Pastor Steve Mechem
Luke 24:1-5 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women[ were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”
Happy Easter! Christ is Risen!
Happy April Fools’ Day! I hope you haven’t been fooled today. But it’s early.
Judi and I were talking about April Fools Day and she told that when she was younger, her favorite April Fools Day prank was to wake everybody up in the house and declare, “Its snowing outside.”
Surprised bodies would rise from slumber to gaze out the window to a naturally beautiful East Tennessee spring sunrise, with lots of sun, but no snow.
“April Fools,” she would announce.
The weather app on my phone warned me yesterday that it might snow today, 1 - 3 inches. I kept waiting for the surprise shout of April Fools.
The last time Easter was celebrated on April 1, was 1956- 62 years ago. It doesn’t happen often, but occasionally, April 1 marks both the celebration of the One who rose from the dead and a day of pranks and shavies and silliness.
There will be no April Fools pronouncement at the end of this message. Everything I say here I believe with all my heart. But some may think it foolish. So be it.
I will tell you this morning that I believe that Jesus of Nazareth,
the son of Mary and Joseph,
the intinerant preacher from Galilee,
the healer and teacher and provider of bread and tilapia to the hungry masses,
rose physically from the dead.
I believe with all my heart that 39 or so hours after being savagely beaten and tortured and killed on a cross and placed in a tomb, Jesus physically came back to life.
Other Christians I know believe that it was the spirit of Jesus that rose, not a physical body.
Still others believe that the hearts and spirits of the disciples were resurrected with a new passion for Jesus and that is what lead to the beginning of the Jesus movement.
But for me, I choose to believe that Jesus rose, physically, from the dead.
For many, this idea borders on the ridiculous. But it is what I believe.
I say I choose to believe it. Recognize that belief is based in personal choice. Of course, often our faith and beliefs are influenced by others- family, church, teachers, community, but ultimately, we make very personal choices about what we believe or don’t believe.
I read, I pray, I ponder, I think, I listen, I experience and I choose. I choose to accept some things by faith, and reject other things.
And I choose to believe that Jesus of Nazareth was dead, completely totally dead, so dead he was buried, and that 39 hours later, Jesus came back to life.
So, why would I believe that? I have reasons- conclusions based in theology and history and apologetics and philosophy and I am happy to share those. But this morning, I want to focus on the gut reasons for my belief in the resurrection. There is belief that is based in head knowledge, that is rational and reasonable. And there is belief that comes from the gut- the σπλαγχνα, beliefs that are deeper than reason.
From my gut, I believe in the resurrection of Jesus because resurrection is impossible. Think about it. Resurrection isn’t just waking up from a nap. What has happened to the body in 39 hours of death is not reversible. Everything about the body must be re-created for life to begin again. It is simply impossible.
But God broke all the rules, and the impossible became reality.
Remember when Jesus told his disciples that “with God all things are possible.” Well, here it is!
But what is the need for a resurrection anyway? What the point? So dramatic with morning mystery and surprised women who have come to the tomb to do burial preparations that they were unable to do Friday afternoon. Why is resurrection necessary?
Well, I believe God did the impossible on Easter morning to verify the truth of the impossible task that had already taken place.
God, in a desire to reveal the depths of God’s love for creation, God had entered humanity through Jesus. The incarnation rivals the resurrection in terms of the impossibility of it all.
Jesus, claiming the authority of God, taught folks about the unconditional love of God and chose to live in a way that mirrored that love to people whose ideas about God were way out of whack.
Philosophical models of God portrayed the diety as Creator, who set natural laws in motion, and then abandoned the creation to run its course.
Religious models, while paying lip service to God’s love, focused primarily on the wrath of God, the judgement of God, the capriciousnes of God who loves a little but hates a lot.
Literary models of God depicted the gods as overgrown humans whose pettiness spelled gloom and doom for humanity.
Into this massive misunderstanding, Jesus …
1) taught that God is indeed Love. God’s nature is acceptance and grace and mercy and compassion, not judgement and wrath and anger. God is pure love. and
2) Jesus taught that God, as Love, directs humans to love one another, to treat each other with respect, to give each other a break, to encourage each other to embrace a new way of living and loving, and
3) Jesus taught that God, as Love, calls humanity into common community. Jesus called this community the Kingdom of God.
To demonstrate his message, Jesus, the incarnation of God, lived a life motivated by love and in the end, took on the purest evil humanity could offer up, suffered the deepest ugliness humanity could foist upon him. And then, Jesus declared forgiveness, and set in motion a new way of thinking about God and each other.
But, this impossible mission to reframe the way people think about God would be for naught if not verified by an impossible act of God.
This impossible mission to reframe the way people treat each other, based in the teaching of Jesus, would be for naught if not verified by an impossible act of God, voila- the resurrection.
As life came back into Jesus’ body, as re-creation took place on a cellular level, as that which was in the process of decay reversed course and in fact became whole again, God’s was saying, “I got you.” Everything that Jesus had said and done, everything that people wanted to believe about Jesus, was verified in that impossible moment!
That’s why I believe in the resurrection.
Another gut reason that I believe in resurrection of Jesus is that I really want to believe that Love wins!
And the resurrection is an affirmation that LOVE does win? Eventually. One day. Perhaps in ways we don’t expect, LOVE wins.
Sometimes I get discouraged when I think about the mess.
Racism and bigotry.
Sexism and misogyny.
Disregard for creation.
But rather than despair, I know I can focus on Jesus, his teaching, his death, the impossible resurrection and be reminded, LOVE wins. Eventually.
The resurrection is the winning homerun hit in the bottom of the ninth when the count is 0-2.
The resurrection is picking up the six - ten split.
The resurrection is the soloist hitting the impossible grandiose note at finale of a song.
The resurrection is the goal that leads to victory in the final seconds of the game.
The resurrection is the break-away dunk that gives your team the win at the buzzer.
The resurrection is victory- Love wins!
I believe in the resurrection. Who knows, I may be a fool, but that’s Okay.
If believing in the resurrection means I choose to strive to live a life of love, and forgiveness, and grace,
I really can’t do much better than that.
Hallelujah, Jesus Christ is risen from the dead!