Easter Sunday, March 23, 2008
Temple Lutheran Church, Havertown, PA
Scripture: Matt 28:1-10
What an extraordinary morning! What a blessing to come together as a community. To gather and celebrate, to sing praises, to shout “Alleluia!”
There’s just one thing, however, that I’ve got warn you about. Some important news that I’ve got to break to you this morning. If you came here looking for Jesus this morning, this might disappoint you quite a bit. If you came here looking for Jesus this morning, you’re in the wrong place. If you came through these doors looking for Jesus this morning, You’re not going to find Jesus. At least not in the way you might have expected.
Now surely, someone in the room is thinking to themselves, “Now wait a second…didn’t Jesus say ‘where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them?’”
Jesus did say that, and I certainly believe it’s true. However…
The surprise of Easter…the good news of Easter…The Gospel of Easter…is that when you walk through the doors of this building, you do not walk into “God’s house”…You walk into God’s empty tomb! Jesus is not here…he is risen! That is why we sing praise! That is why we shout “Alleluia!”
We gather together and rejoice with two women named Mary who came to find Jesus on that incredible morning. Two women named Mary who were equally confused and amazed to hear the words “Jesus is not here…he has been raised as he said. Come, see the place where he lay…then go quickly and tell his disciples ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee.’” Jesus is not here this morning…Jesus is risen! We are disciples hearing this unexpected news.
Even as we gather here and rejoice, Jesus is already on his way out the door. Jesus is already moving as fast as possible out of this building…this tomb, and out into the world that God loves.
Jesus is already going ahead of us to Galilee. Jesus has gone ahead of us to to Havertown, Upper Darby, Wynnewood, Lansdowne, Philadelphia. Jesus has gone ahead of us into all the world.
Jesus has gone ahead of us…to find the poor, the homeless…and serve them.
Jesus has gone ahead of us…to visit the sick, the lonely…and love them.
Jesus has gone ahead of us…to places of violence…to bring a better way.
Jesus has gone ahead of us…to places of conflict…to bring forgiveness.
Jesus has gone ahead of us…to places where people suffer…to bring hope.
Jesus has gone ahead of us to Galilee…and we are to meet him there.
To say that Jesus has “gone ahead” implies that we are invited to follow. As we go out into the world, we see Jesus there. Easter is not just about all of us coming IN through these doors this morning. Easter is more about the trip you will take OUT through these doors. Jesus didn’t rise from the dead so that we could go to church. Jesus rose from the dead so that we could be the church.
“Church” is not somewhere we go to find Jesus. “Church” is what we become as we follow Jesus into the world. “Church” is what we become as we build God’s kingdom in the world. As we pray “Your kingdom come, your will be done…on EARTH as in heaven.”
We are the Church. We are The Body of Christ, and the body of Christ cannot…MUST NOT… be contained in this building. This building can’t contain the Body of Christ any more that the stone that was rolled away from the tomb.
As you go out through these doors, you don’t leave the church. As you go out through these doors, you become the church. You become the body of Christ. You become the good news of Easter.
Jesus has gone ahead of us. Now it is our time to follow. To be the Church. To go into the world and meet Jesus there.
Like the two women named Mary, we leave the tomb “with fear and great joy”.
There’s plenty to fear. If we go out into the world, there might be people out there. And they might have needs. And they might be suffering. And you might have to have a relationship with them. And you might have to love them. You might have to forgive them. And that might not be quick and easy.
We go out through these doors with fear because we know that the world we go out into is full of problems, whether it be that one person we don’t understand or the problems of our society or our world that seem huge beyond compare.
We go out with fear, but also with great joy! We go out with great joy because we know the one who has gone before us. We know the one who is risen from the dead that we might also have new life. We know the one who came to create God’s kingdom. We go out with fear and great joy because the news that Jesus is risen changes everything! We know the challenge of our mission, but we also know Christ. We know that the tomb is empty & Jesus has gone ahead of us into the world.
Now comes the time to follow. Now comes the time to be the Body of Christ. Now comes the time to build God’s kingdom. Now comes the time to rejoice and shout the Good news of Easter
Alleluia, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed…Alleluia!