Easter Living in a Good Friday World
16 When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3 They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” 4 When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6 But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” 8 So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
THE WORD OF THE LORD.
In the Second World War, a Jewish man escaped from one of the concentration camps in Poland. To survive, he lived for a time in an open grave at a nearby cemetery. In a grave next to his, a Jewish woman gave birth to a boy. When the newborn child uttered his first cry, the Jewish man prayed; “Great God, have you finally sent the Messiah to us? For who else but the Messiah can be born in a grave?" This expression of hope was short-lived, for within three days the child and mother were dead. (Paul Tillich, The Shaking of the Foundations, p. 165)
Wrong in content, the Jewish man was right in his perception of God. "Who but the Messiah could be born in a grave?"
This morning we incredibly proclaim that God through Jesus - has been born out of the grave. I say this is incredible because our life experiences do not confirm this fact.
Like the women in our Scripture story, we are both terrified and amazed at the empty tomb. It seems incredible for anyone to proclaim – “Jesus is not here. He has been raised.” We are used to seeing crosses in our worlds, not empty tombs.
Today may be Easter, but for most of us it still looks and feels like Good Friday. It feels like Good Friday because so many of us are carrying around some heavy burdens: troubled relationships, loneliness, depression, worry, feelings of guilt, anger and resentment, lost jobs, lost opportunities, frets over our families’ future, grief over loved ones gone, and the events on the evening news. They all remind us of our plight.
In my own life it was thirty years ago today my brother died from an automobile accident. It was forty-eight years ago this month my other brother was killed in Vietnam. All of us here have had these experiences of turmoil. All tragic and all leave scars.
Today may be Easter, but tomorrow is Monday morning; and we still have to get up and go to work. It may be Easter, but that does not change our own mortality. (As one doctor said: "All medicine is tentative; the mortality rate is still 100%.") The calendar tells us its Easter, but it still feels like Good Friday to us, for not only are we bearing our own crosses, we see the crosses being planted and people being crucified in our world daily. They all remind us of this Good Friday world.
Nevertheless, (and that is an important word for us to remember – nevertheless) despite appearances to the contrary, it may be a Good Friday world, but it is an Easter life we can live today. And we can do this – we can live an Easter life today – because the resurrection of Jesus proclaims that our God’s final word is not death, but life; not despair, but hope; not sadness, but joy, not crosses, but empty tombs.
Twelve days ago, we dared to proclaim that it was the first day of Spring. Yet, Spring began on a day that was cold, wet, and snowy. Bundled in overcoats, boots, and gloves, we proclaimed Spring had arrived. Despite the cold, we utter that new life is even now pouring out of the ground into every blade of grass, every tulip about to bloom, and every dogwood about to blossom. Soon the robins will begin to sing. Soon we shall see, hear, and feel the joy of Spring.
Likewise, it is wonderful to know that despite experiences to the contrary, we are living in the season of Easter. We may feel the cold of broken dreams; but the final word is that love, joy, and hope abide.
The Easter message tells us you can crucify God's love, but you cannot keep it dead and buried. Christ is risen, and Christ is risen for us. The real point of the resurrection is to produce our own resurrection by placing more love in our hearts, more decent thoughts in our heads, and more iron in our spines. Christ is risen not simply to proclaim hope for a future life. Christ is risen to convert us, not from this life, but to the possibility of a full life today. As Augustine wrote in the fifth century, "The real glory of God is a human being fully alive."
I know many of you, and others, have trouble believing or getting your arms around this story of a man raised from the dead. It seems too far-fetched to belief. Do not worry about it. If we are honest, we all have doubts and questions about how this resurrection could have happened. Like the women in our Scripture story we run away both terrified and amazed, and not willing to tell anyone because it seems to incredulous to tell. I understand such doubts and questions. The resurrection cannot be proven or disproven. But before you give up thinking about this Easter story consider this:
For me, the greatest proof of the resurrection is this – the disciples on Good Friday fled like rats leaving a sinking ship, like weak and scared little boys. However, after the resurrection, these same men and women became 100 times the persons they were before. They we empowered, emboldened, and energized to be new people. They then lived new lives of courage and went out to change the world.
The story is told of two ants, two tiny creatures, who were on a golf course one day when a golf ball landed right next to them. The ants saw the golfers come and stand by the golf ball. The two golfers started swinging and swinging at the ball, and kept missing it every time. Grass and dirt were flying all around the ants with the golfers never hitting the ball. The two ants finally said to each other, “You know, if we are going to get out of this alive, we are going to have to get on the ball.”
What shall we choose this day? Will we simply continue to survive amidst the crosses and the crucified in a Good Friday world, or shall we get on the ball, and live the Easter life emboldened and empowered, to tear down the crosses in our lives and the lives of others around us because God is alive and present every day you and I live?
Finally this - it is no secret among those who know me that I am no farmer. I know nothing about raising crops or calving cattle. I cannot even grow flowers in a garden. This is no surprise. I grew up in the urban areas of Los Angeles and Dallas. There are no fields in downtown L.A. or cattle roaming among the apartments in Dallas. I may not know much about gardening and farming, but from my friends, I have learned this - it is hard, hard work to grow crops and to raise cattle; and even if you want just to grow flowers in your garden, you have to bend your back and dig.
This Easter - emboldened, empowered, and energized – tear down the crosses in our world, and help the crucified among us. Let us bend our backs and dig. Let us get flowers blooming in our world garden, flowers instead of crosses. Amen!
(Copyright by Jack Hughes Robinson – 2018. Use by Permission Only.)