Worship Sunday at 10:30

Bethany Evangelical
Lutheran Church

Ishpeming, Michigan † Est. 1870

 
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Easter - 4/8/07

Mary Magdalene wanted things to be the same.  What she probably really wanted was to eliminate the events of the last few days and have Jesus back as she knew him; rewind and play it over with a different ending.  Knowing the impossibility of that, she was probably ready to settle for a grave site she could visit and tend; at least that would be a situation she could understand.  

We can certainly relate to her feelings, her desire to just have things kind of settle down, and we can relate to her confusion on arriving at the tomb and finding the stone removed.  The order of her life was already upset by Jesus’ arrest, trial and execution but discovering the tomb empty would not immediately have been a source of joy for her, it just further complicated things.  Faced with the unreality of all of this, we can also understand her increasing confusion on encountering the Risen Christ, confusion which caused here to mistake him for the gardener.

But, when this “gardener” called her by name and she recognized him as Jesus, for a moment she dared to believe that things might be the same, that against all possibility Jesus was back as she and the others knew him.  She was hanging on, until Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me.”

Mary couldn’t go back because Jesus wasn’t going back.  The Risen Christ was not a resuscitated corpse ready to pick up where he left off.  He was who he always had been but was no longer limited by his humanity.  He was who he always had been but he was no longer humanly familiar.  Mary Magdalene couldn’t have things the same because Jesus wasn’t the same; and he’s not the same for us either. 

We can have Jesus as a warm memory, like a loved one, dearly departed whose grave we can visit or whose memory we keep alive by telling stories.  We can do all that, and maybe in our humanity we have to do that to some extent;  but Jesus is alive!  That’s what Mary discovered on that first Easter morning.  Jesus is alive and going ahead of us, telling us not to look back, but to go ahead, where he leads us toward life lived in relationship with God, the God who is not a memory, but the God who lives.

He is risen!  He is risen indeed!  That is our Easter proclamation, a proclamation of hope against all odds.  On Friday the powers that be had won, but the victory only lasted 36 hours, no more.  By Sunday new life was turned loose beyond the frightened confusion of Mary Magdalene and everyone else.  The powers of this world didn’t hold and they don’t hold.  That is our Easter claim.  Today we dare to proclaim the Easter option for the world.  Today, in the face of all evidence to the contrary, we proclaim that in Christ, things are indeed different. 

It’s a stupendous claim, outrageous even, and let me tell you something; the powers of this world don’t want you to believe it.  The powers that control politics and the economy and the military and the media and the technology in this country and every country, don’t want you to believe it.  They don’t mind our Easter celebrations, the hymns, the Alleluias, Easter brunch and dinner; they’re OK with that.  They’ll give us 24 hours or so…as long as all those other powers rise again tonight or tomorrow morning and things are back to normal. 

But if we believe the outrageous claim of He is Risen, He is Risen Indeed, things are not back to normal.  There’s a power on the loose that can’t be managed and controlled by conventional explanations, a power that can’t be held; “Do not hold on to me,” Jesus said to Mary.  It’s a dangerous power that breaks bonds and shatters expectations, a power that brings those who think they are powerful down from their thrones and lifts up the lowly.

They don’t want you to believe it.  The powers that be want you to think that Easter is only about “Since Jesus rose from the dead, if I believe, when I die I’ll go to heaven.”   That’s part of Easter and they’re OK with that part.  They’re OK with Christian faith that is mostly about punching your ticket to heaven as long as it doesn’t change very much how you live here and now, as long as you keep buying into their version of reality and its promises of happiness.

Easter is about regime change.  All those powers that promise life and happiness, but only deliver death are sent scrambling by the unlikely events of Easter morning.  With the resurrection of Jesus, there is a new piece of data to consider; a new piece of data that doesn’t fit.  It doesn’t fit and it never will.  It’s confusing and disorienting as Mary Magdalene found.  But for those who dare to believe it, for those who dare to proclaim it, it is a source of joy as it defeats death and transforms life, for now and forever.  There’s a new regime, a new king and he shall reign forever and ever.

For now it means we dare to hope in the truth that has always been true but which gets muffled, even silenced in the same old same old of life that tells us that nothing new is possible.  He is risen, he is risen indeed can’t be explained by anything that is part of the same old same old.  For now we learn from the past and the present, but we don’t hang on to it.  We move forward with Jesus into his reality, his truth, that is old, but always new, we open our eyes to his kingdom and its possibilities, not its impossibilities, but its possibilities, available and transforming us, if we stop holding on.

He is risen, he is risen indeed is for now and it’s forever.  On Easter we sign on with the Lord of the Dance, the one who has led the dance for Abraham and Moses and Elijah, for John the Baptist and Peter, James and John and Mary Magdalene, for Paul for you for me.  We sign on with the Lord of the Dance, with the Life that will never, never die.

We are Sunday people; Sunday people of hope.  Friday has been duly noted as it must be, because it’s real.  But on Sunday we know that He is risen, He is risen indeed.  He goes ahead of us and we follow…not hanging on in desperation, but moving forward in hope; because we do dare to believe.

So dance then, wherever you may be.  The Lord of the Dance is Risen Indeed.!
 
 

Bethany Lutheran Church
715 Mather Avenue
Ishpeming, MI 49849

Phone: 906-486-4351
Fax: 906-486-9640
contact@bethanyishpeming.org

Rev. Warren Geier, Pastor
pastor@bethanyishpeming.org

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“Whoever
welcomes
one such child in my name
welcomes me, and whoever
welcomes me welcomes
not me
but the
one who
sent me.”
 
 

 

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