Living The Resurrection

These notes are intended for distribution to members and friends of the Kirk of Kildaire Presbyterian Church family. While effort is made to give credit for work done by other, the notes may use material for which appropriate credit is not given. Also, the notes may differ from the actual sermon as it was delivered. Remember, sermons are meant to be preached and are therefore prepared with the emphasis on verbal presentation; the written accounts occasionally stray from proper grammar and punctuation.

Matthew 28:1-10

If you are a fan of the show, “The Good Wife” no doubt you remember the shocker this season when Will Gardner dies in a courtroom at the hands of his client. He was partner in a law firm and a key figure in the story. His death sent shocks through the office… and through all the relationships. It sent shocks through facebook and twitter as well.

As the show dealt with his sudden death, you could feel the pain of those who survived him… the suffering… the loss… The world was dark, it made no sense… as you come to terms that someone you knew or loved… would be no more. Death broke through any illusion that this was a safe world… the world becomes a darker and scarier place when you realize – life is so uncertain, especially when evil and death forcefully take what is dear to you… who is dear to you away.

I can’t help but think it was that way for the Mary Magdalene, the other Mary as they make their way to the tomb – wanting to see the final place where he was laid to rest… to work through their grief.

Surely it was that way for the disciples who spent 3 years with Jesus—every day… 3 years of getting to know him… being loved by him, being challenged and even chastised by him… but becoming his students… even friends… 3 years they left behind family and jobs…sacrificed time and income… and  they followed… learning from him… about love and about God… hearing him talk about how if God takes care of the birds of the air… he will take care of us… hearing about God’s love for sinners… and God is powerful and loving…

Today, 3 days after his death at the hands of the Romans… thanks to some trumped up charges made against him, from his own religion… You would not blame them for wondering if any of it was true… After all, how could a loving God let something like this happen to someone like  Jesus.

So let’s understand, let’s be clear:  Easter does not begin with joy…it begins with grief and confusion and pain… where the world looks darker than it ever did before.

Into that world dawns the news of the day that gave birth to the faith we profess.

The story we heard today… the resurrection story told not only by Matthew, but also Mark, Luke and John…each with their own twist…  the story repeated by Paul… who said, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins… But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead… for since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being” (1 Corinthians 15:17,20)… the story that gave birth to these words in 1 Peter, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (1 Peter 1:3)… all of those stories and letters have one basic message:

Even though we live in a world where death is our greatest enemy and life is uncertain—everyone knows that… In a world where it looks like no one will ever escape the power of death… We proclaim a simple but profound truth today:

Jesus did (escape).  He came back.  He broke through death. Our good and loving God raised him from the dead… this is our hope… the message Jesus told us to share…It’s a message important for us to share… for it is really good news… for us… now… as we face the power of death in our world… it is good news for our family and friends and all who are gripped by that power… It is the news that brings comfort to us… and speaks of God’s intention for us and the world… which is the hope into which we live.[1]

That’s the hope that Grace, the daughter of Alicia was trying to share in the Good wife as she watches her mom deal with the death of Will… Grace is the believer in the family… Alicia is the skeptic… the atheist. Still, Grace does her best… she tries to comfort and reassure her Mom that Will is in heaven. But Alicia doesn’t buy it… but Grace keeps insisting that he is there. “You think God is good, “ Alicia Says, “but I see no good here. A kid picked up a gun and started shooting. It was a stupid accident.” “But how is it better if there’s no God,” Grace asks. “Not better,” Alicia says, “just truer…

A friend of mine heard a similar real world conversation among two bright mentors who were attending a funeral of a mutual friend… Both good and ethical people.

One was not a believer in the resurrection.  As the other shared his grief with his friend, he expressed his hope in the power of Resurrection over death. And the other said, quietly, slowly, honestly, “you just want it to be true.” To which his friend said with gentle force, “It is a fact that I want this news to be true. But a thing is not inherently false, simply… because it is good news.”

My friend commented:

 “Because we want something to be true… that doesn’t therefore make it false. All good news, is not ipso facto,  only wishful thinking. It is cynicism to say all hope is doubtful merely because it is glad hope.” [2]

Being cynical does not make something truer. It is simply a choice someone makes… it is their belief… as it were. Christians have made a different choice. They have heard the story of resurrection and heard the ring of truth in it.

Many have studied possible explanations – especially as they wonder what it was that gave birth to the early church… what shaped the lives of those early Christians and they have reached this conclusion… that Jesus came back… which changed everything!

