Sunday, April 8, 2007

Do you believe this?

Easter Sunday of the Lord's Resurrection:
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There is a story of a Muslim in Africa who became a Christian and some of his friends asked him, “Why have you done such a thing?” He answered, “Well, its like this: Suppose you were going down the road and suddenly the road forked in two directions. You didn’t know which way to go; and there at the fork were two men – one dead, and one alive – which one would you ask to show you the way?”
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This Easter message that we gather to celebrate today; this message of God’s great triumph over sin and death in Jesus is one that our world needs to hear more today than perhaps ever before. We look around our world and we see war, terrorism, death, disease, increasing poverty, division, separation, faithlessness and we wonder how can this ever change? The answer to that question lies in what we celebrate this Easter morning.
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We celebrate today Jesus resurrection from the dead. God has done the impossible. When all was thought lost. When all we could see was the man we thought was our Savior and Our Lord, dead on the cross, it looked like the end. And then, God did was seemed impossible. Where there was nothing but death, He brought life. Jesus was raised from the dead, as He said and He brought to us all eternal life.
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There is something very interesting happening in our Gospel today. We hear different things about the Resurrection. First, Mary of Magdala shows up at the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus, but He is not there. She ran to Simon Peter and then he and another of the disciples went to the tomb. They were confused and did not know what to make of the fact that Jesus wasn’t there. Our Gospel tells us that, “they did not yet understand…that He had to rise from the dead.”
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But, what is interesting is that on this day of celebrating the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, we don’t actually ever hear about what happened to Jesus at the moment of the resurrection. Instead, we hear about the followers of Jesus and how they experienced His resurrection. And not just today, as we go through the Easter season our readings will be focused on the life of the early church as it came to understand and experience what this would all mean. Paul instructs his followers that joined to Christ, they must now live in a new way. They must purge themselves from their former way of living. They were on the very threshold of newness. A new life opened up before them and they were invited to step in.
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And so are we today. We gather today on the very precipice of newness of life. Our Scriptures try today to draw us in. The Scriptures ask us: Do you believe this? Do you believe that Jesus is risen from the dead! And believing, what will you do? What effect will that have on your life? Just like the man in our story, we find ourselves at a fork in the road – one way offers us death, the other way, newness of life – which will you choose? God can conquer all of the sin, war, violence, terror, hatred, poverty, hunger in our world – if we choose Him. If we choose His Way.
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We are so often like the early followers. We all know the Easter story well, but we don’t always grasp its full meaning in our lives. Like them, we often continue to live burdened with our dashed hopes and with our misunderstandings of God’s mysterious power. Like them, we come to the tomb expecting to find death, but instead we find signs of a new life that we cannot even begin to comprehend. Like them, we don’t realize that our lives have been broken open and are now filled with the resurrected presence of Jesus. We are called today to recognize that the tomb is really empty because Jesus has in fact risen! Death has been swallowed up by life!
For the Christian, death is not the end of the story. There is one more chapter and it is the most important chapter. It’s the chapter entitled, “What’s next.” Jesus is risen. He is vindicated. His enemies are shamed and confused. He is the Lord who will prevail over all humankind. For us this is good news.
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It is good news to know that Truth is immortal. We can suppress Truth, accuse it of being a lie, condemn it, torture it, kill it, bury it in the grave but on the third day Truth will rise again. Remember this and do not give up on Truth even when everybody seems to give up on it. Do not give up on Truth; do not give up on Justice. Do not give up on doing what is right. The Truth will always be true. Justice will always be just. Right will always be right even when the world around us would have it otherwise. We must believe in the sun even when it is not shining, knowing that it will shine again.
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It is the end of the story that counts. That is why the church asks us today to rejoice and be glad. Even when we are going through very difficult times; even when the enemy seems to be winning the battle in our lives. Today, Christ has won. And we know that in Christ we win with Him. Do you believe this? Then, which way will you choose?
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Alleluia! And, may God give you peace!

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