Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Frolic in the Mystery (Easter Sermon)

Isaiah 65:17-25; Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; 1 Corinthians 15:19-26; Luke 24:1-12

Aren’t Easter services great? Trumpets. Music. Alleluias. Flowers. Drums. Hallelujahs. Bright colors. Christ is risen. Alleluias. Did I mention alleluias?

It’s funny, though, that we don’t see that kind of rejoicing in the Gospel reading, though. The women are afraid when they find the empty tomb. Even though Jesus had told them that he would be raised from the dead, they needed an angelic confirmation to tell them that he was living, that his body was out and about.

After their initial shock, the women scurry back to the upper room where all the disciples are hiding in fear. And the women report what they had seen. And to the disciples, it seemed like an idle tale. It couldn’t be true.

Ever wonder why the disciples didn’t believe the women? Was it because they were women and their witness didn’t count for anything in the ancient world? Maybe. But the disciples, too, had heard Jesus’ promises of being raised up and restored. Could it be that the disciples couldn’t bring themselves to believe because it seemed too good to be true?

After such a harrowing week, the last hurried teachings of Jesus, the horrible trial and the crucifixion, to believe that not only was it over, but that it was OVER… that death and fear and separation from God did not win, but lost in a upset that would rock the universe, known and unknown… could the disciples bring themselves to believe that?

Peter ran out to the tomb and walked away amazed. Was he truly amazed at resurrection or amazed that Jesus’ body was gone or simply overwhelmed at everything that happened over the week. Being amazed isn’t the same as believing.

And that’s the important thing for us to remember. Easter is an event, a resurrection event for all people. Jesus is raised from the dead, so that we might no longer fear death. If we have hope in the resurrection, then we are truly freed to fully live this life. If what has been holding you back is fear of death, fear of getting it wrong, fear of punishment, the empty tomb and cross say to you, to all of us, “Be not afraid. Don’t be dead among the living. Be alive. Be alive in and with and through Christ.” That’s the Easter day message.

But Easter celebration, Easter living, is also a process. None of the women or the men on that first morning whipped out trumpets or banners, they moved around stunned and confused. Could it be true that Jesus was alive again? What did it mean if was true? What did it mean that God had died and was alive again?

It took time for them and it takes time for us to absorb the realities of resurrection, to consider all its implications, to savor its life-giving truth and to realize the power that it brings to faith. Easter is a process, a processional, a constant walk to be closer to God, only to realize that the resurrected God in Jesus has been with you all along.

When we proclaim the mystery of faith, we say “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.” Each of those things is a mystery. How could God die? How could a man be raised from the dead? What and when will happen in the future? But that proclamation is at the heart of our faith.

And we proclaim that mystery whether or not we fully understand it. That’s what it means to be faithful.

On Friday, when I was in my office, I could hear one of the preschoolers singing a song in the hallway. He knew about three lines of the song and then he would start over. He sang, “Puff the magic dragon lived by the sea and frolicked in the mystery… Puff the magic dragon lived by the sea and frolicked in the mystery… Puff the magic dragon lived by the sea and frolicked in the mystery.”

I loved this image. The idea of frolicking in the mystery. That’s the process of living as Easter people. We believe in the resurrection. We hope that it’s true. We trust that what God promises in Jesus is for all who believe- that we don’t need to be afraid of death. That we are free to live.

And life is what Easter is about. One man didn’t die for all, so that we could wring our hands talk about our unworthiness. One man gave his life, the One God gave the Only Son so that we might really live! And living means rejoicing. Living means hoping. Living is a process that only happens day by day.

And day to day is how we understand Easter. Day to day is how we live with the mysteries of our faith. We appreciate the trumpets, we like the flowers, we’re glad for the alleluias, but we still have our own questions. Tomorrow, even this afternoon, maybe right now, we will still wrestle with faith.

It’s a mystery, this faith. But God calls to us to say, “I know what I have done and I did out of love for you, for your neighbor, for my whole creation.” It’s a mystery – that love. That resurrection. That grace.

The Easter call, God’s call to Easter people, is to frolic in that mystery. To roll in it like fresh grass. To inhale its life-giving breath. To eat at the life-giving table. To splash the water of redemption. To look again and again and again at cross and a tomb that will never cease to be empty.

Is it just an idle tale? Or do you dare to believe that there is God who loved us before we were? That goodness is stronger than evil? That love is greater than death? That a light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not, cannot, will not overcome it?

It’s a mystery that you will not solve. And you don’t have to. You only have to believe it.

Christ is risen. (He is risen indeed.)

Frolic in the mystery.