lives and wonder what happened to the time, and society slowly shoves us off the road?
WHERE is the hope of resurrection then?[2]  

And if for a moment we can take our eyes off of our own problems, and look up and see the state of the world...things don’t get much better:

-People I’ve met at the shelter waiting all day with nothing to do but talk to themselves;
-Collisions on highways that kill;
-Demons of alcohol that haunt a woman who continues to come by the church;
-100 out of a million species on earth go extinct every year.[3] 
-Destructive earthquakes, raging wars, Washington politics, corporate greed.
-16,000 children dying from hunger-related causes, Every day. That means that by the time I get through preaching, 3000 kids will have died. The same number as were killed in the Trade Center on 9/11, but we never hear a mumblin word.  
How do we preach Easter? 
There are certain things in life we know to be true: Like never slap a man chewing tobacco.  Or one appropriate for early April, when you put "the" and the word "IRS" together, you get "theirs." Another great truth in life is this: Deep down, the human spirit yearns for joy, yearns to live![4]

So listen closely to the deep truth of the gospel that we proclaim on this day:
Christ always was; from before the foundation of the earth; at Creation, Christ was there.  Alpha and Omega, from everlasting to everlasting. There was never a time when he was not. Two thousand years ago, the Christ that always was...Took on flesh. Came into this world as a baby, grew up, and then began his ministry; carried out a mission. A simple mission: to transform the world as it is into the kingdom of God.  He taught his disciples to pray for this mission. Thy Kingdom come thy will be done...Where? ON earth! Where? On earth. He lived a life generated by love. He brought joy and hope to a needy world.  Like yeast used for baking bread, he began to transform the world.[5]  

And Easter morning is the time we celebrate the mystery of how Christ continues this mission, how the kingdom of God continues to be a force to be reckoned with in this often cruel and senseless world:  When the time came, he knew that the end of his life was near. He said to his disciples:  unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies,
it bears much fruit (John 12:24).

Did those disciples get it? I think the women did, which is what made them such effective preachers of resurrection.  Do we? 

The point of resurrection preaching is, it’s not what you say, or even what the situation you find yourself in that matters so much. It’s how you live into resurrection hope.

Christ came to confront the powers and principalities. To fight against injustice, to heal the broken hearted, and comfort those who suffer.  So long as these things exist in the world, resurrection is possible. The same spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, and in me, says Paul. We only have to recognize that spirit of Christ within us. This is the mystery of the faith. And resurrection is preached by salt of the earth people who’s subjects and verbs may not even agree, but who live an authentic life of love and mercy.

I’ve seen it before; Christ alive in people. I’ve seen it in Paul Palich.  A teenage boy with down syndrome who I went to church with week after week for two years while living in Mexico.  Paul’s dad, Steve, he was the preacher. But Paul, he was the one who preached resurrection.  Every time I went to his house, he gave me a big hug, and said Chester!  Come in…Let’s go play John Madden Football! 
That was some Easter preaching!

You can leave here today, enjoy a nice lunch, and your day today, and then the alarm clock goes off at 6 a.m, or 8 am, whatever the case may be?  The question is, will you leave here preaching resurrection hope? Or will it be back to the same ol routine?  

My mentor in ministry, Flash Gordon—that was really his name—he described resurrection hope like this….It’s when you can spend all day working to do what God has called you to do, live a life of radical grace, comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable, but at the end of the day, you don’t hang your head,
you simply—weather permitting—sit outside in your rocking chair, sipping on ice tea, saying hi to your neighbors, knowing that God has the power to raise Jesus from the dead.  

[1] Jana Childers, "Clumsiness" Presbyterian Outlook, Vol 192, #7. p. 31.   
[3] as Sander van Doorn called our attention to last week:

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