Easter Sunday

Acts 10:34-43
John 20:1-18
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There was no orchestra that first resurrection morning, no angelic chorus singing hallelujah praise.  There was no throng of people gathered looking anything like we do, or the crowds gathered around the world this very moment.  Not even the disciples were present keeping watch.  Quite the contrary.

It was early in the morning before the sun greeted the sky.  No exact time has been registered to capture the precise moment of what had just taken place.  Yet, all these years later, we are still fascinated by it all.

What we celebrate this morning is the heart of God and the promise of new life for all people.  We are reminded that in God’s economy there is plenty of room, and God’s way – this way of sacrificial love and generosity – is good for all of humanity.

My friends, we must learn to read Scripture carefully, for when we do, we discover that long before the #MeToo Movement, there was Jesus who welcomed women and they figured prominently in his life and ministry.  There was the woman at the well and women disciples who followed closely.  Mary, the mother of James and Salome who came with Mary Magdalene and brought their little jars of spices to anoint that precious body.  And of course, Mary Magdalene, out of whom Jesus cast all those “spirits”, was a faithful disciple and the first to herald the good news:  “I have seen the Lord!”[1]

Long before Black Lives Matters, there was Jesus, whose message was that all lives matter.  “In Christ, there is no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears (reveres him) and does what is right is acceptable to him.”[2]  Did you get that?  And there was Simon of Cyrene, most likely a black man of African descent who helped drag that bloody body cross through the streets of Jerusalem.” [3]

Before there was DACA and Dreamers, there was a young immigrant family with a new born baby who had to flee to another new country and a better life because a madman had decided to kill all infant boys.

It was for such as these that Jesus died.  Those who have no place to lay their head, for whom there is no room in the inn.  Those who suffer from systems of oppression shut out and shut away, hungry and thirsty for food; for something more.  Those who live in the margins of society with sorrow and grief every day, who long for peace and justice, human dignity, acceptance, and the common good.  Today, we lift up our heads and say that there is another power in the universe.

Jesus died yet lives for sinners like you and like me.  For Judas who was allowed to remain at the table though he was the one to betray.  For Peter who denied him three times out of fear and panic but was still welcomed.  For the Roman soldiers, who brutalized his body, yet were forgiven, “for they know not what they are doing.”[4] And a lonesome thief whose sins were well established and was getting what he deserved but asked for mercy at the last moment, and there it was so beautifully handed out.  What wondrous love is this?   Oh my soul.

We must read Scripture carefully, for this is Jesus calling us to life – life beyond the darkness, beyond the pain, beyond death itself – a thousand little deaths – into new life.

Can you hear him?  Let us listen with heart and not just ears for what the heart can grasp, the mind can receive, and when the mind and heart conceives, transformation happens that leads to action.

We serve a living Christ and if there is any power in this day at all, it is power of God raising us up to live into our true selves.  To take the risks necessary for our time.

We celebrate the hope that what might seem impossible might very well be possible.  That one day the disparities between men and women will be no more.  That our children will be safe not only in schools but in the streets of our cities, in their homes, and everywhere.  That people will no longer be judged by the color of their skin or who they sleep with or any such thing.  And we stake our claim as agents of this kind of transformation for such a time as this.

Rise up, you faithful ones.  If you have but a mustard seed of faith – just enough to get yourself inside those doors, it is enough to turn the world upside down. There is room for you – even you.

How will we tell this wonderful news of the light that shines beyond tomb?  How might we get closer to the reality promised to all?

In just a few moments, you will be invited to let your imagination get the better of you once more.  Imagine the risen Lord appearing before you standing as host around the table, inviting you to come forward, just as you are to embrace this new day, this new beginning.   Receive his body broken; the cup of salvation symbolizing his blood.

And you will be given a small keepsake that you can take with you.  Carry it around, put it in your pocket or your purse or someplace close.  There is no magic to it; someone loved you enough to want to donate something that you can have with you as a reminder of this day.  The price Christ paid for you; receive it with love.

Our Lord lives, my friends.  And because he lives, we can face tomorrow.  Because he lives, his way triumphs over the fears of our lives.  Because we know he holds the future.  Our lives are worth living because he lives.[5]

It’s what my grandmother sang, and her mother before her.  My mother taught me.  And every day of my life, in one way or another, I sing it too.  Because I know who holds the future, my life is worth living and your life is too – because He lives.

Indeed, it is so!

[1] John 20:18a
[2] Acts 10:34b
[3] Mark 5:21
[4] Luke 23:34a
[5] Paraphrase “Because He Lives” United Methodist Hymnal #364