April 1st. The Resurrection Promise.

April 1st. The Resurrection Promise.

An Easter Greeting:

Christ is Risen!
Christ is Risen indeed!

Alleluia!


Luke 24:1-8 

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with 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; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ Then they remembered his words.


As we gather together to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus on this Easter Sunday, here’s an invitation to live the cross and ressurection life, as shared in Rev. Daniel’s Palm Sunday sermon (which you can read or listen to).

Why focus on suffering and dying when the gospels have such a happy ending on Easter? If you’re looking for a symbol to encompass Christianity, there is such a wide range of other possibilities from which to choose. There’s the manger, for instance. Or maybe a carpenter’s tool. You could display a boat on the wall and remember all Jesus taught and the storms Jesus tamed. Or how about a towel like he wore to wash the disciples’ feet? There’s the cup and bread of communion, the stone rolled away from the tomb, the throne Christ occupies in heaven, or the dove and the flame of the Spirit. Any of these could work without bothering anybody.

But instead, from at least the second century onward, the church chose the cross, focusing their devotion not on Jesus’ birth nor his earthly work, not on his amazing teaching nor his miracles or acts of humble service for others, not even on his resurrection nor his heavenly reign nor the gift of his Spirit. Christians decided early on that the sign of their faith would be Christ’s death. Like it or not, to suffer and die is the one way we will all be like Jesus.

“But will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness?” The Easter answer to Psalm 30 is most certainly yes. Jesus died on a cross and we praise the Lord for it and call it good news. “Lift high the cross” we will sing, and proclaim it the very love of Christ. This is the enduring mystery of the gospel. The horror of the cross bears beautiful fruit, a wondrous capacity to rise above violence and hatred and racism, above injustice and evil with true love, pure grace and genuine joy. Christ’s power to redeem and reconcile patiently persists from the margins, loving enemies and welcoming strangers, caring for the poor, shunning privilege and the pursuit of wealth, going a second mile, doing its good in secret and not for applause. Jesus says to follow him means taking up crosses. Scripture views bearing a cross as the supreme love and will of God—the good and acceptable and perfect. Can we recognize it? And if we recognize it, will we do it? What if we don’t like it?

Looking over Jerusalem, Jesus wept at their refusal to see what God was doing. “If you could only recognize what makes for peace.” Jesus was talking about himself. We read in Colossians, “Through Christ God was pleased to reconcile all things to himself, whether on earth or in heaven,” whether people or planets or parents and children or churches or politics or followers and foes, everything, everywhere “by making peace”—how?—“through the blood of the cross.” The cross makes for shalom.

We have been crucified with Christ, the apostle Paul wrote. It is no longer we who live our lives, but Christ who lives in us. So to always recognize this, the early Church Father Tertullian wrote of the Christians in 200 AD, “At every forward step and movement, at every going in and out, when we put on our clothes and our shoes, when we bathe, when we sit down to eat, when we light our lamps, and on our beds before we sleep, [in every conversation or concern, in every anxiety and danger, in every comfort and time of gratitude] in every act of daily life, we wear out our foreheads and fingers with the sign of the cross.”

At the risk of looking too Catholic instead of Congregationalist, you might try it yourself this Holy Week. When you wake up in the morning and before you eat breakfast, as you get your kids who are driving you crazy off to school, or are frustrated at your spouse for failing to communicate or clean up, when you go to work and struggle to get though your day, as you have that difficult conversation, or go over your finances, before you write the email or post on social media, as you fume over people you’re mad at or complain over your lot in life; when sitting stuck in traffic, or reading or hearing the news and going crazy over the latest political decision, as you resist change and push back at all you feel is unfair and not right, as you worry for the world and take all your hopes and joys anxieties to bed at night, as you pray for yourself and your church: cross yourself, remember and recognize God has crucified you too and by grace raised you already with Christ. Jesus lives in you. Peace starts with us.


PRAYER. Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen indeed. Alleluia! May we, oh God, be a people of the Resurrection. May your kingdom come. May your peace and resurrection promise start in and with us. AMEN.

TAKE A MOMENT OF SILENCE as you close.

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