April 17, 2022, Easter, Message For A Resurrecting Community by Pastor David

Luke 24: 1-12  But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in, they did not find the body. 4 While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. 5 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. 6 Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” 8 Then they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

Let’s take a moment to reflect on the promise we receive today, the promise of new hope and new life in the love of the risen and Living God.

April 17, 2022 Message for a Resurrecting Community St. Luke

It is really amazing this year to be in this sanctuary with all of you - and with a brass quartet and a violin, no less. We wanted Easter to be grand this year. After 2 years of celebrating worship in a nearly empty sanctuary, after an up and down season of a good enough Lent, we needed Easter to be grand this year. I’m sure that even for you online, you can feel the joy in the beauty and grandness of this day. 
Bring back the flowers and the music and the horns - enjoy them before we have to get cautious again. Bring back the breakfast and the sunrise service and the singing and the Easter egg hunt - at least for this day. For so many Sundays over the last 2 years, the church has been practically empty. We need this celebration.

And still I wonder, will it be enough? Will it be enough to bring hope back to people who are so discouraged by the pictures and stories of unbelievable cruelty and horror in the war in Ukraine - and war Yemen and famine in Ethiopia and Madagascar if we can spare any attention. Can breakfast and flowers and violin bring joy back to people who have been buffeted with despair by the pandemic and the stark divisions and infighting in our country? Well, the trumpets and trombones certainly help. Thank you Marcell. But no, it’s not enough. We need more than just a beautiful day of celebration. We need something deeper, something more powerful, something sustaining. 

The women came to the tomb on the first day of the week. It’s always the women. In all four gospels, different as they are, it’s always the women - in the gospel of Luke, five for more of them, who arrive first at the tomb, expecting to find a body, a cold body to care for with spices and oil. They get to the tomb with fear and trembling, not even knowing how they would get into the tomb, but they found the stone rolled away from the entrance, so they could go right in. And even more perplexing and amazing, there is no cold body inside the tomb, just two men in dazzling clothes standing there. Scared to death, the women bow their faces to the ground. So these dazzling men speak to the top of their heads, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” And the women remember that Jesus told them them something like this was going to happen, but it seemed too good to be true. 
Still, they ran and told the other 11 disciples who were left what they had seen. And Luke says they didn’t believe the women. You see, that’s a mistake right there, to not believe the women. You gotta believe the women, even if they’re saying something unbelievable about something impossible. 
Carroll Lewis commented on that in “Through the Looking Glass” when Alice is talking with the White Queen who says she is 105 years old. “I can’t believe that” says Alice. “Can’t you?” The queen response in a pitying tone. “Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.” Alice laughed. “there is no use trying,” she says, One can’t believe impossible things.” “I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” the Queen tells her. “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour each day. Why, sometimes, I’ve believed as many as sis impossible things before breakfast!”

And see, that’s the thing, the disciples had practiced hoping in the things they could know and see. They had very little experience, very little practice hoping and believing in impossible things. The message of Easter is an impossible message. Jesus died and then God raised Jesus from the dead. Jesus is alive, now, sharing with all the impossible, mysterious, hopeful promise that death will never have the last word. That new life is possible every place we look, in every disappointment, and in all despair, even in empty sanctuaries and in apathetic hearts and divided communities. [Kristy Farber, ‘Hope on the Road” in Journal for Preachers, Easter 2022, p. 13]

Ta-Nahisi Coates, a brilliant Black author and commentator appeared on the Late Show in 2017 with Steven Colbert. As often happens, with Coates, Colbert asked him a hard question. “Do you have any hope for people out there about how we could be a better country, how we could have better race relations, how we could have better politics?”
Without hesitation Coates said, “No.” There was awkward laughter in the audience. Then he went on, with great sincerity, “But I’m not the person you should go to for that. You should go to your pastor. Your pastor provides you hope. Your friends provide you hope. In better times, the President of the United States provides you hope… that’s not my job.” [Kristy Farber, p. 12]

Let me talk to the white people here and online for a moment. The dazzling men at the tomb asked the disciples, “why do you look for the living among the dead?” We white folks are desperate for hope, desperate for a word that we’re ok - but it’s not fair to ask people of color who we have been victims of lynching and violence in our country for decades and decades to provide us with that hope - even though we see life in their communities and hope that we can get a piece of that good stuff. 
Even if it feels impossible, we need to provide that hope for each other. We need to speak a word that challenges the despair of our brothers and sisters, and pulls out of apathy and hopelessness. And no, we can’t look for the living among the dead, on TV, or from the news, or in stale proclamations and empty words, and rigid ways of doing things the way we’ve been doing them for forever. 

Even flowers and music and Easter eggs are not enough, unless they are celebrating something real, something deeper, We need to dig deep and find real community and real love that expresses the truth of resurrection, the truth of new life in our community, in our relationships, in our lives.

We’re going to be talking about that for the next 2 months until a new pastor comes - the message for a resurrecting community, a message that feels impossible, but in fact is true - that the stone is rolled away, and even our deadened, numb souls can come alive. God’s grace brings life back into our numb, despairing lives. God’s love give us a future that we did not think we could have - to live in a world that is repairing the destruction and healing the wounds, feeding the hungry, blessing the outcast, connecting beyond our divisions and living for peace. 

Christ is alive in us today. Christ is alive in every person who has ever experienced God’s forgiveness, every one of us accepting the encouragement of our community, in every one of us who is alive to the real possibilities of reconciliation and new life. 

Christ is risen and that means that we can live. Christ is risen and that means this church, this community, this country, this earth lives in God’s love. Christ is risen. 

This is God’s good news. The music helps us sing it and know it. We are an Easter people. Let’s sing.

Responsive hymn.  304      Easter People, Raise Your Voices