PASTOR ROSS EASTER SERMON
Preaching Text – Luke 24:1-12 — But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened
The story of the resurrection of Jesus is a story that has lots of loose ends. Let’s just talk about the big one that is the elephant in the room, shall we? In his narrative about the event that is the CENTRAL PROCLAMATION of the Christian faith … the evangelist, St. Luke offers us a story in which … the most important person in that story … doesn’t … even … show … up. Jesus … is not present in the story of the resurrection on Easter morning. Really, Jesus? … you couldn’t even make a cameo appearance for the sake of the story? Nooooope … there’s nobody here except us disciples. No wonder people doubt the core teaching of the Christian faith … namely that Jesus died … and then came back to life … so that our bodies will be raised in the very same way when the clock of our lives finally stops ticking. Because Jesus … wasn’t …even …there … on Easter morning, when the women discovered the empty tomb. So what does that mean for us, on Easter Sunday 2022 … when we have gathered in Jesus’ name in order to engage in and confirm our core belief in the resurrection of our Lord … which is what this story of the empty tomb is all about. Dare we acknowledge … not just the empty space inside the tomb … but the empty space outside the tomb?
Maybe it doesn’t matter either. After all, the story hasn’t changed for 2000 years. Yet, the Christian faith is still doing quite well. Those who believe in Jesus continue to grow in numbers. Admittedly, most of that growth is in the continents of Africa and in the Pacific Rim countries. But the church is growing, none the less. And when you look at what the church accomplishes, there is much to celebrate.
Christians are often at the heart of benevolent efforts all across the globe … sometimes through institutions and organizations whose mission is to serve those in need … and always through individuals and groups of individuals who reach out in Christian love to those in need. Think for a moment about just a few of the ministries that reach beyond the walls of St. Peter’s in our tiny neck of the woods … Lydia’s Closet serving those in our immediate community by providing basic clothing and personal items that are needed or life. Our support of the Lancaster Food Hub, and their efforts to keep food on the tables of those that cannot consistently provide food for themselves. Consider those who lead our share of the community meal program in town, which seeks to provide a cooked meal for anyone who is in need every day of the year somewhere in Lancaster city. We partner with LOVE Inc and Homes for hope in addressing housing insecurity … we assist persons in the later years of their lives in our support of Luthercare.
When we look to places around the globe, we have had a strong and consistent presence in Busoka Lutheran Church in Tanzania … we offer support to our international ministries of Lutheran World Relief and the World Hunger Appeal … we have sponsored missionaries. And that is a brief story of one church in this tiny neck of the woods. Multiply that by the hundreds of thousands of churches across the globe and the more than 2.4 billion Christians professing their faith in Jesus by serving Jesus’ children around the globe. So the church can take some solace that we have tried to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. But wouldn’t it have been easier if Jesus had made an appearance to the women in today’s empty tomb story on the day that is clearly the most important event that we commemorate in the Christian faith?
Well, on this Easter Sunday of 2022, I’m going to suggest that our answer should be “No … it would not be easier.” Because forty days from this resurrection story of Easter found in the Gospel of Luke that we read from today … we will read the story of Jesus’ ascension into heaven. Forty days … Jesus will walk around on this earth and engaging a few incredibly blessed followers … before returning to the Father in heaven. So our calling to live this Christian life has always been best lived when those of us who “tell this old, old story of Jesus love” do so because of the Spirit of Jesus that lives right here (heart) … NOT because of the bodily Jesus walking around out there. Jesus invites us … dare we say demands of us … to be the incarnation of Christ in the world in OUR OWN flesh and blood.
In short, YOU are called to be Jesus to me, as I am called to be Jesus to you. And you are to share of the love of Jesus with those you meet, just as they are called to share that love with you. Jesus isn’t walking around our world loving and healing and motivating one person at a time … because Jesus has challenged the 2.4 billion Christians in the world to share his love on his behalf. And that is an equal part of the Easter message, as Jesus’ being raised from the dead.
So please consider this Sunday … the call to do more than simply give thanks for the resurrection of our Lord and Savior. Allow Easter Sunday to possess the power God has always intended it to possess. May there be 2.4 billion of us, embodying the resurrected Jesus in our lives … as we strive to live out this calling to be God’s people in the world. For that will make for a very happy Easter.