There are a hosts of reasons as to why we come to church... especially on Easter Sunday...
Some of you are here because you’re always here! You’re in church as often as you possibly can be.
Of course, some are probably here today because you’re visiting with family and friends. And that’s great! Easter is a perfect time to spend with family and friends… It’s wonderful to experience worship with those you care for and love the most.
Some of you are probably here for the music… Every Easter Sunday there are certain hymns that just make more sense… Like “Christ the Lord is Risen Today!“ and “Up From the Grave He Arose!” It also seems like we sing a little more enthusiastically on Easter Sunday... we sing with more joy and enthusiasm.
There may even be a few people here today because they’re curious… Someone could be here because they’re interested in hearing about all this resurrection stuff… You want to see what it’s all about. There are as many reasons to be here this morning as there are people in room...
And the players, the characters, in the very first Easter story were much the same. They had varied points of view... and different reasons for why they were there... and different understandings about what had taken place.
Go back to that very first Easter Sunday with me for just a moment. The sun had just begun to light up the morning sky. On Friday, most of Jesus’ friends and family had stood off in the distance… as they watched him die.
They’d followed Christ from Galilee, to Jerusalem, to the place of the Skull, and to the tomb where he was buried. And now, come Sunday, the first day of the week, some of the women were making their way to the cemetery to complete what they were unable to finish on Friday.
Of course, when they arrived at the tomb, things were not as expected. They found the stone had already been pushed back, so they went in. But… Jesus’ body was not there.
So understandably, the women were confused. And to make things worse… two men - gleaming with light - stood in their presence. Terrified, the women looked away... but the men said, “why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here he has risen. Don’t you remember what he taught you?”
Of course, the women did remember! So they hurried back to town in order to tell the others what they had witnessed… what was taking place at the tomb.
But the others, the disciples… those who’d been with Jesus for the whole of his ministry... those who’d listened to him teach and preach time and again… just could not believe it. To them, the story the women told seemed like nonsense. Surely the women were just confused, they were grieved, terrified, they must be hallucinating. So the disciples brushed off their story as unfounded and baseless. And our reading ends.
Where’s the Easter music? Where’s the peeling shouts of “Hallelujah” and “Christ the Lord is Risen Today”? Where’s the celebration you and I’ve come to expect on Easter? Our story ends with frightened women and disbelief on that very first Easter. What kind of Easter scene is that?
Well, maybe... just maybe... the Resurrection still confronts us in unexpected ways.
Of course, the “powers that be” wanted Jesus gone... and they got their wish. They thought that getting rid of Jesus... their “thorn in their flesh” would be removed, forever... problem solved!
But... they didn’t account for the Resurrection! The Resurrection changes everything!
Of course, it would seem that Jesus hanging on a cross... that Jesus lying lifeless in a tomb... would be “game-over” - no trouble, no problem, for anyone, anymore!
No more talk about loving your enemies… No more of this going the extra mile stuff, no more eating with sinners, no more loving your neighbor as yourself...
But was it? Was the Pharisees’ problem really solved, or was it just beginning?
What if all this talk about resurrection and an empty tomb, was true? If the resurrection is real, if it’s not just nonsense or an “idle tale”... then this kingdom of God stuff might start happening! We might start actually loving our enemies, we might start going the extra mile, and doing unto others as we’d have them do unto us.
If all this resurrection stuff is really true and if Jesus is really alive, we’ll have to start living the Good News. We’ll actually have to start living out the gospel that Jesus taught... and that makes the risen Christ even more of a problematic than the crucified Christ!
And what was true then, is certainly true now!
I read a story sometime ago, about a group of college kids who responded to a pastor’s invitation to do some inner-city ministry. The group was made-up of about a couple dozen college kids. They gathered together for worship, and at the conclusion of the service (which was really emotional… kids were clapping and singing and so forth and so on) the preacher said, “OK folks are you ready to go out there and tell them about Jesus?” And of course all the kids shouted, “yeah, let’s go and tell them about Jesus.”
So the kids piled into a bus, and as they made their way down road they were singing and clapping and overflowing with enthusiasm. But as a bus drove deeper, and deeper into the heart of the city… the singing slowly stopped. And all those college kids found themselves just sitting there… just staring out the windows.
Soon the bus pulled up in front of one of the worst looking housing projects in the city. The preacher, jumped off the bus and said, “all right gang get out there and tell them about Jesus. I’ll be back at 5 o’clock.”
So the college kids got off the bus, stood silent on the sidewalk. After a short prayer together, they spread out to begin their work, in groups of two. A couple of the young men walked down the sidewalk and stopped in front of a huge boarding house. They said a quick prayer, and went inside. There was an awful odor. Windows were knocked out, broken. There was no light in the hall. So the young men walked up one flight of stairs toward a door where they heard the sound of a crying baby. They knocked on the door.
“Who is it?” Shouted a voice from inside. The door cracked open, and a woman… a woman holding a naked baby… peaked out. “What do you want?“ She asked. “We’re here to tell you about Jesus!” said the boys. And without missing a beat… The woman swung the door wide open and began cursing the boys all the way down the hall and down the stairs... all the way to the street.
Of course the college kids felt awful. “Look at us… Some Christians we are. How in the world did kids like us think we could tell anyone about Jesus.” So they sat down on the curb in defeat.
But a few moments later they noticed a rundown looking store just down the street… so they walked over and began to look around... and they remembered, the baby was naked, and had no diapers. So the boys bought a couple packages of diapers, and some milk, and made their way back to the boarding house and up the stairs and knocked on the door again.
“Who is it?“ Said the voice again. But this time when the woman open the door, the college boys held out the package of diapers, and the milk... and the woman said, “come in.”
As the boys stepped into the dingy apartment, they began to play with the baby… even offering to put one of the diapers on the baby, even though neither had ever done that before. And the woman began to talk, and the boys stayed there all afternoon, talking, playing with the baby… And listening to the woman.
After while the woman asked, “what’s a couple of nice college boys like you doing in a place like this?” And that’s when the young men told the woman everything he knew about Jesus… It took all of about five minutes. The woman then I asked the boys to pray with her and her baby, which they did.
Later that evening, after all the college kids were back on the bus, the preacher asked, “well, folks did any of you get to tell them about Jesus?” And the young men said, “We not only got to tell someone about Jesus, but we met Jesus. We went out with the intention of trying to save somebody, and we ended up getting saved ourselves. We became disciples.”
The resurrection changes everything. The resurrection is saturated with problems and surrounded with risk and it’s probably the most frightening good news any of us have ever or will ever hear. The gospel of Christ is dangerous… It’s risky… It’s messy… Because it offers life by giving one's life away.
It seems like nonsense... but through that foolishness... the world is transformed... lives are changed. We find the salvation we seek... because...
Christ has Risen! Christ has Risen, indeed!