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Bethany Evangelical
Lutheran Church

Ishpeming, Michigan † Est. 1870

 
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Easter Sunday 04/01/2018

I said a couple of weeks ago that Easter is kind of the exclamation point of our faith, and today, with “Alleluia! He is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!” the exclamation point is added. “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!” So the choir sang this morning and so it says in today’s psalm and I’ll come back to that, but… “Rejoice and be glad” is not what we get in the Easter gospel reading from Mark. Instead what we get is confusion, alarm, terror, amazement and fear.

Mark is the shortest of the gospels and his resurrection account is also the shortest, so short that some wonder if more was intended, that somehow a page was lost or something. What we’re left with is not really even a resurrection account, it’s an empty tomb account and the women, seized by terror and amazement, saying nothing to anyone, flee that empty tomb before any encounter with the Risen Christ.

The women were seized by terror and amazement but we aren’t. The “rejoice and be glad” of Psalm 118 is closer to where we are today. We don’t get the whole psalm today but if we did we’d find that it goes back and forth from joy to petition, from thanksgiving to recollection of situations of threat and danger. With that back and forth, it also recalls the ups and downs of the events and emotions of the past week.

Significantly though, in the psalm all the references to distress are in the past like the events of Thursday and Friday are in the past for us today; we acknowledge them but they’re behind us. For the psalmist then, the statements that carry the day are “the Lord has become my salvation,” and “Give thanks to the Lord, for the Lord is good” statements which for us become “Alleluia, he is risen, he is risen indeed!” That’s the Easter refrain and it’s one that we should hear as both being personal, directed to each of us individually and also communal, directed to all of us together and that represents another connection with the psalm.

The deliverance of Psalm 118 moves from first person singular I and me, to first person plural, we and us. Similarly, Easter deliverance is also both singular and plural. Easter is about the power of God to raise Jesus to new life, that’s the singular and obviously that’s an important part of what we celebrate today. Without that, we wouldn’t be here.

If that was it though, if it was only singular, all we would be doing is remembering something that happened a long time ago and maybe reflecting on the lasting impact of what happened. But that’s not it; there’s more. There’s more because it’s the same resurrection power that raised Jesus that is active today and gives life and light to us now! Easter isn’t just about what God did in the past, it’s about what God is doing today, changing our world, changing our lives and…changing time itself.

The psalmist says “This is the day the Lord has made,” and on Easter we join him as we say, “This is the day the Lord has made.” This is the day that tells us that our God is a God who is defined by the new life of Jesus’ resurrection. This is the day that tells us that death does not have the last word for Jesus or for us but that our God is a God of hope and new life, a God who brings new life out of all situations of death and despair. This was one of Martin Luther’s favorite psalms and in his words, the light of this day teaches, grace, peace and forgiveness of sins before God all of which are examples of new life.

On Easter, how we measure time is changed as the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus become the starting point of history requiring us to change how we think which isn’t an easy thing to do. We naturally think of time and history in a linear fashion, times and dates, one event following another from ancient times until the present. When we think about salvation history we think in the same linear way starting with creation and the fall, God’s choice of Abraham and the patriarchs and the people of Israel, Moses and the Exodus, then disobedience and exile with everything moving forward and finally culminating in the person of Jesus, especially his death and resurrection. You can find Bible timelines that lay all this out for you in chronological fashion.

Salvation history though, isn’t about a chronological timeline. Instead, it’s a way of seeing all the events the Bible described in light of Easter; the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus is not the end but the beginning so that everything is viewed in Easter light and circles back to that event. This isn’t how we usually think, but Easter isn’t about the usual. Easter is about the transformation of the world, including the transformation of time so that THIS IS the day the Lord has made. Resurrection isn’t just something that happened a long time ago. The today of the Resurrection is our today! This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad.

Easter is not about the usual as we think about an event that is both in time and out of time but that makes April Fool’s Day a good day to celebrate Easter. It doesn’t happen very often; like Ash Wednesday falling on Valentine’s Day, the last time it happened was 1956, so unless you’re old enough and have a really good memory, you don’t remember it. The great reversal of Easter though, new life out of death, Jesus being raised from the dead is sometimes talked about as God having played a trick on the devil. On Friday, the devil thought he had won, but God says, “I’ve got a surprise for you.” Seen that way Easter represents the greatest April Fool’s trick ever played, a trick played on Satan and all the powers of death and evil, placing Jesus in his rightful place as our Lord and Savior. In the poetic words of the psalm, the stone the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.

The psalm goes on to say, “By the Lord has this been done; it is marvelous in our eyes.” The Hebrew word translated as “marvelous” has the same root as the word of the angel to Sarah when she was told she would have a child, “Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?” It’s the same word spoken to Jeremiah when he scoffed at the idea of buying land in Judah when the Babylonian army was on the doorstep, the Lord saying to him, “Is anything too difficult for me?” We also hear echoes of it when Mary is told she will give birth and the angel says, “For nothing will be impossible with God.”

On Easter we are reminded again that we deal with a God who makes possible the impossible, births to old women and virgins, new life in the face of death, the resurrection of the dead. This too calls us to a new way of thinking, calling us not to limit our thinking only to that which seems reasonable but to open our eyes to the marvelous ways of God and to announce those ways to the world. In the words of the psalmist, “I shall not die but live and declare the works of the Lord.” It’s a verse Martin Luther had written on the wall of the room where he was confined during the writing of the Augsburg Confession.

On Easter and always, that is what we are called to do, to declare the works of the Lord, to announce that “He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!” and it’s one of the reasons I like how Mark ends things or doesn’t end things, with the women saying nothing to anyone. Mark leaves the ending to us. The end of his story is the beginning of our story. The tomb is empty. He is Risen! THIS IS the day the Lord has made! Let us rejoice and be glad!

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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