An Easter sermon preached at St. Francis by the Lake, Canyon Lake, TX The lectionary readings for Easter are here.
Alleluia, Christ is Risen!
<The Lord is Risen, Indeed! Alleluia>
Oh, good, you remembered! And although each Sunday we celebrated the Resurrection of our Lord, today, Easter Sunday, we remember the very first Easter.
Do you remember when we put away our ‘alleluias’ at the beginning of Lent?
We have new alleluia this morning! A little brighter and shinier than the ones we packed away. Take one and pass them along. Alleluias are to be shared!
Do you remember what I said when we gathered them up in the purple box way back at the beginning of Lent? Although we never stop praising God for his gracious goodness toward us, through the season of Lent we suspend saying alleluia so that we can take it up again refreshed and new so we don’t take either our praise or God’s goodness for granted. We suspend saying it for a season so that when we resume, it’s a bit shinier and brighter than before, enabling us to better remember why we say it to begin with.
This Greek word for remember, ‘mnaomai’ is more than just a factual recollection, it is being mindful of past events, bringing “past actions to bear on the present, with new power and insight,” letting what happened before shape who we are and what we do now. It isn’t getting stuck in the past or wishing things would ‘go back to normal’ or even an unrealistic romanticization of ‘the good old days’ but an understanding that we are shaped by our past as we inhabit the present and move forward into what is to come.
Whenever God instructs his people to observe a festival it is to ‘remember’, remember what God has done, remember who they are as God’s people so that they can continue to follow God. At his last meal with his friends before his crucifixion, Jesus tells them that whenever they share this meal they are to remember.
When the women, Mary, Mary, Mary, and either Joanna or Salome, depending on the version, went to the tomb that morning to properly prepare Jesus’ body, they forgot to remember what Jesus had told them … until the messengers, angels, remind them: “Remember how he told you!” Remember how he told you! HOW he told you. Not ‘what’ he told you but how.
Imagine yourself in that moment – not just recalling the words but bringing to mind, being mindful of all that Jesus had said and spoken and done and taught! All of their time spent with Jesus comes to them in a completely new way. These women take their new insight – the dawning reality of the resurrection and HOW Jesus had told them – to the men and the first Easter Sermon is preached by the women who had remained close to him through it all. And most of the listeners of this first Easter Sermon don’t ‘remember’. They cannot bring what Jesus had spoken, the miracles they had witnessed, the resurrection of the widow’s son or Lazarus, into their present and let it shape and transform what is to come.
Somehow they are unable to let the joy of the resurrection blend in with the pain and grief of the previous three days; they are unable to see the redemption of the crucifixion in the resurrection. Perhaps they need to remember even further back – to the stories told in their scriptures, the story of the God who has been leading the people through redemption after redemption since the very beginning.
God is the God of Redemption. God takes what we – the whole of the human race – have messed up or done incompletely and redeems it. Redemption isn’t the same as undoing or even re-doing.
God chooses to work with and through humans to further God’s purpose for all of creation. God leads and sometimes pushes us in a redemptive direction, allowing us to learn from our own misdirections so that we can learn to live into the ideal for which God created us. God doesn’t erase what we do but gives us the freedom to learn as we compare the consequences of choosing our own way with the consequences of choosing God’s Way.
God calls us to remember – to remember HOW God was with us from the very beginning, to allow God’s Word and our experiences, and the experiences of our ancestors, both blood and faith ancestors shape and transform who we are as we follow Jesus toward who God calls us to be.
Jesus said he came to fulfill the law not do away with it. The Way of Love that Jesus teaches doesn’t negate the 10 Commandments. The Way of Love shows us how to live the purpose of God’s law – to live on earth as in heaven loving God and our neighbor … and ourselves, just incase some of you need to remember to love yourself.
Jesus tells us how to do this through the parables he teaches, the miracles he performed, the care and compassion he showed for all. He preached how to live as God’s people on earth as in heaven, here and now, in the now and not yet of God’s’ Kingdom. This is the Good News, the Gospel message. Jesus shows us a new way of being human, The Way opened for us by his death and resurrection.
Easter morning doesn’t undo Good Friday. Jesus’ resurrection doesn’t undo his death. His wounds were still visible. The resurrection leads us toward the Kingdom of God on earth, living in this world as God created us to live. Jesus’ human death doesn’t undo his divinity and his resurrection doesn’t undo his humanity. Jesus is fully human and fully divine, in the time he lived on this earth, in the events of his arrest and crucifixion, and in the resurrection we celebrate today and every Sunday as we gather to remember how he told us Whose and who we are.
Life is a blend of sorrow and joy. One does not undo the other. The pain we experience in life isn’t undone by happy events. And our happy moments aren’t erased by the hard times. All that we experience blends together to shape us into the beautiful beloved people of God. Joy redeems sorrow into growth and wisdom and sorrow redeems joy so that it doesn’t become just whitewash.
The Resurrection of Easter redeems the death of Good Friday by revealing the nature of Jesus, fully human and fully divine. Just as Jesus’ divinity and humanness cannot be separated, so his life, death, and resurrection cannot be taken as individual events but a singular movement in the Story of God and God’s people. Neither can we separate our humanness from the image of God in which we are all created. It is only when we live from the image within that we are fully human as God created us to be. And this is the continuous movement of Easter – Easter is the redemption of all of life, to the New Life Jesus calls us to.
This new Way, the Way of Jesus doesn’t undo or erase the pain and sorrow of this world – the pandemic, the war in Ukraine, the destruction of storms, the division in our own country – the strife of this world is all so very real. Jesus gives us a Way to Live in the midst of it all as God’s people, participating with God in the redemption of the world, living each day from the image of God in us, living into the fullness of our humanness as Jesus shows us how to be, a living and active remembrance of Whose and who we are, reminding others Whose and who they are. When we say we believe in the resurrection we are saying yes to God’s new creation, to this new way of being human that Jesus shows us in flesh and blood.
This new way of being human is to recognize the image of God in all people, in ourselves and in every person we encounter through our days, and interacting with them accordingly.
Remember HOW he told you the Good News. Remember the all powerful self-giving love of Jesus. Remember HOW he told us that the love God has for us is the love we are to have for each other. Remember that both the anguish of Good Friday AND the joy of Sunday morning shape and transform us into God’s beloved people, living on earth as in heaven.
Put your sparkly alleluia sticker where it will help you remember every day how Jesus told you of the Good News, how he told you Whose and who you are.
Alleluia, Christ is Risen!