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Risking Resurrection/10

Isaiah 65: 17–25
John 20: 1–18

What a crazy story this resurrection story is. We can get so familiar with it that it can disarm it for us, render it harmless, innoculate us against the resurrection virus that could transform our lives.

It would be so healthy for us if once again we could be startled, shocked by this news! We’d sure be in good company. People inside and outside of the Christian church have struggled to understand the resurrection for 2,000 years.

Some have accepted it literally, completely on belief and faith. The Bible tells us the early disciples did not seem to do this. In most of our scriptural accounts, they show disbelief, and think the women are crazy! Come to think of it, maybe that’s one reason at first they keep silent! The risen Christ in none of the stories is easily recognized at first. In today’s gospel, Mary thinks at first he is the gardener. So it seems the form they experienced was not quite the same Jesus they had known before the crucifixion.

Some scholars speak of the metaphor of the resurrection, comparing it to myths in other religions who have tried to grapple with the great questions of life and death and life after death. Episcopal bishop Jon Spong talks of it in terms of Midrash, a Jewish unfolding story with layers and layers of meaning. Others have tried to explain it in terms of psychological phenomena of grief psychosis, or in terms of a passover plot, as one 20th century writer has called it. One archeologist even claims to have found the Jesus family tomb in Israel. What are we to make of that? And would it affect our faith if it were true? It wouldn’t for me. For me, resurrection is a about a whole lot more than what happened to Jesus’ body. The truth of the resurrection message will never become evident in the scientific laboratory of the scholars, but in the laboratory of life.

All of the stories about resurrection have one key thing in common- that we miss if we just write them off as superstitious 1st century miracle stories. They are not so much about what was going on with Jesus, as they are about what was going on with the people who encountered him. Remember the people who first encountered the presence of Jesus have just been through hell. They’ve watched their beloved leader betrayed, arrested, falsely charged. They’ve watched him go through mock trials, humiliated and beaten; They’ve witnessed him fall between rival power groups, passed from one court to another, and finally executed on a cross. They’d witnessed horrendous violence. They were traumatized. They could be forgiven for just trying to save their own hides, It was hard to stand up and be counted in that kind of tense atmosphere. They could be forgiven for not even trying to go to the tomb where he had been laid for it could put them at risk and mean their arrest as well.

But the women face their fear, and they go to the tomb….and are shocked with life. One by one, as each person encounters the presence of Jesus, something changes in them. In each of the people to whom Jesus appears, the terror, the despair, the disillusionment is changed..It’s turned around. They dare to find the power to take on life anew. They are transformed. Just when everything seemed over; just when life seemed about as dark as it could ever become, and hope had disappeared with the leader nailed to the cross, life bursts forth. People move beyond their fear and are able to begin again.

It didn’t happen all at once. The experience that came to be called Easter whatever it was, unfolded over a period of time, some think, several years. Resurrection seems to have been an emerging awareness that the same power and spirit that was present in the living Jesus, was still alive in them, challenging them to continue his ministry. It energized them to form community in a radical new way, a movement that changed the world, Rather than being terrified by the Roman Empire, they continued to create communities of Jesus followers in spite of it. Instead of being the end, it was just the beginning.

Resurection is about the transforming power God continues to make available to us all. It is about resistant, resilient hope that arises when we least expect it and enables you to find a way through… And it continues to happen! Even here in this very church community. Even here in our very lives! It is the power to act anyway, when we feel afraid, It is the power to begin again when it feels that life is over. It is the resistant hope that comes into places of despair, that gives courage, and empowerment. Usually it is shocking. It is startling. It is unexpected. As unexpected as flowers in a desert, or living water from a rock. or dry bones rising to dance to use some other biblcal imagery.

Resurrection is about God’s yes to LIFE in spite of the devastation of the cross, in spite of all that the world can throw our way. It is the resistant power to carry on with hope. It is the transforming new life that comes when the seed falls in the ground and dies to one way of being to find a whole new unexpected transformed life.

Easter challenges us to risk resurrection: to open to the possibility that God can make new life even in and through us, disheartened and cynical though we may have become. Easter challenges us to come out of the tombs in which we have been buried, to dare to live life in all its fullness; to come out of the tombs of our apathy and act and to engage with life; to come out of the tombs of our guilt and dare to make a fresh start; to come out of the tombs of our uncaring and dare to risk compassion; to come out of the tombs of our self-absorption and dare to engage life with generosity; and especially to come out of the tombs of our fear that paralyzes and shrivels our living to face life full on, to radically live in the faith that God makes all things new. And to do that in the face of a world that seems to look as if the opposite were true, as if poverty, and violence, and militarism and death have the the final word.

Resurrection is about God’s yes to LIFE in spite of the devastation of the cross, in spite of all that the world can throw our way. It is the resistant power to carry on with hope. It is the transforming new life that comes when the seed falls in the ground and dies to one way of being to find a whole new unexpected transformed life. It is the shocking aliveness we experience in our gardens, after frozen winter deadness.

Easter begins with angels and women in a tomb watch. Easter is about love that keeps vigil and waits and believes in life, no matter how dark and empty and cold the inner space feels. Easter is about hope that is willing to sit in the tomb while it trusts in transformation. Easter is about faithful companions who keep watch with us and cheer us on as we wait for our inner resurrection and about willing to sit by others waiting for life to come again to them”

It is precisely in the places of crucifixion and tomb places of our lives that we need to watch for the glimmers of new life emerging, for glimmers of resurrection.

