Sermon – April 11, 2004

My gosh that Cicada Brass is good. Love to hear them play. This is their second time. Good job. Thanks for coming to help us celebrate. But good as they are, that’s not why we here. I bet we could catch these guy at a gig somewhere on another weekend. The choir today sounds like angels. Thanks folks, Tim . . Jeremy great job on the organ. . . . but that’s not why we’re here, is it? I love to see a full church like this. . . keeps my sermons short knowing that you may get warm . . we could do this every weekend if we all agreed to show up . . . but that’s not why we’re here.

No, we came because we want to hear it. We want to hear those Easter words, that Easter proclamation. Even if you are not a regular here, you know what we are going to talk about today . . and it’s not the Cubs, . . . it’s not that team from St. Louis . . . it is not even God’s home team, the Minnesota Twins. . .

No, we are here because God has called us here. Even if you are not a regular, you come with a full understanding of what we are to talk about. You know what we are going to say . . . that Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God, born of Mary, crucified on Good Friday, laid in the tomb for three days, . . . Jesus the Christ is Risen. You have come today to hear again that He is risen. He is risen. There you’ve heard it. But there’s so much more to say.

You’ve come to hear that because somehow that has value and purpose for your life . . that somehow this miraculous proclamation, that Jesus Christ is risen, has significance for your life, and hope. It’s important to hear this because it is a summary statement about Jesus. . . . that his is risen. The Jesus made to know to us is the resurrected one . . . not just Jesus the teacher, not just the healer, not just the rabbi, not just the miracle worker. . .not just the friend of the outcast, not just the story-teller, not just the prophet, but Jesus the Christ, crucified, died and risen. All those other things are interesting, but without the resurrection they are not relevant to our salvation. Without the resurrection they are not relevant for our salvation.

If Jesus Christ is not risen, if he has not overcome death, if he had not kept his promises and had not fulfilled the promises of God, then his life and death are not relevant to our salvation, our reconciliation with God and our hope. Because without the resurrection, nothing changes. Time is still time and death is still death and God is out of reach.

You see there are many good teachers, there are other healers, other bridge builders, other advocates for the downcast, other saints.

But in Jesus, God had to do this to take our healing beyond our reach, beyond our power, maybe even, yes, beyond our understanding. For had it not, then we would construct our own salvation, our own God and finally, realizing that this falls woefully short, would be lost in despair.

No, something had to give in order for God to accomplish this purpose of our righteousness, our salvation, our healing and hope. Something had to give. God had to break the rules which limit our understanding and confine his purposes. . . God had to break the rules about how God loves, how God serves, how God reveals, who we are in relation to God, . . .and finally God had to break that big rule about death.

You see, resurrection must take us beyond ourselves, beyond our failures, beyond our mortality, beyond our vanity. It must exceed our power and understanding, our limits.

We reach a moment, each of us, finally when those limits become clear. . . when the fact occurs to us that we are perishable. . . that somewhere stamped on our mortal bodies is an expiration date. . . . .

Resurrection confronts death, overcomes us and then takes us through to the other side. . . the side where we are free to live in hope outside the shadow of death, outside of the fear of finality, outside of the hopelessness of separation from divine love. While we speak, appropriately, of death when we speak of resurrection, we mean more that bodily resurrection, we mean more than a promise fulfilled in some glorious, shining future. . . . While we await that future with eagerness, we fail to understand the immediacy of resurrection if we see it only there, in a distant place. You see, hope creates something new, freedom releases us to live in joyful service, forgiveness . . frees us from the burden of a past we cannot change. . . but which can ever prevent us from changing and growing. I read somewhere that “Forgiveness is giving up all hope for a better past”. Resurrection means that the perishable times of our lives can be redeemed, can be forgiven. The commitments we make are sometimes perishable sometimes on account of our own sinfulness or that of another. Dreams are perishable and in their loss, they can undermine our hope. Relationships, we discover, are perishable. Even our own faithfulness is perishable, but God says even here in these places gives, through Christ’s resurrection, a way to redeem these moments. Christ’s resurrection is promise for the present moment for each of us . . . that new life can begin in the embrace of his love and forgiveness. Resurrection encounters your life today, extending not only the hope of tomorrow, but the promise of new life today because, on your behalf, God has broken all the rules.

Resurrection is about something, and it is not a mighty demonstration by a vain and distant God. It’s not about God not getting it right in the first place, for we failed God, yet he moves to call us back. It is not the more pious person down the street . . . it is about you and me.

In his love, God has taken our peace and salvation out of our hands, and put it into the wounded hands of him who can accomplish it for us. The word today is simply this, magnificently this, that God gave his Son over to death and then, against all hope, raised him again . . so that you could know, that you could understand, that you could live under the great comfort of his promise, because he loves you as his unique creation, loves you as you are, for who you are you who are. And he does not want to lose you. . . . and he wants you to be with him forever . . . beginning again today.

That’s what we came to hear this morning. That brass quintet is mighty good and I think we ought to give them a hand for helping us out. The choir, Tim and Jamie, what a gift you are . . . let’s thank them. All of you here, some coming from miles to fill our church with your songs and prayers and presence, thank you . . . . but the main event, the main attraction, the main reason we are here is to here it again, Christ is Risen! Let’s thank him for that. There’s the real event today. Here’s the real purpose. Christ is Risen! He is risen, Indeed. Alleluia!!!