Worship Sunday at 10:30

Bethany Evangelical
Lutheran Church

Ishpeming, Michigan † Est. 1870

 
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Easter Sunday - 3/23

          Endings and beginnings, beginnings and endings; Easter is about both.  It is an ending, an end to our forty days of Lenten preparation, an end to the Great Three Days that began last Thursday, an end to the Easter Vigil night of watching and waiting.  Even more though, on that first Easter morning God wrote an ending to the story of salvation, an ending that nobody expected, an ending that changed everything, forever. 

          The women went to the tomb early that morning, but there’s nothing surprising, nothing unexpected in that.  Whether they were just going to mourn the loss of their friend or if they were fulfilling a part of Jewish burial custom as other gospel writers indicate doesn’t really matter.  Whatever the reason, we go to visit the graves of loved ones and that’s what they did and that could have been the end of the story, that could have been it; they pay their respects and then go home to get on with life without Jesus.  That could have been the end.   But no; “Suddenly...suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.”

          Matthew makes it a point to tell us this and what he’s saying is that the resurrection was an earth shattering event!  The resurrection caused the earth to rock to shake to move.  This story doesn’t just end with a whimper and it isn’t just a “they lived happily ever after ending” either.  The earth quaked, it shook on its axis.  Resurrection can’t just slide by unnoticed, unremarked.  The earth itself takes notice. 

          Now I suppose there are those who live in areas where earthquakes are common who get pretty casual about it.  “Oh, that one wasn’t so bad.  Just a few broken dishes.”  But earthquakes weren’t common, aren’t common in that part of the world where Jesus lived so I don’t think Matthew adds this detail expecting us to be casual about it, expecting us to go home after church, have Easter dinner, take a nap and go back to our ordinary routines tomorrow.  This ending of the story, not Matthew’s ending but God’s ending, this ending should continue to shake the world.  On the cross, the world did all it could to Jesus.  On Easter, God did all God could for the world…and the earth shook!

          That’s how Matthew introduces the end of the story; that’s how he announces the real ending, the ending that no one would have expected, which is that Jesus has been raised from the dead.  He is Risen!  He is Risen indeed!  Alleluia!  Jesus has been raised from the dead, not just a revitalized corpse that will die again, but raised to eternal life, to live forever with God, so that we too can live forever with God. 

          With this ending we are invited out of the predictability and inevitability of our world, invited to imagine another world where the unexpected happens; because this ending is the beginning, the beginning of resurrection life.  On this Easter morning, can you imagine that?  Can you imagine a new beginning?  You can’t have resurrection and then have everything be the same as it was yesterday.  Yesterday dead was dead.  That was the end of the story.  But today is Easter.  There is something new, something unexpected at work among us; and that something is the power of the Risen Christ.  It’s power that changes things, power that challenges all that we think is inevitable and unchangeable, power that even transforms death into life.

          But that new something, that unexpected something had been at work all along in Jesus and the powers of this world did all they could to stop him.  It makes sense though; doing the things he did, saying the things he said, Jesus shook the world. Jesus threatened those who thought they were in control, threatened those who wanted to keep things predictable. 

So…blessed are the poor—woe to the rich?  I don’t think so.  Love your enemies.  Pray for those who persecute you.  Turn the other cheek.  Sorry, there’s a war on terror we have to win.  Do not judge so you might not be judged?  But I need someone I can feel better than.  Samaritans and Canaanites and Arabs and Muslims and single mothers and gays and people with AIDS and the homeless are as good as me and maybe better.  No way.  Not in my world.  Jesus threatened the accepted order of the world; and people who threaten the accepted order of the world, get killed.

          But this is Easter.  There’s a different ending to the story, a different ending that only God could write, a different ending that’s a new beginning.  The world could kill Jesus but they couldn’t make that the end of the story. Jesus was raised from the dead!  He is Risen!  He is Risen Indeed!  Alleluia!  That’s the end and it’s the beginning. 

          If it’s the beginning though, that means things are different.  If today is Easter and everything is the same as it was yesterday then it’s all for naught apart from being an excuse for an early spring feast and celebration.  But if Jesus is really raised from the dead, the world is different; we’re different; we act differently. 

What that means in large part is that we can’t put Jesus back in the tomb tomorrow.  And how do we do that?  How do we put Jesus back in the tomb?  We do it as soon as we start saying “Blessed are the poor…woe to the rich.  He didn’t really mean that.  Love your enemies.  Turn the other cheek.  That sounds nice but it doesn’t work in the real world.”  But Jesus was killed for saying those things, so somebody thought he meant it.  If he didn’t mean it, he doesn’t get killed.  If he doesn’t get killed there’s no resurrection and we’re back where we started, sinful human beings separated from God.  Jesus was killed for saying those things.  But he is Risen!

In the Resurrection God says that Jesus did mean all those things.  God says that this is the way of life to which we are called as disciples of Jesus.  This is the message we are to proclaim and when we don’t, when we silence these words, when we pretend that they mean something else, when we put Jesus’ stamp of approval of programs and policies that blatantly violate his teachings, when we do any of that we silence Jesus and put him back in the tomb and the powers that want you to live in fear continue to rule.  The power of death continues to rule.

But this is Easter.  He is Risen!  Easter power is on the loose inviting us into the different way of Jesus.  This is Easter!  The power of sin and death and all the ways of sin and death have been defeated so we are free to live as the Easter people of God.

This is Easter!  It’s the end, the end of the world ruled by fear and death.  It’s the beginning, the beginning of the world ruled by the new life, the eternal life and hope and love of Jesus.

This is Easter!  He is Risen!  He is Risen indeed!  Alleluia!               

 
 

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
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one who
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