Sermon Easter Sunday

April 5, 2010 at 5:35 am Leave a comment

Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

One of our assistants to Bishop Driesen,
Karl-John Stone, is a huge baseball fan,
specifically a New York Mets fan.
The wall of his study in the synod office building
is covered with icons, family pictures, and Mets memorabilia.
So when the Mets went through an epic collapse in September of 2007,
losing a multi-game lead over the Phillies and missing the playoffs,
I took the opportunity to rib him a little bit.
He took it in stride. He’s a good-natured person.
But I just had to tell him about a story I heard on the radio
about the reaction of New Yorkers to the debacle.
It concluded with two Mets fans who were walking away from Shea Stadium,
after having watched their beloved team cough up the last of their division lead
on the last day of the season and miss the playoffs,
and one turned to another and said,
“It just makes you feel stupid to have been happy the whole summer.”

With the mixture of feelings that the disciples were feeling on that Sunday morning
so many years ago,
shock and grief at Jesus’ death,
fear that they would be next to be arrested,
anger at those who killed Jesus,
and shame for their failures to stand by him,
I bet that down there somewhere in the mix,
they felt kind of stupid.
Stupid for having been happy since Jesus had called them away
from fishing or tax collecting or revolting against the Romans
and made them part of his little band of twelve.
They had truly believed that he was God’s messenger, God’s Messiah,
and yet he had ended up where all would-be Jewish Messiahs ended up –
on the receiving end of a Roman instrument of torture and death.
The revolution was over before it had even begun.
The Sabbath was over, and the dawn broke over the same world –
a world where God was not king,
and God’s people were still subjected.
And it made them mad, it made them sad, it made them feel kind of stupid.

Our hopes and dreams may not be as ultimately trivial as the hopes of a sports fanatic
or as monumental as the hopes of the disciples for a king who would save them
from the might of an foreign occupation force,
but they are real nonetheless.
And when our hopes and dreams are dashed,
it makes us feel kind of stupid.
We pick up the pieces of a failed relationship, thinking
“How could I have been so happy?”
As a loved one lies dying, we feel stupid for loving,
because love doesn’t lead to happiness but to deep pain.
We have big dreams and then we can’t follow through,
and we feel stupid for believing that it was going to turn out differently this time.

We Christians put a lot of hopes into the Church,
and sometimes it seems as if here, too, we’re going to end up feeling stupid.
Maybe we’ve had a deep religious experience
and expect that our lives will turn around –
and then we find ourselves wondering why the same problems keep coming up,
the same sins and rebellions keep nagging and annoying and plaguing us.
Faith does not translate into success.
If we look at the Church as a whole, it rarely gets better.
Once again this Easter, the Catholic church is plagued by scandal,
while the cover of The Lutheran magazine for this month
reads “Assessing the Fallout.”
It seems we’ve got problems of our own.

Loss brings us lots of feelings –
and one of them is a rueful disbelief
that losers like us could ever have thought ourselves to be winners.
On the comic pages,
Lucy always pulls the football away from Charlie Brown,
but Charlie Brown always comes back to try and kick it again,
because he has to believe that one day, he’ll be a winner.
The last panel always leaves him looking kind of stupid.

Into this world of hopes that are dashed,
this world of dreams in which we win and realities in which we lose,
comes Easter morning.
Easter morning, if it is about anything,
is about God’s grace.
God’s grace extended to those who have lost everything.
We’ve been getting ready for it through Lent.
We heard about a prodigal son who squandered his trust fund
and came home covered in disgrace and pig slop,
and about a father who rushed out to him and covered that disgrace with grace,
clothing him in the clothing of a beloved son,
crying with joy, “My son was dead, and he is alive again!”
A death-and-resurrection story if I ever heard one.
And now we have another death-and-resurrection story,
Peter running to the tomb of Jesus and finding him gone –
and it’s not just Jesus who is raised from the dead.
It’s Peter who is raised from the dead as well.
For if Jesus is alive, then Peter’s sin has not killed him.
Peter’s denial has not denied him.
Peter may be a loser, but God is somehow still a winner.
And God wins that victory over sin, death, and the devil for Peter, for you, and for me.

It’s been said that Christianity is a religion of second chances,
that you’ve messed up but thanks to Jesus, you are forgiven
and you have a second chance.
I don’t think much of that.
I don’t want a second chance,
because I know what I did with my first one.
There’s a reason we pray “Lead us not into temptation.”
It’s because we can’t handle it.
A religion where you get a second chance to get it right is not the Gospel.
The Gospel is free grace.
You have sinned, and God forgives you through Christ.
You will die, and God will raise you in Christ.
Jesus wins the victory for us,
freeing us to live our lives without worrying if they will turn out all right,
without regret, without fear, without worrying about looking stupid.

All that ought to be left on Easter morning is an amazement at what has happened,
that after all that has happened, God has ended up having the last word.
Enjoy yourself today!
Give thanks for the music, the flowers, the sunshine,
the opportunity to be together with other people,
to bear their burdens and allow them to bear yours.
Do not worry about the future –
do not dwell on the past.
In the present there is an empty tomb,
and for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear,
the tomb has indeed been robbed and the body stolen –
God robbed Death of his victim.
We believe that today – we will see it in God’s time.
In the meantime, we rejoice.
We praise God for what he has done for us through Jesus Christ.
We thank God that who we are now is not who we shall be in God’s future.
We trust that despite everything, God will have the last word,
as the Father raised the Son,
so he will raise all his sons and daughters,
all who have been sealed by the Holy Spirit
and marked with the cross of Christ forever.

Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

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Entry filed under: feasts and festivals, Sermons. Tags: , .

Signs of the Times Your Questions Please! – The tomb of Jesus

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