An Easter faith asks us to believe the outrageous–that our own life stories are not fixed; are not determined. The road that we think is the only one we can travel, the one that fate has dealt us is not the only option. Our God is a new-making God. We can dare to experience the power and the possibility of new life. We can live unafraid.

We are an Easter people when we refuse to become embittered, and totally disempowered by fear and the stupidity and unfairness of life. We are an Easter people when we dare to create communities of loving resistance in the middle of the chaos. We are an Easter people when we refuse to give up on life, when we refuse to give up on love, when we refuse to give up on compassion, when we refuese to give up on hope, when we refuse to give up on God’s vision of justice and peace in spite of the terrorist bombings in Russia, in spite of Haitian disaster, in spite of Afghanistans, and the Iraqs, and Aids in Africa. We are an Easter people when we make the resurrection true-when we embody community to the lonely, bread to the hungry, living water to the thirsty, comfort to the sick, strength and hope to the discouraged, compassion to the grieving, liberation to the oppressed, peace to the wartorn world, justice and solidarity to those treated unjustly by the structures of our society.

On this, of all days, we are challenged to live beyond the fear that paralyzes us. We are challenged to live as if all things are possible with God. We are challenged to live in the possibility that God can make new life in and through our world, and even in us.

ROLLING AWAY THE STONES

 

We have heard in our scripture this morning that the women who went to the tomb that first Easter morning found the stone rolled away- That image has really jumped out at me this Easter Season-for my own meditation and reflection -the image of the stone that keeps us walled in the stony silent place of unliving-the stone that blocks the way to the light and freedom of life in all its fullness-the stone that blocks out the fresh air-that keeps us just breathing and recycling the same old stuff over and over again.

I invite each of us to reflect on those stony walls that stifle our living in our own lives-the stones that block our way to communion with God-that block our creativity-that block our re=lifing-our livingness-our being fully alive to be all that God intends us to be.

Let us also connect with the Call of God’s Spirit to Come to Life-To Come out from the tomb-as Jesus invited Lazarus before his own death- Let us allow that energy for life to rise up in us , to give us the power to roll away the stones that prevent us from living.

I invite you to think of your own as I name some which may or may not include the one you are thinking of-

Fear: This stone is a difficult one to move, because it keeps us paralyzed, or makes us run away. Let us roll away the stone of the fear that binds us, as we remember that Love casts out fear-as we learn to trust- and to act in spite of being afraid. We need to learn to act when we are afraid-just as we have learned to act when we are tired

One Let us roll away this stone that blocks abundant living

All: The stone is rolled away. Christ is Risen Hallelujiah

 Powerlessness: This stone is like fear for it immobilizes us from taking on our lives. This stone keeps us cut off from our Sacred Source. It keeps us locked in the victim role. It keeps us from accessing the sacred right that is ours as people of God. Let us roll away the stone of powerlessness, and feel the freedom and perhaps also the anxiety of empowerment.

 One Let us roll away this stone that blocks abundant living

All: The stone is rolled away. Christ is Risen Hallelujiah

 Alienation: This stone keep us lonely, neglected and neglectign. It keeps us from belonging and from inviting others to belong. Let us roll away the stone of alienation in our lives-as we dare to trust, as we dare to let others in to share our journey-as we dare to reach out to others on this spiritual path.

 One Let us roll away this stone that blocks abundant living

All: The stone is rolled away. Christ is Risen Hallelujiah

 Discrimination: This stone comes in many forms and is often used for throwing, or for crushing. It’s name is sexism, its name is racism, its name is homophobia, its name is agism, its name is classism. Wherever people are put in boxes and labled, and treated through that box, rather than as the unique sacred gift that they are, potential life is snuffed out, and abundant life is denied and distorted.

 One Let us roll away this stone that blocks abundant living

All: The stone is rolled away. Christ is Risen Hallelujiah

 Addiction: This stone is called addiction, and can come in many forms as well. Substance addiction, work addiction, addiction to perfection. Its promises are empty and hollow and it robs our life of meaning.

One Let us roll away this stone that blocks abundant living

All: The stone is rolled away. Christ is Risen Hallelujiah

 Violence: Violence can be physical or emotional, but in both cases it destroys life in all its fullness. This stone destroys communities, homes, trusting relationships, children. It crushes the human spirit. Let us roll it away as we work in ourselves and in our world for zero tolerance-for a safer,peaceful world.

 One Let us roll away this stone that blocks abundant living

All: The stone is rolled away. Christ is Risen Hallelujiah

Consumerism and Greed: This stone is called consumerism. It fills us with the hollow promise that possessions will make us secure and happy. It dulls our response to the cries of the world. It leaves us ever-grasping and never satisfied. It is at the heart of economic systems that suggest that the rich have too little and the poor have too much. It makes a God of the profit margin, of the bottom line, and forgets people who are affected and community that is damaged. It renders voiceless the weak, the disabled, the poor, the unemployed. It strips away their God-given dignity.

One Let us roll away this stone that blocks abundant living

All: The stone is rolled away. Christ is Risen Hallelujiah .

 As we remove these stones that block us from communion with God and with one another, and with our deepest selves-let us embrace the space and freedom that comes with letting go. Let us invite the resurrection life of the Risen Christ to be alive in us, Eastering in us.

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