Easter 1: If You Can Believe…

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A little snapshot of our post-Easter Vigil celebration at Our Savior’s Lutheran. 

Luke 24:1-12

I’d like to begin by thanking from the bottom of my heart all of you who worked hard this week to make Holy Week happen for our community. You cooked things, cleaned things, set up chairs, moved tables, wrote skits, did silly things for Jesus, set up for services, cleaned up after services, coordinated with me and with each other, and were generally amazing as usual. Most importantly, you showed up when this community needed you. So thank you. Our Savior’s, you make it easy to believe that resurrection is a real thing.

And now for something completely different: a sermon. I have two rules when it comes to preaching on this day and on Christmas: 1) tell the story the people came to hear and don’t try to be cute about it, and 2) don’t drone on too long. I plan on following those rules today.

It is a fact universally acknowledged that a Christian of any type on the day of Easter must be in want of a worship service. Easter draws through these doors all kinds of folks, from brand new people to people who haven’t missed a Sunday service since they got the flu that one time in 1961. That’s not only true in this sanctuary, but in any crowd gathered in this town in this state in this country on this day. It stands to reason, then, that there are also differing levels of belief: there are those who know beyond the shadow of a doubt that Jesus rose from that tomb in bodily form and those who are unsure about any of it, and finally, those who are really just here to get to lunch afterwards. I get it. 

Then there are the vast majority who swing back and forth along that spectrum depending on the year or maybe even the day. That’s a faith community for you.

The funny thing about the passage that we read on Easter morning every year is that one person is very conspicuously absent from the text: Jesus. All you have are these flashily-dressed dudes proclaiming that Jesus is risen, and an empty tomb. All you have, really, is a highly illogical promise. 

So I’d find it silly in this moment to stand here and extol the virtues of an argument for Christian faith of a particular kind. No. Now is not the time, and what you personally believe, while important, is unlikely to change significantly in the next ten minutes. 

What I will say is that Easter is my favorite holiday. That’s not because I’m a pastor. It’s because I read the news. Burning churches in Louisiana and now Sri Lanka, falling steeples in France and terror and death and division and fear — these are the water that we all swim in. Mass shootings and bombings and conflict and death are everywhere, and it is our challenge to find out how to live and live together in a world like this, because we cannot wish for another world. 

There’s also the fact that this Easter, I’m 33. I find it odd, being the same age as the guy in the story. Because you look at Jesus and you go, “sheesh, that guy is my age.” First of all, this guy is saving the world and I can barely remember to save my leftovers when I leave a restaurant. 

But also – when the guy in the story is the same age as you, that changes the story for you.

If you’re older than 33, maybe you thought about that when you were 33 or maybe it didn’t occur to you for one reason or another. Same thing if you’re somewhere around my age. If you’re way younger, and 33 is, like, so old – … I get it. 

But when the body that is raised from the dead in the story is the same age as a body you have occupied or are currently occupying, it might feel just a little more real. 

So this is what I think about Easter:
If you can believe a story about a stilled heart that started beating again,
or at least believe that there’s SOMETHING there,
even if you can’t name it or justify it logically —

If you can’t get into that, fine, then look outside at the springtime and ponder this: if life can come from death, if green shoots can come from the very recently frozen ground, then maybe, just maybe, there is hope for us. 

Hope for a country that can’t agree on much of anything.

Hope for burned out black churches in Louisiana and hope for the end of the racism that burns churches and the racism that red lines neighborhoods. 

Hope for fallen steeples in France — because the reality is that, no matter how catastrophic these disasters feel, our oldest churches and cathedrals have been built and burned and bombed and rebuilt for centuries. In Easter, there is hope. 

Hope for you, whatever heartache or burdens you carry, whether you’ve carried them for hours or months or years or decades. I won’t ever shame anyone for colored eggs and bunnies. I like my Reese’s eggs quite a bit. 

But with all the death and hopelessness we all swim in by virtue of being alive, at least I need a little more. Or, rather, I eat chocolate because it’s Easter and because I have the privilege of being alive and because I found some hope in a story about a radical rabbi in an occupied land who was executed by the state but came back to life some days later. 

Because in Easter, maybe there is hope for us. 

So whatever brought you here, thank you for showing up to this bright festival. 

It is a fact universally acknowledged that a Christian of any type on the day of Easter must be in want of a worship service. Thank you for making this one yours. Whether you have been attending for all of Lent or all of your life or whether this is your first time here or whether we haven’t seen you in a long time, this festival of Easter is yours. May you find blessing, may you find hope, and may you find love here. And remember: Easter is a fifty day festival, and we’ve got a ton of ways to celebrate that you’ll hear about in the announcements. 

But for today — enjoy the grace and music and love offered here. May you go outside and see creation brought back to life in the springtime. May you enjoy the company of these gathered here and maybe even some friends and family afterwards. 

And may you leave this place to go throw your hat in the air in hope. 

God knows, the world needs it. Amen.

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