Ahead of Us
It's the week after Easter, 2013. My sermon this year was based on one I preached a few years ago, with some changes. This year, it was about 2400 words. Just to see what radical brevity looks like, I've reduced it to about 600 here. Here it is, one fourth the size!
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Easter Ahead of Us
Christ's Resurrection is ahead of despair. It's ahead of power. It's ahead of doubt.
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Matthew tells us that the angel perched on top of the stone he'd rolled away from the tomb, with great satisfaction. There’s no death here,' he said.
The angel’s light filled the still grey dawn before daylight arrived, and put things into a whole new perspective. There was no death there.
Easter tells us that the future is not Godless. It can't be, because Jesus has been raised from the dead and has gone off ahead of us. Little wonder the first words we hear from the angel are, “Do not be afraid.”
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The guards were so confident in the power of the Empire, until the earth moved and the stone was rolled away under their watch. Their bullying turned to confusion. Some of them fled. Some of them ran to their bosses. Not one of them turned listened to the angel or talked to the two Marys.
Not only were the physical and spiritual powers of death too weak to hold Jesus, the political and religious powers couldn’t hold him either.
The message of an angel can change the world.
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The women return to tell them what they’ve seen. They tell them that both the angel and the Risen Christ want them to go up to Galilee where they began their work with Jesus. Jesus will be waiting for them.
They arrive, see Jesus, and worship him. And one of the most telling phrases comes there: “but some doubted" (Matt. 28: 17).
Even we who doubt. . . . Easter comes for us too, ready to accept our questions, ready to let our doubt be, and ready to woo us by a gentler grace than absolute proof.
The Easter story is not an easy story. It would be foolish to pretend it is. We bring faith to it and we also bring questions—not just about its history, but also about what it might mean for us and how ready we are to let it really effect us. Our doubts should be every bit as much a part of Easter as our faith. God meets us in both.
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One of my strongest childhood memories is of being awakened every Easter morning, before dawn, by my father. The world still dark and chilled, a voice coming from somewhere in my slumber bidding me into the wakefulness, a feeling like no feeling felt on any ordinary day.
Earlier than I knew the world even existed.
Earlier than I knew how things were supposed to go.
Earlier than life itself, it seemed.
He would not shake me or speak my name. He would simply speak into my sleeping ears the good news of that day.
“Christ is Risen,” he’d say, until I awoke. I never knew how many times he’d said it before the one that awakened me. I only remembered the one that woke me up.
And as I grew I learned the response: “Christ is risen indeed,” I’d mumble while coming to awareness.
“Halleluiah,” he’d whisper back.
I wonder if I ever received any better Christian education than that.
While the world is dark and still chilled, news comes that awakens us from the slumber of despair, or from the dreams of power, or from the distraction of doubt and fear.
Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed.