Sermon for Easter Sunday 2019 April 21, 2019

Duane H. Larson, Senior Pastor

Based on Luke 24:1-12
Today we thank and praise God for the most important act of all creation, raising Jesus Christ from the dead. This is no small thing, even if our daily lives imply so. It is no common thing, even if it echoes many myths. It is no trivial thing, because the one who was raised from the dead is he whom humanity crucified.It is no personally insignificant thing because this very one whom we crucified and God raised still identifies deeply in-fleshly with everyone—you and me included—whose dignity and beauty are negated by sinful greed, arrogance, and fear. God’s grand act of new creation in Christ’s resurrection pertains thus to every human being who was, is, and shall be. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is God’s most important anthropological, sociological, political, physical and spiritual act of all time. And no one, thank God, is exempted.

We must recognize that God’s new creation of resurrection does not erase our culpability. We are pardoned and pardon presumes guilt. We simply are receivers of sheer grace. Sheerly graced by God, we admit that Good Friday still would have happened even if “someone else” was there. We might like to think it would have been different if we were there; that we would have acted differently; that we would have called out the powers that acted badly; or that, if we were the powerful ones, we would have acted with integrity and justice. But no. It would have been no different. It would have been no different were we or other so-called “godly” people there. It would have been no different if white men were there, or only women there, or any people of color there. All humanity is implicated there at the Cross, just as all humanity now is caught up by God with the Risen Christ. God in Christ took all humanity’s place of death at Calvary, so now we affirm with St. Paul: ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus’ (Gal. 3:28).

Christian faith joyfully accepts the fact—and it must be the fact—of Christ’s death and resurrection. Metaphors are useful to describe today, but Easter surely is far more than metaphor. It is a fact that continually gives us new meaning and purpose in our lives today. Our faith cannot only be seasonal romance with poetized life images, like phoenixes or springtime. Phoenixes belong in Dumbledore’s study, and spring is not the same now, no thanks to climate change.

Easter means that God is active with sheer grace and mercy, notwithstanding ongoing human mistakes and malevolence. God rebuilds cathedrals of real human hearts and bodies from what we torched by sin. God gave us a way. A way that cannot be any other way than fact, if even incomprehensible to a point by science. As John Updike wrote:

Make no mistake: if He rose at all/ it was as His body;/ if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules/ reknit, the amino acids rekindle, the Church will fall…/. Let us not mock God with metaphor, / analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;/ making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the/ faded credulity of earlier ages:/ let us walk through the door. — Seven Stanzas at Easter (1960)

There it is! You can walk out now from your own opened tomb! If his tomb door was open, that door or wall (even) that blocks you now with dis-ease is opened too. Easter’s transfiguration of history means new life for you now. We can let go the false values of stuff and self above all else. We can live meaningfully in mutual care and graciousness. Instead of being in thrall to greedy powers dedicated to our demise, we can walk out of our tombs in lively relationship with Jesus. When the women saw the empty tomb and heard the angels’ words, they trusted they would be with him in their daily lives back home. It took some doing, but the same happened with Peter. Same with the rest. Same with us! Do we know the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus so profoundly from his own lips to the ears of our hearts that he shapes the way we live each day? That’s what we’re learning and doing here at this healing place.

Sure, we ask the doubter’s question. Can this be real? Where and how is God happening when faith is so distorted and made laughable by so many? How else would you account for these beautiful signs of Easter life within this last month? Twelve middle school boys talked a woman out of committing suicide. A police officer gave a bullied boy who missed his school bus the best birthday party of the boy’s life. A Swiss businessman committed $1 billion towards protecting 30% of the planet. And in the last year over a dozen African countries began to turn back environmental disaster by building a 6000-mile-long green wall of trees, spinning off new clean water, additional food, and jobs. These happen because Easter creates hope active in love. Resurrection faith sees these and all goodness as the blooms of Easter.

Or how about this very local story? Out recently for a walk, Joen and our dog Fiddich met a Cairn Terrier with his human. All introduced themselves, each in their way. The guy shared how he had come by this older dog before losing his first one. When he and his wife were about to close on buying a new house, the seller said, “hey, I have this dog that I can’t keep and he’ll have to go to the pound unless you want him. We close tomorrow morning. The place is cleaned out except for our dog and his stuff. If you want him, be at the house before 10:30 tonight.”

So, there they were that night at the new place to claim and care for the left-behind dog. Joen noted that this fellow was so excited to share his story, it was like he was evangelizing. After each interruption from other dog walkers, he would say to Joen “and here’s the rest of the story,” like Paul Harvey back when news was news. But before he’d resume, he would give the interrupting visiting dog a treat. He carried a pocket full of dog treats. Because, he said, about treats and how he got his new dog, “You always have to be prepared to love and rescue.”

Easter’s signs are all around. You can choose to see them. We can expect to see holy Easter signs all around. We can carry treats for humans in our hearts’ pockets. So carrying, so seeing, and so expecting, we then insist on promoting the divine equity of Easter’s aims. We will insist that Easter’s import for justice and love is unbridled! We will insist on Easter’s grace and joy every day, even when headlines do otherwise.

The real story is that God replaced our death place with God’s place and God’s eternity is now and here opened to us. Our Easter God is always prepared to love and to rescue. God heals the wounds of our severed relationships and restores us. The God pulls us up out of the graves of our traumatized and aggrandized self-definitions. Loved and rescued ourselves, we are given a new and healing place to live with a purpose that re-paces the heart. Easter’s signs of The Holy are all around. We see them. We live them. We insist on them. We are empowered now by the Risen Christ to do just so! Your new and wild and precious and willfully loving life starts now. Amen! 

Duane H. Larson   Christ the King Lutheran Church, Houston, TX     April 21, 2019