Brian Blount described the change this way:  “And the figurative and literal power of Life came back with him. With Jesus, in Jesus, and through Jesus, life is coming hard after Death, and no matter how fast Death runs, Life will catch it and kill it. Even in the midst of literal and figurative death, Life is coming.” [3]

 

That is the message changed the lives of those disciples that gave birth to the church… that gave hope to the first Christians … it is the message that gives energy to those who believe…  and for those who believe it, we are left with this challenge… LIVE LIKE YOU BELIEVE IT.[4]

Live resurrection in the present like you are certain resurrection was not only a past event that happened to Jesus, but a future promise that what happened to Jesus will happen to all of us… that thanks to the resurrection of Jesus… a new heaven and a new earth will be born one day…

Live like you believe the resurrection…

In this age where we are fascinated with death and dying (see any Zombie movies or TV shows lately… how about the show called Resurrection… )… let us claim the Easter message as our own… that God is so good and so loving… and yes, even so powerful… we believe that death is not final…

Live like we believe it.

Every time you see death knocking at the door… fight the good fight of resurrection… every time you see death try to convince you that evil is more powerful than good… driving you to become cynical…

Remember the resurrection and live like you believe it…

When things start going badly in your life… when the world as you know it is falling apart… when you begin to grow cynical about life and politics and the church and society or family and friends… Every time you start buying into the messages feed your cyncism… remember this day… this day of resurrection and live as if you believe it!

And if we were to live like we believe in resurrection, how might we be living? How might it look?

Well to paraphrase a friend, I’m thinking that if we lived like we believed in resurrection, our lives would look something like this:  

Our priorities might change…as they did for the first followers…
We’d give up some things and take up some other things
Repentance would be more forthcoming…
If we were to live like we believe in resurrection:
-a courageous step would be taken
-some wounds healed a bit
-some passions shifted
-some renewed
-a truth might be spoken….in love
-some money would be spent differently
-minutes, leading to hours, spent differently
-some things would be left undone
-some friendships reconnected
-smiles might be forthcoming
-we might laugh more
-and cry more too, but likely together
-some hopes kindled
-some dreams encouraged
-forgiveness could grow
-generosity flow
-justice could find an advocate
-a new energy could spring up
-invitations extended
-a welcome offered [5]

If we lived our lives like we believe this message… Our lives would reflect peace, hope, love and joy… even in the midst of death and despair…

In the church if we we lived like we believed in resurrection… then we’d be willing to take more risks…we would find energy for ministry…

And, get this,  we might let some ministries or programs die as all programs die sooner or later… but we’d let them die, because we are not afraid of death…  because we believe in resurrection… and if some ministry dies, something new might arise for a new day.

If the church lived like we believe in resurrection, we would see in every mission and ministry an opportunity to bring hope to the hopeless…

Imagine a church that actually lived like we believed in resurrection… there would be no stopping that church. The early church believed in resurrection and the odds were stacked much higher against them.. and look what happened!

Today, on this wonderful Easter Sunday, let us live into the hope of the day… let us remember that while death may seem to have its day… what we have witnessed in Christ, is that Life keeps coming back… and that this is the life we are called to live…

Do you remember the James Bond movie, “Skyfall?”  In the midst of one of the many fights, Bond falls over a cliff and is presumed dead. Somehow, we don’t know how, he appears again in some tropical spot…depressed, battling alcoholism, his life is a wreck. Then he is called upon to pull himself together (so he can save the world once again). He comes face to face with the villain of the movie who tries to make Bond his partner in crime (a dealer of death)… The villain talks about how they could commit any crime they want: destabilize multi-national corporations, shut down orbiting satellites, rig an election to the highest bidder.

 “Well,” Bond replies with disgust,
“I suppose we all have our hobbies.”
To which the arch villain asks,
“What’s your hobby, Mr. Bond?’
To which Bond answers,
“Resurrection.”

Let us say, resurrection is not only our hobby… it is our business… it is our calling… to live as people of faith, hope and love… to wage our own war on death wherever we find it…  So let us declare on this day that Jesus Christ is Risen, he is risen indeed… and let’s live like we believe it! Amen.

 

[1] Paraphrase from Brian Blount in his book, “Invasion of the Dead”

[2] John DeBevoise, Palma Ceia Presbyterian April newsletter.

[3] P 76, Invasion of the Dead, Preaching Resurrection by Brian Blount

[4] This key phrase is one used by Brian Blount, ibid.

[5] Adapted from facebook message from John DeBevoise

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