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Sermons are preached within the context of a particular worship service, and are most meaningful when experienced in that way. We encourage you to view or listen to the entire worship service.
April 17 2022
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
1 Corinthians 15:19-26
Grace and peace to you from our risen Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve shared some stories with you from my colleague, Carrie, who serves as pastor of the English speaking congregation at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem.
For worship on Maundy Thursday, her congregation partnered with the Arabic, Danish, and German-speaking congregations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. After their service, they walked to the Mount of Olives, just above the Garden of Gethsemane, for a candlelight prayer service.
This year, our Good Friday coincided with both Ramadan Friday prayers and the beginning of Passover.
And on that day, Carrie walked the Via Dolorosa with friends and colleagues from the Anglican, Lutheran and Reformed churches. As they walked, they heard booms of stun grenades and rubber bullets in the background. 93 people were injured and hundreds were arrested. She reported that it was a very tense situation.
And then yesterday afternoon, she went to a local baker to buy bread for the sunrise service on the Mount of Olives – which they celebrated this morning.
Sitting here today, it’s easy to romanticize that part of the world and what it must be like to be there during such holy days. But the reality is that there are moments of peace and everyday life woven together with the tension of the world’s major faith traditions, all of whom lay claim to a particular piece of land.
As we hold that reality in mind, we see that it’s an opportunity and an invitation to look for the risen Christ in our midst.
One of the common elements of the resurrection stories in each of the gospels is that no one expects it. Even though Jesus predicted his death and resurrection more than once throughout his ministry, no one shouted “Alleluia” or sounded a trumpet on that first Easter when they heard the good news that God had, in fact, raised Jesus from the dead.
And in Luke’s gospel, when the women told the eleven the good news, they were dismissed outright. The words “idle tale” are a very, very polite translation of what the rest of the disciples thought about what they had to say.
It wasn’t until later that day, when Jesus appeared to them on the road to Emmaus, that the rest of the disciples really started to come around to the truth of the resurrection, and when they did they were amazed – and rightly so. Because to believe in the resurrection of Jesus takes a lot of faith and courage.
No one actually saw Jesus begin to breathe again, or shake off the linen cloth and step out of the tomb.
But the women remembered what he’d told them and they believed. And, eventually, so did the others. And the whole world changed.
But to believe in Jesus’ resurrection is more than saying “yes” to that good news. It also means saying “no” to the death and destruction all around us. And making the claim that God brings life out of death, reconciliation out of conflict, and even hope out of the places of deepest despair.
We know there is violence and destruction in our world in countless places. And at times, it seems like it’s taking over. And, for me at least, it’s really easy to become desensitized to it and push it into the background.
Because there are times when it does feel like too much. And as we give thanks that our part of the world hasn’t known the violence and destruction that other places do, and as we pray that we never do, we’re also scared that it’s just a matter of time before it does happen to us.
There are a lot of loud voices that would have us believe that the only way to live is to constantly look over our shoulders, and expect to see an enemy or monster around every corner.
But to live that way overlooks the fact that, in Jesus, God did a new thing. And as Christians, as people who believe in the resurrection of Jesus, we proclaim that because Christ is risen, he has freed us from any reason to live in fear.
No matter how different we are, we share our humanity with one another. No matter where we land politically, economically, socially, we share our humanity with every person who walks this earth.
Resurrection is an invitation to see our commonalities within our differences, to intentionally look for them. Not to discount them or diminish them, but to notice them and recognize the life that is in them and honor that. Because when we do, we see the risen Christ. And the world changes again.
Jesus’ resurrection gives witness to the fact that there’s another way of being in the world – a way that embodies anything and everything that is life-giving.
As Christians, that’s our claim – our witness – today and every day. It’s a way of living that says “no” to living in fear, and “yes” to living in a way that values, loves, and honors all life.
It’s a way of being that’s so counter-cultural, that so exemplifies life and mercy and compassion, that others can’t help but see it and know that they’ve witnessed the truth of Easter.
When we embody this way of living, we see resurrection in places that we don’t expect to. In the places where it absolutely needs to be. Even in our own lives.
When we embody this way of living we actively love our neighbor, and forgive, and care for people that need help – whatever it might look like, and put the needs of others before our own, and seek to understand people who are different from us.
Living this way isn’t always comfortable. And we don’t always do it perfectly. And it doesn’t mean that we’re never afraid, it just means that we don’t let the fear take over.
Christ’s resurrection changed everything, forever. It shows us that life wins out over death.
And as Christians, as people who believe in the resurrection of Jesus, we proclaim that because Christ is risen – because life wins – he has freed us from every reason to live in fear. That’s our claim – that’s our witness – not just today, but every day. Alleluia! Amen.