Resurrection = Seeing + Knowing

Sermon for the Resurrection of Our Lord + Easter 2011

Seeing and knowing in the name of Jesus… the connection is striking, a back and forth shifting, like some kind of holy tennis volley…

  • The Marys know Jesus is dead and go to see the tomb. 
  • The Guards know something earth shaking has happened see the angel and are frozen in fear.
  • The Marys see the angel but still don’t know what is going on.
  • The angel knows and tells the Marys that Jesus has been raised and then says come and see the place where he had been. 
  • The Marys now know Jesus is alive are told to go and tell the disciples that they can see him in Galilee. 
  • The Marys leave quickly with fear and great joy and suddenly, they see Jesus who tells them “do not be afraid tell the disciple to go to Galilee where they will see me.”       
  • The Marys now know and can proclaim the good news of the resurrection because they have seen the Lord!

And we who gather this Resurrection Day know even believe that Jesus the Christ died, was buried, that the stone of death was rolled away and now on this day He lives. But next Sunday, often called “low Sunday,” fewer of us who know and believe will not be here…    their once a year excitement and celebration of the resurrection will have faded like the blooms of many Easter flowers. For while they, and perhaps you, know that Jesus was raised, you may not see the resurrection in your life today, or any day for that matter.

Wait a minute Pastor Bill some of you might be thinking, we will have marked the resurrection, read and sung about it, Easter is like Christmas, we open the tomb and the presents and then take down the cross and tree, toss out the poinsettias and lilies with the wrapping paper and empty candy wrappers… we still know all about the birth, death and resurrection.

Ah, know yes, but we celebrate Easter for fifty days, singing the joyful songs, hearing the story of the good news shared, celebrated, doubted, experienced and seen. Resurrection, the thing that God did 2,000 years ago, and God does each day to remind us that the one we follow, Jesus, is with us, walking, guiding, comforting and leading us each day and for eternity.

Jesus, through the faces, hands and actions of others, is leading us in love to new life, a new way of living, a resurrection way of living. Jesus was and is seen often before he is known as those first century disciples and we twenty-first century ones, experience the enlivening power of the Risen One in the face of the killing power of empires and evil, forces of death and destruction, and all that kills our world and our hearts. 

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What could God do through people who don’t know the resurrection as just some historical event, but see it as a real, living and personal experience? When we see ourselves as bursting out from that tomb with Christ, we see the resurrection as a fresh start, new life, each and every moment of our lives. If we experience resurrection day every day, our lives are changed forever. The tomb for us becomes a womb of all things that God makes new.

Thankfully Jesus is alive, Jesus has left the tomb, Jesus has left the building, Jesus is on the loose in the world through you and through me.

  • We Christ followers who know this are all over the world. 
  • We Christ followers gather this day to celebrate the risen Christ who died for our sins and triumphed over death. 
  • We Christ followers sing Alleluias and rejoice because we have hope, we have forgiveness, and we have life and love with our Lord forever.

We Christ followers live with hope filled resurrected hearts today… so why is it that on the other 364 days of the year, we live as if we don’t know or haven’t seen resurrection? Our hope filled hearts come crashing down as quickly as Easter candy charged children. We somehow always seem to roll the stone of sin and guilt back, covering and crushing the hope and happiness of this day.

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But Pastor Bill some may be thinking, of course we can’t be as charged up as we are now, fully caffeinated on coffee and chocolate bunnies… The shine of our Easter morning will wear off when the weariness of our real lives rears its ugly head. And it is that ugly reality of our un-caffeinated lives that reflects our sinful nature and our need for the light and love of God which breaks at the dawn of each day, at the washing of our baptismal promise, at the breaking of the bread and drinking of the wine.

We need to see and experience resurrection each day because of the dark reality of our nature and self-centered lives. We see and experience the light and love of God when we confess our dark nature and self centeredness. We see and experience the light and love of God in communities of believers who share our struggle and support one another by sharing and reflecting the light and love of Christ.

Luther reflected on the resurrection with these words:

As the sun makes the day, so also does the radiance from Christ stream into all believing hearts and is at the same time in them all. As many eyes can see perfectly the rays of the sun, though there is only one sun, and as everyone has this ray perfectly, and all of them have it together, so it is also with Christ. We have him [Jesus] altogether, and yet each has him [Jesus] in his [their] own heart. When he [Jesus] comes he lightens and rules us all through one faith. Then the falsehood disappears and the heart rightly sees God’s Word and work. There is then [through resurrection] a new world, a new people, and a new light.

The good news we hear today is all about “knowing and seeing.” We are all invited to enter in to the resurrection story and see… the empty tomb, the excitement of the women, the sense of sharing the news that Jesus lives, he has left the tomb, is on the loose in the world. They reach out to you who know to see… 

  • See that how in reality Jesus lives through each of us.
  • See how people of faith don’t need to ask “what would Jesus do” but rather look to see what Jesus is doing in their lives through those who reflect his light and love. 
  • See how serving our neighbor is both a way to see Jesus in the face of our neighbor while we reflect his light and love as he first loved us.

The problem with knowing about the resurrection is that it clouds our ability to see it. We try to keep Jesus contained in our knowing heads instead of looking and listening for him in our lives, in the lives of those around us and in the communities we are a part of. B.B. Taylor reminds us that “We cannot nail Him down. We tried once but he got loose.”

Resurrection happens every day in spite of our inability to see it. Through the act of continual forgiveness granted to us through God’s grace nailed to the cross, emptied from the tomb, risen from the dead, we are reborn new, a forgiven, resurrected people because of the new life God gives us daily. And as Paul Tillich points out, “The new life would not really be new life if it did not come from the complete end of the old life.”

I invite you this Easter season, to listen and hear, look and know, taste and see that while our sins kill us, God’s forgiveness makes us alive again. Jesus is risen this resurrection day so that you and I can know and see resurrection each and every day. Alleluia! Amen!

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