Sunday, April 20, 2014

Why are you here?

Sermon for Easter First Service, Sunday, April 20, 2014.

    A simple question.  Why are you here?  What do you want? Whom do you seek?  But the answers are complicated.  It is Easter.  We always go to church on Easter.  We are here seeking relief from our sorrows.  We are the lost seeking a way.  We are the sad seeking joy.  We are the fearful seeking peace.  Is Christ here for us?  Can He give us all we need?
    Mary Magdalene came like we come today.  She was trying to put the pieces of her life back together after the death of her friend Jesus.  She was searching for consolation after seeing her hopes and dreams go down to defeat (we thought He was the Christ).  She was there because every death only leaves us with the painful reminder of our loneliness and weakness – the death that stole Jesus would one day steal her own life.
    We are not so different.  We age.  We have health problems. We suffer the death of loved ones.  We stare into the face of our own mortality.  We face all sorts and kinds of uncertainties in our pursuit of the eternal.  We are the broken who come like Mary of old, seeking to be made whole.
    She found no answers.  There was no magic in the garden of the tomb.  There was no miracle pill to make troubles go away.  There was no fountain of youth to preserve this moment.
Mary did not find any of the answers she was looking for and I fear we will likewise go home empty handed.  But Mary did find Jesus.  And that is the one promise I can make to you.  Jesus Christ, our risen Lord, is here.
    Jesus is not a memory from the past seeking to be rekindled but the dawn of a bold and new future in which death is not what we think it and neither is life.  Jesus is not some ghost to haunt us with a future as real as a wisp of smoke disappears into the air but the triumphant Lord who will not be touched except on His terms.  Jesus is here.  Not the possibility of life after death but the fact of the resurrection from the dead, with our Lord as the first born of those who will follow Him.
    Mary did not recognize Jesus because she was so focused on her questions.  When she saw Jesus, when she heard the sound of His voice, and when she realized He was not dead but death was, her questions disappeared.  There was only Jesus left.  Not the answer she was expecting but the only real answer worth having to all the troubles, trials, questions, and doubts of this mortal life.
    We come to God with the pieces of our lives hoping He can fix them.  He refuses to paste together our broken hopes and dreams.  Christ will not bandaid our life into the same weakness and vulnerabilities.  He gives us a radical new life.
    He is risen so that we shall not die.  That is the shock of the empty tomb.  The past is not our consolation.  The present is not our glory.  But the future is our hope.  Christ has prepared a place for us and a time for us.  He has come to embrace the broken, the questioning, the sorrowful, and the fearful.  The life He lived and the death He died were for us.  But no less is the resurrection for us.  Here is our hope.
    So today we come like Mary of old.  We are so preoccupied with our wounds and worries that we often do not even recognize the sound of His voice speaking through His Word.  The answers we seek are not here but Christ is.  In Him, we find, like Mary, that nothing else matters.      Our witness to the world is not that all your doubts and fears will find answers but that Christ is here, crucified and risen, and that He is all we need.  Forgiveness for our sins, love that compels us, new birth in the waters of baptism, heaven's food in the Eucharist, and life stronger than death.  We have seen the Lord and that is the only thing that matters.  Amen.

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