4 April 2010, Easter
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’ Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.
Close your eyes for a moment and imagine—or maybe remember!—the most outrageous thing a preacher could ever say. The most ridiculous, nonsensical, insane, crazy thing anyone could ever say…do you have something in mind? I read a few this week—for instance that a church in Texas was giving away cars and flat screen TVs as an incentive to come to Easter worship, or that the pope’s preacher compared criticism of the church to anti-semitism, or that the Jonas Brothers were providing musical entertainment for Easter Sunday at Saddleback Church in California. But I’m about to say out loud the single most shocking, ridiculous, crazy, outrageous thing anyone has ever heard, ever:
Why do you look for the living among the dead? Christ has risen.
Isn’t that insane? It’s clearly crazy talk, the ravings of a woman gone mad.
At least, that’s what the men—the disciples and other followers of Jesus—thought when the women came to share the news of the empty tomb, the dazzling messengers, and the message:
He is not here.
In our translation, which has been a little cleaned up for public consumption, it says “these words seemed to them an idle tale.” The word in Greek is lairos—garbage, lies, nonsense, manure…and those are still nicer than the real literal translation would be—imagine a card game sometimes called by two letters of the alphabet and you’ve got it.
The women, faithful followers of Jesus, disciples in their own right, wept the Sabbath away and came early on the first day of the week to perform the rituals of their faith…and found instead an empty tomb and a bright spark for their memory: remember how he told you? And when they did remember, and asked the other disciples to do the same, they were called liars and crazy people.
I don’t think we get this much anymore—resurrection is such a domesticated concept in our religion and culture, part of the story we hear over and over again, so equated with flowers that bloom every spring or butterflies breaking out of cocoons, that we miss how ridiculous it is, how impossible. Jesus was dead—really dead, no breathing, no heartbeat—and the tomb was sealed. And now he is alive, bursting out of the tomb into the world! And somehow we are supposed to believe that this is possible—that dead people don’t stay dead, that the world is changed, that our lives are turned upside down with crazy talk.
That’s right—our whole lives are turned upside down. Because Easter isn’t about intellectual knowledge or even about what we believe in our hearts. And Easter isn’t about our afterlife, living in heaven after we die. Easter is about LIFE—life abundant, lived right here, right now, on earth. Because Jesus is alive, we no longer hoard resources, since the enemy of abundance—death—has been conquered. Because Jesus is alive, we no longer do it on our own, making our own way alone in the world—Christ calls us into community. Because Jesus is alive, we know that this life, this body, this world, matter—enough that God refused to let it die. Because Jesus is alive, we can gather around the table together with all kinds of people and find Christ made known to us in the breaking of bread. The Word of God is living and is among us and within us, turning our lives upside down.
Remember, how he told you, and showed you, and lived among you? Remember how he fed the hungry, healed the sick, opened the eyes of the blind? Remember how he told stories, ate with sinners and outcasts, and stood up to religious and political authorities who oppressed people? Remember how he followed God’s will, lived out God’s love, and taught us to do the same? Remember how he said, again and again, that nothing is impossible with God? These are the signs of life, the saving grace of God, the amazing and yet everyday Immanuel, God with us, made flesh, one of us, sharing our life. Even death cannot stop this kind of power.
In a world filled with despair, violence, hatred, grief, poverty, fear, and greed—in short, a world filled with death—Christ is ALIVE. And so we who join our names and our lives with Christ also live our eternal life starting right now! We, the people who make up the body of Christ, do something that looks ridiculous, that seems insane, that people have every reason to call crazy: we live resurrection. We invite the stranger to our table, we feed the hungry and heal the sick and welcome the outcast, we care for bodies, not just souls, we stand up to oppression and work for freedom, we insist on love and compassion rather than hate and revenge, we speak the word of God into everyday situations, we form God’s new community of hope—no matter what people think of us, no matter what they say about us, no matter who’s watching or listening, we live our life with Christ in the here and now, together.
In fact, I’ll even be the crazy preacher lady who says outrageous things and say that in every decision, every action, every word, we MUST proclaim that life, not death, has the final word; that light is stronger than darkness and love stronger than hate; that even in the midst of the world as we know it, nothing is as it seems, because God’s powerful love is at work in ways we can’t even begin to imagine.
So, friends, (in the words of Wendell Berry) every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Christ is risen—he is risen indeed—and may that be so for the body Christ as well!