Friday, April 13, 2012
More Than a Feeling
Sermon preached Easter Sunday April 6, 2012
Texts: I Corinthians 15:3-11; Mark 16:1-8
So a week or so ago I went to check our church web site and received a warning – “the web site might be infected.” Thinking that this might be some kind of mistake I tried another internet browser whose warning was starker – big red circle with a subtraction sign inside. Just to really check it out, I tried to get to our site on my home computer, and my anti-virus would not even let me go there. WARNING - Yikes. Just before Easter and a web site issue. Thankfully, we were able to get the site cleaned out, though some problems still may need work.
Warnings. Here are a few for you (Power Point slide show - see photos below).
Warning. Maybe Easter should come with a warning sign. WARNING: You may never be the same again. WARNING: The same power that raised Jesus wants to work in you. WARNING: God wants to mess with your life.
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” Ordinary events – grieving after a death, the sun rising, concern about heavy lifting. The women wished to perfume Jesus perhaps like we perfume our sanctuary on Easter morning with lilies. And what happens? The stone is rolled away and a young man in a white robe is sitting there. “And they were alarmed.” The young man speaks: “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here.” So they fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone.
WARNING: With God around, an ordinary morning can be filled with alarm, amazement, maybe even terror. God wants to mess with your life. But there is a bit of wry humor in Mark’s gospel. “They said nothing to anyone.” Yet here is their story. You know what - somebody told! These women had their lives changed that morning, and they could not keep it a secret forever. Those listening to Mark’s Gospel, probably Gentile Christians who knew of the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans and who may have been experiencing some of the persecution of Nero themselves, those first hearers of Mark’s gospel had had their lives changed because the story continued to be told.
One of the most popular movies in current release is The Hunger Games. It is a futuristic story about a nation called Panem. There are echoes of imperial Rome in the story. Annually in Panem, each of the outlying 12 districts must send a young man and a young woman to compete in a contest called “The Hunger Game” – a contest to the death with only one survivor/winner. Reflecting with the producer of the games, Panem’s president says: Why do we have a winner? Hope. It is the only thing stronger than fear. A little hope is effective, a lot of hope is dangerous. A spark is fine, as long as it is contained.
WARNING: Easter is about hope, a lot of hope, hope that is more than a feeling. Hope as a feeling is important and it matters. Feeling a little hopeful makes the day a little brighter. Feeling a little hopeful means we may try something a bit new – a new restaurant, a new book, a new music group, a new hobby. “I hope I like this.” Sometimes we are disappointed, but there are other foods, books, movies, music, hobbies. The Twins season opened on Friday, and one of the announcers said that opening day is the most hopeful day of the baseball season. I hope the Twins have a better year this year, but if it isn’t so good, well it won’t devastate me.
Easter hope is something different, something more, more than a feeling – and those of you hoping to hear the Boston song this morning will be disappointed. Easter hope is hope as a wild energy that changes our lives, a wind that blows in our lives and carries us to new places and in new directions, a fire that burns hot and bright, illuminating the world in new ways and burning away the dross. Easter hope can take an ordinary morning and leave us amazed and astonished and maybe even momentarily speechless. Just when we think we have Jesus all nicely wrapped up and perfumed, we find that he is not exactly where we thought, exactly what we thought, exactly who we thought.
Paul experienced a living Jesus, a risen Christ in his life. He believes his experience of this risen, living Jesus was just like that of the first disciples. This experience changed him profoundly. “By the grace of God I am what I am, and God’s grace has not been in vain.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wanted in his life to follow the risen Christ. It moved him from teacher and theologian in a state Church in Germany, to working in opposition to the Hitler government. For his opposition, Bonhoeffer was arrested and eventually executed by the Nazis. In his book Discipleship, Bonhoeffer wrote about following Jesus, and living with the wild energy of hope. Where will the call of discipleship lead those who follow it? What decisions and painful separations will it entail? We must take this question to him who alone knows the answer. Only Jesus Christ, who bids us follow him, knows where the path will lead. But we know that it will be a path of mercy beyond measure. Discipleship is joy. (40)
Christ is risen. Christ is alive. The wild energy of hope has been unleashed. The winds of the Spirit are blowing. The fires of the Spirit have been ignited. WARNING – this could change your life. This we also know – the way of Easter, the way of Jesus, the way of the wild energy of hope, is a way of joy.
Writer Anne Lamott has been changed by the risen Christ, by the energy of hope that is Easter. Easter is profound, she writes. Easter says that love is more powerful than death; bigger than the dark…. Darkness is our context, and Easter’s context: without it, you couldn’t see the light. Hope is not about proving. It’s about choosing to believe this one thing, that love is bigger than any grim, bleak [stuff] anyone can throw at us. (Plan B, 268, 275)
Easter is about hope that is more than a feeling. It is about hope that trusts that love is strong and beautiful. It is about a hope that produces joy. It is about hope that is a wild energy, a wild ride, trying to follow Jesus and the way of Jesus, knowing that when we get too perfumey about him, he has gone someplace else and invites us to follow in astonishment and amazement.
Easter should come with warning signs. WARNING: THERE IS A LOT OF HOPE HERE AND A LOT OF HOPE CAN BE DANGEROUS. WARNING: WINDS OF THE SPIRIT BLOWING HERE. WARNING: GOD WANTS TO MESS WITH YOUR LIFE.
Knowing this, maybe you should have stayed away. Unless…
Unless there is an ache in your heart for something more, a yearning to be something more.
Unless, unless there is a pain, a wound, a grief in your life that needs penetrating healing.
Unless, unless you feel discouraged, weary down to your bones, weary down to your soul.
Unless, unless you feel all alone, with no direction home, like a complete unknown.
Unless, unless you seek forgiveness and have found it hard to come by.
Unless, unless there are patterns in your life that need breaking so that you can be free to love and grow and flourish.
Unless, unless you’ve been tempted to give up searching for a better world and give in to cynicism.
Unless, unless you’re puzzled by the human condition, capable of such beauty and tenderness and kindness and such horror and cruelty and brutality.
Unless, that is, you need a hope that is more than a feeling, a hope that is a wild energy, a whirlwind, a blazing fire, a hope that says that love is stronger than any grim, bleak stuff anyone can throw at us, a hope rooted in a God who long ago surprised, amazed, astonished three women going to check on their dead friends grave. He has been raised; he is not here. They were speechless, but only for a while.
I love serendipity, coincidences that are sheer grace. Early this week I was listening to some music. A group of musicians have set some Woody Guthrie lyrics to music and released a CD entitled “New Multitudes.” The first song contained these lyrics. Don’t let any earthly calamity knock your dreamer and hoping machine out of order. That’s Easter, a hope that is more than a feeling, a hope that changes everything, even if over time, a hope that keeps on even if calamity strikes, a hope that keeps your dreamer and hoping machine in order. Let that hope into your soul and you can never be sure exactly where its wild energy may take you. You’ve been warned, but let hope and the God of hope in anyway. Christ is risen. Amen.