Worship Sunday at 10:30

Bethany Evangelical
Lutheran Church

Ishpeming, Michigan † Est. 1870

 
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Easter Sunday 04/20/2014

Imagine the moment! The women arriving early in the morning to see the tomb, to keep watch, to hold a vigil. They weren’t doing what we do this morning; they weren’t coming expecting to hear “Alleluia! He is Risen!” They also weren’t settling in to hold the kind of vigil that was held here last night. We keep watch through the night knowing that when day breaks, the Risen Christ will be part of the celebration; those women had no such expectation. On that first Easter morning they went to do the same thing any of us do when we visit a grave site; it’s a way to feel closer to the one who has died and that’s all they were doing. They weren’t looking for a resurrection; why should they?

Imagine the moment! The guards, the soldiers at the tomb, sleep deprived, bored, assigned to stay there because of someone’s irrational fear that Jesus’ disciples might come and steal the body. It wasn’t exactly a choice assignment and they certainly weren’t looking for a resurrection. Neither the guards nor the women thought anything unusual was going to happen that morning, so imagine the moment when the earth shook, the stone was rolled away and an angel appeared.

In a way, what I do as the preacher this morning is to play the role of that angel, proclaiming to you, “Do not be afraid; he is not here, for he has been raised from the dead!” It’s an announcement that calls for proclamation, not explanation because what it announces is beyond explanation, a sudden earthquake, the appearance of an angel something like a bolt of lightning announcing that Jesus has been raised and suddenly, Jesus appeared to them. Suddenly, there’s a crack in the universe and everything they thought they knew, everything we thought we knew, is changed; there’s a new reality, a resurrection reality…for some.

In that imagined moment, the women and the soldiers experienced the same thing. For the soldiers though, what happened just created a problem for them. Despite the words “Do not be afraid” they were afraid. They had apparently failed in their mission to guard the tomb and they were afraid of retaliation from the powers that had assigned them that task because this might create a problem for them too. But…the soldiers had no reason to be afraid because those in power had power. They had power and they had money and with that they could control the message as long as the soldiers cooperated and never told anyone else what really happened. “If this comes to the governor’s ears,” the soldiers were told, “we’ll take care of it. You won’t get in trouble and here’s a little reward to make it easier for you.” Who could resist? Take the money and run, and that’s what they did.

The power brokers thought that with money and influence they could close the crack in the universe. They thought they could keep things as they were, that the order of things would stay the same and the crazy notion that Jesus had been raised from the dead would fade away, that he’d never be heard of again; but here we are. The crack is still open and the light of resurrection still shines through it. Those women, insignificant and of no account, had the same experience as the guards, but rather than trying to explain it away, they dared to imagine the truth of it; they dared to imagine that the world could change, that reality could be different and they told everyone about it. The soldiers at the tomb could be bought, but the women couldn’t.

As they imagined the moment, the women and the other early witnesses to the resurrection weren’t worried about explanations. How it happened didn’t matter; what mattered was the possibility and promise. The women believed in the possibility and because of that, the crack in the universe would stay open.

The story of the Resurrection is at the center of our faith because contained in it is the message that the world needs to hear, that out of brokenness, new life is possible. For us, the story that we’ve lived through during the past week, the story of Jesus’ passion and resurrection, delivers that message to us—but it’s not the first time this kind of story has been told in the Bible; it’s not the first story of new life and hope and second chances. The first story is the one about Adam and Eve and sin in the garden. God didn’t give up on them; there were consequences, but there was also another chance. The story of Noah, a story of sin and God’s anger because of the wickedness of human kind, it ends with a rainbow and God’s words, “Never again.”

The story of Joseph and his brothers ends with reconciliation and hope, what was intended for evil, God makes good. Slavery in Egypt ends in the Promised Land, exile in Babylon ends in homecoming. There’s a pattern here and it’s God’s pattern because God could not, God would not, God will not, give up on his people. This story of resurrection and new life has been told before because it is God’s story. Despite the efforts to close that crack in the universe, God keeps it open and keeps offering forgiveness and hope even when there seems to be no reason for hope. This is God’s story and it’s our story!

It’s our story because like those women we dare to believe not just the fact that Jesus was raised, but to believe in what it means and what it means is that the powers of evil and death cannot have the last word because the God in whom we believe is always at work doing new things, making things new. Easter isn’t just about Jesus’ victory over death and the promise that each of us will be part of that victory. That’s important, but perhaps even more important is that the crack in the universe has been opened and reality has been redefined. Things are not the same because no matter what happens, no matter how devastating it might seem, there is the promise of something new because God will not give up on us and God will do new things.

You know though that there are those who don’t want you to know that, who don’t want you to know that new things are possible. Those who conspired with the soldiers were just the first ones but it goes on. The effort to close the crack in the universe that Jesus opened goes on and to be honest, those who want to close it appear to have the facts on the ground on their side a lot of the time. In the face of those facts, in the face of bad news on a large and a small scale, there is the temptation to give in, to lose hope, the temptation to despair, to admit that world is a closed system and nothing new is possible. And what do we say to that. We say, “Alleluia! He is Risen!” “That’s not a rational argument,” they say, and we say, “No it’s not,” and then we repeat, “Alleluia! He is Risen, He is Risen Indeed!”

On Easter morning and forever, reality has been changed and it is that new reality, that resurrection reality that we dare to imagine, that we dare to live, that we dare to proclaim because it’s true. New life is possible. The crack in the universe is open and it can’t be closed because…He is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Amen.

Rev. Warren Geier

 
 

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
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welcomes me, and whoever
welcomes me welcomes
not me
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