A congregation of the United Church of Canada
Yr C ~ Easter Sunday ~ Luke 24:1-12
Think of something in your life right now that’s very good – something that’s going well, it’s on the right track – something that wasn’t going so well before maybe, but now it’s really good – something that required some kind of change in your life, and you made it, and now that something is much better. Think for a moment of that – a change for the better.
Now think about how it wasn’t so great prior to that. Something happened that nudged you, or compelled you, to make that change and to embrace the new path you’re currently enjoying around that something. But in order to get to where you are now, you had to let go of that former way.
You might say you had to “die” to that former way in order to live this new, better way.
And if you were to cast that in spiritual, religious terms, you might say you experienced a resurrection.
Take another moment now, and think about something in your life that isn’t going quite so good, or at least not in the way you’d like it to go. Sadly, most of us have a much easier time coming up with this list than the “going well” list. Something in your life that you’re just not happy with, that doesn’t feel like you think it should.
Now imagine for a moment how that something might be better. Picture your life with that something going the way you’d prefer. In order for that to happen, something is going to have to nudge or compel you to make that change – to let go of how things are so you can embrace how things might be.
Again, I’d call that resurrection – the need to die to what is in order for what will be to be born.
Resurrection is a fundamental truth in our existence.
Nature does it all the time – dying and rising, the end of what was and the emergence of what’s next – this is simply how it works.
And it’s how our spiritual life works too.
The point of the resurrection story isn’t to try to convince anyone that Jesus was magic and got to come back to life and keep on chugging after he was killed.
Because he didn’t.
After he died, his presence was mystically experienced in incredibly profound ways – in life changing ways – but he didn’t get to just come back to life and carry on with business as usual.
The point is not resuscitation it’s transformation!
I think we’ve done ourselves a disservice in some ways by making such a great big deal out of Jesus’ resurrection – as if his is the only one that has ever happened and will ever happen – until the last days when we all die.
That’s some pretty sketchy theology in my book.
I’d prefer resurrection to be absolutely ordinary.
I think we’d be way better off spiritually if we pointed to Jesus’ resurrection as him embodying and laying out a pattern for our lives – a pattern that we’re invited to follow. That’s what being a disciple means, after all.
(I’ll be saying a lot more about this, and getting right into the theological heart of it in a sermon series through the month of May – so if today’s explanation doesn’t go far enough for you be here through May!)
This is what we talked about a few days ago on Maundy Thursday when we heard Jesus say “I’m laying down a pattern for you. Do as I have done.”
He’s embodying the same thing here.
On that Thursday he didn’t just mean that we were supposed to engage in foot washing because he did.
He meant that his life and his actions constituted a pattern – a pattern we are called to follow.
Jesus was laying down a pattern in the resurrection. A “death” has to occur, and then new life can begin.
You’ve already experienced resurrection today. You woke up! You had to “die” to yesterday and let it go in order to be “reborn” into today, and rise, and make your way in the world.
Where we get into trouble is when we forget the “let go” part and try to hold on to what was – which never works – and stops us from entering into what’s next.
Easter Sunday always brings visitors to church! Welcome!
Maybe this is your first time in a church in a long time, or maybe ever! Well, happy resurrection day!
You had to “die” to not coming near these places in order to be “reborn” into attending today – and the walls didn’t even cave in on you as you came through the doors!
Now, does that mean that such a person is magically reborn into a life of constant church attendance?
Maybe, that’d be nice (we worship every Sunday morning at 10:30, and Sunday nights at 7:15) but who knows?
They’ve died to never coming, and have embraced coming at least today. That’s already a new way.
And then every day is filled with choices of whether or not we continue in that new way, and how fully we choose to live it.
At Easter we focus on the resurrection of Jesus, but really, his was just the first of many in that story!
In Luke 24 the first people to experience the resurrection of Jesus were a group of women who had gone to the tomb to anoint his body according to their burial customs.
But here’s the thing – they didn’t actually encounter Jesus!
They encountered an empty tomb, which opened their minds to new possibilities.
These women were distraught, discouraged, lost, grieving – their teacher and friend had died by the horror of crucifixion and their hopes and dreams died right along with him. Then they had a mystical encounter at the tomb.
There’s almost exasperated scolding in the voice of the mysterious messenger they encountered. “Why are you looking for the living among the dead? He’s not here. He is risen. Why weren’t you expecting this? He’d told you over and over that this would happen. Sheesh!” (I may be paraphrasing!)
And they remembered, and came to life – they were resurrected.
Immediately they went and told others about their experience – they needed to share the joy of their new life, because they were born anew.
They were alive again – but not in the same way.
They had followed the pattern that Jesus laid down – letting go of what was and embracing what will be – resurrection and new life.
And, of course, the first people they told, the rest of the disciples, thought they were nuts.
They didn’t believe them. Why not?
Because you can’t just hear about resurrection, you have to experience it for yourself.
And in spiritual terms, it seems to take some kind of profound, mystical experience – a heightened moment of spiritual connection, a deep breath where time stops and everything comes into focus – to help us come to awareness, see the possibility, let go of what was, and embrace what is emerging.
The very next verse of Luke 24 tells the story of two of those disciples going home via the road to Emmaus. Unaware, they encounter Jesus on the road, and he tells them how foolish they are to have forgotten everything they’d been taught, helps them remember, and they are resurrected – and they immediately go and share their transformation with others.
And right after that, in the upper room, Jesus appears to the disciples – does a facepalm and says “I told you before, why are you surprised?” – and they remembered, and understood scripture, and were inspired to…to what?
It wasn’t to return to things as they were.
Things would never be as they were again.
Jesus was not going to be present with them in the same way.
There was a new way to embrace.
And the disciples had to let go of how it was, having their teacher with them physically all the time, and embrace a new way of inspiration and sharing their experiences with others.
Friends, that’s resurrection!
Notice the pattern here? The teaching wasn’t enough.
Heck, even teaching directly from the lips of Jesus wasn’t enough!
They needed an experiential, mystical wonderment to open their eyes, and hearts, and minds…and to remember what he’d taught!
The mystery is what happens in that mystical moment when it changes – that moment when the balance is tipped, and the letting go actually happens, and the corner is turned.
That’s the moment when resurrection occurs, when transformation begins – and it’s a complete and utter mystery.
And I’m ok with that!
For now, I’m content to just try to keep remembering, and allowing my spiritual transformation to keep deepening.
For now, I’m content to recognize that pattern that Jesus laid down, of dying and rising, of letting go and embracing, and to keep following it in all aspects of my life – everyday bearing witness to the resurrections that surround us.
For now, I’m content to acknowledge that resurrection is real, and revel in it!
Thanks be to God!