Reisterstown United Methodist Church

Finding Myself in the Resurrection

Last Sunday I asked you to imagine what Jesus was thinking and feeling – the intensity of what lay before him – as he stood at the beginning of Holy Week, knowing that he had only a few more days to shape the disciples into faithful leaders – to shape a community of love and forgiveness and servanthood.

Today, imagine the City of Jerusalem. The turmoil of the week just ended. The angry voices of the crowds, stirred up by those who were threatened by Jesus’ message of hope and eternity and of new life for everyone, not just those in power. How the hosannas turned to angry demands to crucify him. What the city must have felt like in the aftermath of that terrible Friday.

For the next few minutes, I also invite you to imagine something else. Imagine yourself on that first Easter morning as if you are part of the story that was just read from the Gospel of Luke. You will have to suspend reality to get there as not only is there a distance of time and space but of gender and role. Join me in finding your place in the story….

How are you like the women?

I woke this morning with my heart heavier than I ever recall. He was full of such promise. I was so hopeful. But now he’s dead. I knew I would go with my friends to care for his body, but I didn’t know how my feet would carry me to the garden. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do, but we couldn’t leave Mary – dear friend and sister – to shoulder this burden.

Imagine our horror – to arrive at the tomb and find it open! Grave robbers!?! They couldn’t be satisfied with putting this Man of God to death. They couldn’t let him rest in peace!?! And then, as we stood there, paralyzed with grief and anger, those – how can I describe them – I can only say they were heavenly beings with a heavenly message. They said he was not there but risen.

My heart immediately caught fire. It was as though I could hear Jesus again telling us that new life lay ahead. New life. New possibility. Everything was different. God has conquered death. Jesus is risen and nothing will ever be the same!

We couldn’t wait. We ran to tell the disciples. We couldn’t run fast enough to share this amazing news with Jesus’ friends.

How are you like one of the Disciples? 
Doesn’t that just beat all? Those silly women telling us that Jesus’ body isn’t in the tomb – and worse, that he’s risen from the dead. Don’t they get it? Reality? Death? It’s over! It was good while it lasted, But. It’s. Over. Do not trouble us with idle tales!

How are you like Peter? 
There I was with the others. They were so adamant that the women were exaggerating – again. I couldn’t let it go. I found myself thinking, Could it be? What would it hurt to go see for myself? If I just slip out the side door, maybe the other 10 won’t notice that I’m gone. After all, what if the women aren’t spreading idle tales? Could it be true? Jesus did mention something about 3 days.

So I did. I just had to go! And once I was out the door, I ran – as if my life depended on it – I ran all the way to the tomb. My heart was pounding with hope, regret, grief and fear as I ran to the tomb as I remembered all that I had done in the last week. I failed him. I had been faith-less, mostly because I was so afraid and could feel the threat hanging in the air.

I couldn’t sit still, so I ran to the tomb. No body! Just the grave cloths lying in the tomb. And there was this holy feeling – a – a knowing that Jesus was alive! Alive! My heart filled with wonder and amazement. And I couldn’t wait to see what happened next.

Beloved, there are voices around us that are angry and filled with threats of destruction and despair. Voices proclaim that there is no hope – that death is stronger than life – that faith is for those who don’t live in the real world.

We know better than that! Jesus Christ brought life and hope and joy and peace and forgiveness and acceptance. And just as he shaped the disciples to be the Beloved Community to live out his message and to share it with others, we are also shaped to be that Beloved Community – a community of forgiveness and acceptance and hope and joy and peace – fully alive and blessedly free.

Anne Lamott was the child of a Christian Science mother and a non-practicing Jewish father. They loved to debate current issues and participated in all kinds of “good causes.” They were not people of faith. To say Anne’s life fell apart is a gross understatement. In her book, Traveling Mercies, she describes how she was totally lost, addicted to both drugs and alcohol. On Sunday mornings, she would go to the flea market in town to shop, and she began noticing the enticing gospel music coming from the St. Andrews Presbyterian Church across the street as she shopped. It drew her in – but for a long time, all she did was stand in the doorway, too ashamed to go in and sit down or even stand in the back. She writes:

Eventually, a few months after I started coming, I took a seat in one of the folding chairs, off by myself. Then the singing enveloped me. It was furry and resonant, coming from everyone's very heart. There was no sense of performance or judgment, only that the music was breath and food.

Something inside me that was stiff and rotting would feel soft and tender. Somehow the singing wore down all the boundaries and distinctions that kept me so isolated. Sitting there, standing with them to sing, sometimes so shaky and sick that I felt like I might tip over, I felt bigger than myself, like I was being taken care of, tricked into coming back to life. [1] 

The congregation just accepted and loved Anne, and eventually she was able to listen to the pastor – you see, for a long time she couldn’t stand to hear sermons or Jesus talk – eventually she gave her life to the One who is life itself. She was reborn – fully alive and blessedly free.

That, my friends is the power of the Resurrection. That is the power to which we witness on this day of days! That is the Beloved Community that Jesus calls us to be. Christ is Risen! Alleluia!

[1]  Lamott, Anne.  Traveling Mercies, Copyright (c) 1999 by Anne Lamott.  Publisher:  Pantheon Books, a division of Random House, New York.

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