Wednesday, March 30, 2016

How can this be?

Sermon for Easter C (early) preached on Sunday, March 27, 2016.

    So tell me how this could happen.  How could Mary Magdalene fail to recognize Jesus?  How could she have missed His voice, His face, His promise?  Would you have missed it too?
Do we miss still?
    Can it be that we have become so accustomed to death and its reality that we have made our peace with it and do not think much more about it?  Could we as Christians be so caught up in death that we miss Christ and the power of His new life when death comes near us and our loved ones?  Can it be that death is more real to us than the hope we have in Christ, who rose from death to life that we too might rise again?
    Jesus told Mary and all His disciples He would suffer, die, and rise on the third day.  They heard His words but still Mary and the rest of them came to the grave expecting to find Jesus’ limp, dead body.  Death was more real and more powerful to them than the hope of life.  Life stronger than death was too surprising to be taken seriously.
    They had made peace with death and used their grief to try to soften the blow.  They consoled themselves with their memories, salved the wounds of His death with their attention to the details of His burial, and tried to memorialize Jesus’ life.
    But Christ refuses to allow death to steal our attention, to rob us of our hope, to leave us with only memories, details, and monuments.  Christ came to offer life stronger than death.
    He is risen to give us hope in the face of death.  We cannot walk to the graves of our loved ones as people ignorant of hope and captive to fear.  Christians still grieve but not as those with out hope.  No, we grieve differently because we take Christ’s life as seriously as we take the death of our loved ones.
    Christians refuse to make peace with death, to call it natural, or to be left with mere memories.  When death comes near we claim only that which God has promised. Life; life stronger than death. Life filled with the surprise of hope & grace
    Christ came to save us from our celebrations of life in funeral homes, from merely sharing funny stories to make us feel better, from being consoled that the dead lived either a well lived life or at least a long one.  Christ died to steal death’s thunder and we dare not give it back to death.  We were born again for something more than a past.  We have a future.
    God will give you what you want.  If all you want is today, if all you desire are memories, and if you believe that however long your life is, it is enough for you.  God will leave you with just that - with the comfort of memories and a future of only eternal death.  And it will be as if you never lived at all.
    But, if this is not enough for you.  You have hope today. Christ is risen.  Christ has come to give you more – the surprise of life, the promise of life without death, and the eternal future prepared for you from before the foundation of the world.  God has given you hope that does not make peace but casts away its doom with the hopeful anticipation of our own resurrection and our own eternal life in Christ.
    What was Mary thinking when she failed to see Jesus risen from the dead?  What were you thinking when you did the same thing?  Since the fall, death is expected and eternal life is the surprise.  But the challenge for us as Christians is to see that the surprise of eternal life is even more real than death.  When we lay our loved ones into the death and when we too shall be buried, we know that Christ will reach into the earth and raise us up together with all believers to everlasting life.  This is most certainly true.  Christ is risen!

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