Sermon for Easter Sunday 2019

Gospel: Luke 24:1-12

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

We gather together today to celebrate new life, especially the resurrection of Jesus through which we believe God has granted new life to the world. And that’s the challenge of this day. There is so much that is hard to wrap our minds around. First, this idea of being raised from the dead… that is so outside of our box, even for us who have a greater understanding of science and how life works from 2000 years ago. Even with all our technology, we can’t bring people back from the dead. Especially those that have been dead for three days. We might have a chance if someone has just died, but not when their body has been lying in the grave for three whole days. That’s a lot of death. That’s the kind of death that God rose Jesus from. Resurrection. New life.

It is said that there are only two things we can be sure of in this life: death and taxes. If the dead don’t stay dead, then what can you count on? I don’t know about you, but I’m not going to put my faith and hope and trust in taxes.

Easter is a day we struggle to grasp because it is so out of the box. It doesn’t fit what we know. It’s uncomfortable. It’s unknown. Resurrection is unbelievable. So if you’re here this morning wondering how or if you can believe this story, know that you are in good company; not only with us around you, but with the disciples of Jesus’ day. Even those that walked the earth with him, at first doubted that he could be raised. Jesus had told them this day was coming – three times – and still they were perplexed and wondered what could have happened. We shouldn’t give the disciples too hard of a time. We are so much like them.

Last summer I joined our high school youth at the ELCA Youth Gathering in Houston. The theme was “This Changes Everything.” That is the truth about the resurrection – this changes everything. Because God rose Jesus from the dead, death is no more. Crying and pain will be no more. Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we can have hope knowing that God has already done the work to restore humanity. Because Jesus lives, we too, shall live – not just that eternal life after our death on earth, but we have opportunity for new life here and now. Death and sin and hatred do not get the last word on us. They do not have the last word. Jesus’ resurrection gives us power to stand up and raise our heads high, to work with God against everything in our world that promotes death and sin and hatred, to be people who are compassionate and loving, who live in the way of Jesus.

Many of us remember people who have died on Easter. Some have died just recently, and some a long time ago. Just as we do within a funeral or memorial service, on Easter we remember our baptisms that join us to Christ in his death and resurrection. That promise becomes vivid when we remember those who have died. I’m not sure exactly what happens when we die, but I know that whether our spirits are raised immediately or not, God is with us in death just as God is with us in life. Whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. And there is hope and life and newness. That doesn’t mean that we don’t grieve those we have lost – we rightly mourn their death, even for the rest of our lives, and God meets us there too. Through Jesus’ life and death, God has been through sadness, God has been through sorrow, God has been through death and despair, and God has triumphed. God has been and is in all of those places speaking peace and hope where there is despair, speaking truth and light where there is fear.

The resurrection doesn’t make sense. And thankfully, God doesn’t need it to make sense for it to be reality. Resurrection doesn’t depend on us, nor does it need our permission. Resurrection is God’s work. There are signs of resurrection, signs of new life, all around us. This Easter, I invite you to look for the signs of new life around you – whether in creation or in people and situations. God is at work in the world; can you see it? I can see it in you; I hear it in your stories. And I hear pain and fear and hopelessness too. This Easter, let’s remember that our God, who rose Christ from the dead, is big enough to hold all of our pain, fear, and the burdens we carry, and take them and transform them into hope for new life. Thanks be to God that new life isn’t dependent upon us!

Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia!