March 31, 2013

Today is Easter. I suppose you do not need to be reminded of this fact. The church is entering into 50 days of joy. It begins with 40 days until the Ascension where we celebrate Christ’s presence within the church until the Ascension; then ten more days until Pentecost. It is a ‘high ol’ time’ in the life of the church.

So we have pulled out all the stops. Dr. Hagness has assembled a fine group of musicians to strengthen what was already a fine morning of music. She has been rehearsing, I suppose the feeling will return to her arms sometime about Thursday. The choirs, don’t forget the choirs; they have been rehearsing too. I am thankful that we have so many folks who help lead us in worship. Pastor Johnson has been busy, feverishly attending to all our sick and shut-in that they might have the Eucharist in this season of Lent.

I haven’t really been working very hard, not as hard as the rest. Preaching on Easter Sunday has a rather short list of themes.

From time to time I have had confirmation students and others wonder what they are supposed to do during the sermon. What happens when we get to a day like today when the pastor has to use a bunch of filler to get the whole 15 minutes in. I gave them this suggestion, so as to not waste their time. You might benefit from it.

Everybody whose last name ends in A through F, I want you to think about this: Jesus rose from the dead. That’s your thought. Now take this idea and let it bump up against the happen chance occurrence that somebody came here this morning by accident. This person was simply in town visiting some relatives and when everybody else got up and got in the car they tagged along. The whole idea that someone died – this person also said in advance this would happen, as a sign of sorts – and after three days was alive. This was not one of those Hollywood stories where the lens goes all fuzzy and the story takes some imaginary turn. This person is breakfast on the beach alive and present with those who knew him best. I am asking you to take this thought, Jesus rose from the dead, and consider what it might lead this person to think. Make a list of possibilities.

If your name begins with the letter G through M, here is your thought. Jesus rose from the dead. For this group, I’d like you to consider how this thought might have some effect on those who are here today, not so many days from another day at the graveside. Someone who was near and dear to them has died. Think about how this idea insists that death is not the final word on anything. There was sadness, there always is, but this idea also carries with it another idea, where death might never be the worse thing that could happen to anybody. This is your idea.

Wendell Berry’s poem “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front” inspires me to hear the this idea as an invitation to “practice resurrection.” We practice resurrection when we are open to God’s call to seek life on the other side of death, hope on the other side of despair, and peace on the other side of fear.

Then there are some people who are like The disciples here in the text this morning. So N through S, Think of this idea, Jesus rose from the dead; Peter knew this, saw him like everybody else, and the text says he went home. Let this idea rub up against this reality. For Peter and the rest, this idea eventually meant that being his disciples was not a spectator sport. They went out and served others, widened the circle, shared the good news, and in some cases they had to tell others, but mostly they showed them. You could come and hear this idea, Jesus rose from the dead, alleluia, and all that stuff and get the idea that this was just one more fact to put in the memory bank and then go home. This is what I want you to think about. N through S. Jesus rose from the dead.

Now, for those of you who are T through Z, think about this idea, Jesus rose from the dead. In one of the readings, you might notice that this idea, Jesus rose from the dead, is for everyone. Think about this for a bit. If, during the sermon you begin to find that your mind wanders, focus on this idea that applies to everyone. It is tempting to privatize this idea, to restrict it to people whose faith dots the same ‘I’ and crosses the same ‘t’ as yours does. Let this universal application stretch the idea, Jesus rose from the dead; not just for the eleven and the women who had been hanging around, but for the whole world. Anybody left out? No. Very inclusive, the effect of this idea, Jesus rose from the dead. Think about this idea, in this way, it is for the whole world. No exceptions. The good, the bad, everyone.

These are you assignments, and if you will carry them out I will feel much better about the sermon on this one idea, Jesus rose from the dead. It is something we think about regularly. You do have to consider it. It’s out there, it isn’t new. Its in the public domain. So if somewhere between breaking the bread and the receiving the cup you need something to do, take up that one idea, Jesus rose from the dead.

This idea often lies there unconsidered among everything else that goes on in worship. today it’s all I got. So I hope you will pick it up, turn this idea over in your mind. Think about this, just one thing.

(The structure of this sermon is stolen from a sermon by Rev. Dr. Fred Craddock, “Witnessing to the Resurrection”)

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