TRADITIONAL SERMON Easter Sunday
Darkness and light … it is a rhythm that has always stood at the center of this story. Energy … that we cannot begin to comprehend, fuels the event. Theories, questions and conclusions have arisen around it, even though none of us have ever seen it with our own eyes. And now, finally, I can tell you that we have proof. A verifiable picture has been offered to the public. France A. Córdova calls the event, “a thrilling day.”
Oh … I’m sorry … no, I’m not talking about our resurrection story. My bad … I was referring to the news a little over a week ago, that we now have an actual picture of a black hole. France A. Cordova is not a theologian … he is the Director of the National Science Foundation. Scientists have known that black holes have existed for a long time. Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, developed a hundred years ago, theorized the existence of black holes. The term “black hole” was formally coined in 1967 by American astronomer John Wheeler. It described a region of space that exhibited such strong gravitational pull, that nothing could escape it … not even light … which thus made them rather hard to photograph. And four years later in 1971, the first black hole was discovered.
It is a fascinating story. If you haven’t read about it, you should. The black hole is 55 million light years away from earth, and has a mass that is 6.5 billion times that of the sun in our solar system.
The image of this black hole was achieved through a virtual telescope dish as large as our earth, that was itself created by using a network of eight radio telescopes. As a Christian I covet that level of precision that scientists achieve. But even surrounded by all that data, scientists would tell you that they cannot prove anything, they simply test and retest theories.
Our Easter story is not terribly different. It stands at the heart of our faith … and yet we cannot say for sure what happened that Sunday morning a few decades into the first century of the Common Era. The empty tomb is our own Christian black hole. It is place of tremendous energy … it has been surrounded by lots of theories … and yet there is still a great mystique around it. We have four distinct witnesses to the events that unfolded at the tomb in which Jesus was buried. And they cannot agree on what was said, who said it, which followers were present, what they saw, and what happened in the days following whatever meaning can be drawn from that hot mess of stories. It is extremely frustrating for the Christian who wants to be able to define with precision and surety what occurred, especially on that first day at the tomb when everything changed for us as children of God.
But that is not the way that God works. God has chosen to connect the perfection of God’s own divinity, to the brokenness of our humanity. God has chosen to send us a Son who was sinless, so that in connecting to you and me … people who are filled with sin … God might overcome that sin. God has chosen to send us Jesus so that our lives are better … so that our lives may be seen as pleasing in the eyes of God … so that our lives, broken and sinful as they are, are still loved by our good and gracious God.
C.S. Lewis, the great Christian apologist, once said to a friend in a conversation about their faith lives …
“If you think that I am a lousy Christian, then you ought to see what I would be like if Christ weren’t in my life.~~C.S. Lewis
It is a gentle reprimand from a man who struggled greatly with his own faith, especially early in his life, to not see himself as better than the person next to him.
St. Luke’s Gospel celebrates Jesus’ desire to meet everyone where they are, no matter what their history of circumstance may suggest. As an example, in Luke’s Gospel, we have as unlikely an array of witnesses to Jesus crucifixion and resurrection as you could imagine. We hear about Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, who are the first witnesses to the resurrection. Not Peter … not the disciples … not any of those influential Jewish leaders with whom Jesus crossed paths … but three ordinary women. In the chapter immediately preceding today’s lesson, we read about a foreigner from modern day Libya … a man named Simon of Cyrene, who helped Jesus carry his cross to the hill of Golgatha. Last week, in the reading of our passion narrative, we heard about a criminal who was being crucified with Jesus that came to faith through his brief connection with the Son of God, and also a Roman centurion who proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah at the moment of Jesus’ death. Even one of the members of the Jewish Sanhedrin named Joseph of Arimathea, comes to faith in Jesus, and offers his own tomb for use in Jesus’ burial. Throughout Luke’s Gospel, we read of lepers, tax collectors, and sinners, who come to faith through Jesus, and begin to share in his public ministry.
Criminals, Jews, foreigners, an enemy soldier, foreign women, sinners, the sick, the despised – what an unlikely group with which to start a church … following the death of your leader. But that is exactly what happens according to Luke’s Easter story. That is exactly the way in which God chooses to begin his Easter miracle. God calls his people into service, under the premise that with Christ in their lives, they will be better off than they were before Jesus was made known to them.
And that is our Easter message, too. A proclamation that you are better with Christ in your life, than ou are without him. It doesn’t matter if your life is a broken one … God can work with that … it is God’s preferred canvas for the beautiful painting God makes of your life. And just as God broke open the tomb of death that sought to hold him captive on Easter morning, God promises to break open whatever tomb holds you captive from the future that God envisions for you. Whether it is fear that buries you … or cynicism that entombs you … or pain that walls you off from those you love … in Jesus, you will meet a Savior who