* a sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church on Easter Sunday, April 16, 2017 *
Since sermons are primarily intended to be heard, you can listen along here.
Texts for the Festival of the Resurrection, Easter Sunday:
Acts 10:34-43 + Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 + Colossians 3:1-4 + Matthew 28:1-10
Please pray with me:
Holy Crucified and Risen One,
We live in the tension of this morning,
When our Alleluias are bursting out of us,
And some of us are so weighed down we can barely stand.
Call us, again, to live.
Help us be resurrected, again, today.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint, right, church?
The worship services of Holy Week can feel like a whole lot of worship, but I assure you, they are packed full of meaning. And if you made the commitment, and it is a com–mit–ment, to come to all the worship services of Holy Week, even if it was somewhat coerced (thanks, Choir…), I guarantee that you experienced this sacred story of salvation, of betrayal, of torture, of death, and of resurrection in a way that was both completely familiar and terrifyingly new.
Thank you—all of you—for helping me tell this story in our time and place…here at New Hope Lutheran Church in 2017.
I’m somewhat of a superstitious person, at least when it comes to some pastory things.
I’m just going to tell you…I have lucky shoes. I call them, My Preachin’ Shoes.
I’ve had them for almost 5 years now, and these shoes and I have been through a lot. I preached my first sermon to a congregation in these shoes. I graduated seminary in these shoes. I won a preaching award in these shoes. I was ordained in these shoes. I baptized little Elwood, my first baptism, in these shoes.
I wore these shoes last night at my first Easter Vigil here at New Hope.
And I’m wearing them this morning, my first Easter Sunday here at New Hope.
And I’ll be wearing them at my second and third baptisms this morning, when we baptize Noble and Nirmal.
These shoes and I have been through a lot together, and I hope that we’ll continue to go through a lot more, but I worry about, and truthfully I’m afraid of, the day that will inevitably come when my shoes are just too worn out.
They’ve got holes, or stains, or begin to separate at the sole…
Because that’s what happens when you commit to something for any worthwhile amount of time or spend any worthwhile amount of energy on something, you get worn out.
The disciples most certainly felt worn out after following their teacher, their Rabbi, around ancient Palestine for three years. I’m sure they had blisters on their feet, holes in their hearts, and an emptiness in their souls when the one they walked around with, the one they thought would surely be the savior of the world was hoisted up on a cross and met the same gruesome death as a common criminal.
And it wears on us too…
We feel worn out after committing to all the services of Holy Week.
We feel worn out after making the long 40-day Lenten trek from Ash Wednesday to now.
Beginning by hearing the truth about ourselves, about how we’re nothing more than the dust from which we were formed…
Journeying through Lent and examining the patterns of our lives that keep us from living fully and completely as God calls us to live, lives of compassion and mercy with arms and hands made for embracing and serving…
Traveling to the cross where God takes all of those things in our lives that keep us separated from God and from one another, Christ takes all of those things unto himself, and they die…with Christ.
And for what? Why wear yourself out, why wear holes in your shoes and in your hearts, if the story just ends like that…?
These women that arrived at the tomb early that morning, their hearts and feet worn out, carrying spices and oils to care for the body of their teacher, were there to turn the page on that chapter of their journey. This part of the story was done, time to go back to what they were doing three years ago, or maybe start something new.
But where they came to turn the page, God picks up again and keeps writing.
Because this is not the end of this story.
The tomb is empty. Christ has been raised.
And these brave women, the first witnesses to the glorious resurrection of Christ, fall down at Jesus’ feet and they bless those worn out, blistered, scarred, and nailed-through feet because it means that their blisters and scars…our scars and bruises and the holes in our lives and the emptiness in our hearts, have all been redeemed.
Because this story is our story too, church. Christ’s resurrection is our resurrection.
And I think we could all use a little resurrection from these things that wear us out.
Because the promise of the resurrection isn’t that there won’t be death.
It isn’t that there won’t be things that wear us out, or weigh heavy on us, or that we struggle with, or that there won’t be illness or sickness or disease.
The promise of the resurrection is that even in the things that wear us out, that weigh heavy, that we struggle with…even in the midst of illness and disease…even in death…
God is there. With us.
Because God has been there.
Resurrection isn’t ignorant of death. Resurrection promises life in the midst of death.
Resurrection promises life in spite of death.
Because to hear the words of the Resurrection is to hear the good news that death is not the final word. It’s to hear the good news that the death-dealing powers of this world that seek to exert control over us and that try to prevent us from living lives of goodness, grace, mercy, compassion, and love toward God and toward one another have been crushed under Christ’s foot, and by God, church, we are free!
We are called out from our graves, called out of our tombs like Lazarus, released from the darkness and stench that tries to kill us and keep us locked away in our tombs, and we are told that we are unbound! We are freed to live the lives that God has called us to in our baptism.
Noble and Nirmal will hear that call on their lives through their baptism in just a little bit, and these rafters will shake with glorious shouts of “Alleluia!” because your sin has been drowned in those waters, and you are free to live lives that reflect the light of Christ, a light that overcomes darkness and warms even the most frigid places in our world.
Lace up your shoes, church, because we’ve got a lot more living to do.
Living of lives that are created for…that are made…for showing and giving mercy and grace and peace and love.
Come to this meal, people of God.
This is what resurrection tastes like.
Christ’s very body and blood are given and poured out for you, so that you might receive just a foretaste of that glorious day when we will all join together in God’s great reconciliation and resurrection of all things.
Hold out your hands and receive nourishment to sustain you when you are worn out and to strengthen you to live the life that you are called to, that you were created to live.
Thanks be to God!