Thursday, March 31, 2016

Easter Sunday, 2016

Easter Sunday 2016c
Trinity Lutheran Church (NALC), East Flat Rock, North Carolina
Luke 24:1-11

A man was driving along the highway when all of a sudden the Easter Bunny hopped across the road and jumped right in front of his car. He couldn’t help it and he hit the rabbit: eggs and candy went flying everywhere.
          He pulled over and felt terrible.  A woman driving by stopped to asked what was wrong. The man said, "I accidentally killed the Easter Bunny!”  The woman told him not to worry. She knew exactly what to do.  She went to the trunk of her car, pulled out a spray can, walked over to the Bunny and sprayed the entire contents of the can onto the furry little carcass.
          Miraculously: the Easter Bunny came to back life! It jumped up, picked up the eggs and candy, waved its paw at the two humans and hopped on down the road. 50 yards away the Easter Bunny stopped, turned around, waved and hopped on down the road another 50 yards, turned,  waved, hopped  another 50 yards and waved again!!!!
The man was astonished. He said, "What in the world was in that spray can?" The woman turned the can around so that the man could read the label.  It said: "Hair spray. Restores life to dead hair. Adds permanent wave."
 So, what does this story about the Easter bunny have to do with what we celebrate this morning? Well aside from a rodent being the symbol for the holiest day of the year, it reminds us of the reality of life… and death.  Reality check: there really is no magic spray that can restore life to dead things.  That’s just the way it is: once you’re dead, you’re dead.  It’s always been that way. Temporary life and permanent death are the hallmark of our existence.  Or… are they?  Because the accounts of eyewitnesses some 2000 years ago seem to introduce a new reality, a reality that changes everything.
As Mary Magdalene and the others walked to the tomb that early morning, tears probably rolled down their cheeks.  Three days before they had experienced the mother of all reality checks.  For years they had followed Jesus, watching him heal the sick, watching him feed the hungry, even watching him raise people from the dead. And they’d heard Jesus speak of a new kingdom, of life beyond the limits of this life.
But on that first morning of the week at early dawn, that dream was dead.  They’d seen his body… watched it lowered to the ground with their own eyes. And now as they walked to his tomb to anoint his body for a proper burial, the reality check of inescapable death and separation held them in despair.  They would never see him again… never hear his voice… never again feel his hand tenderly rest on their shoulder.  They shared the grief that had held humankind captive since the dawn of time.
But our God is the God of the New Reality.  When we are most lost, His reality sets us free.
As they came to the garden, the massive stone that had covered the opening to the tomb was rolled away, and when they stooped down to peer inside… there was no body!  And the women were shocked, stunned, who could have done something so mean as to steal the body of Jesus?
But suddenly two angels were there… dressed in clothes that glowed, revealing them as messengers of the Lord Most High.  And those angels asked those women a question: a question that changed everything!
“Why do you seek the living among the dead?”
 It was angels, remember, who proclaimed the birth of the Messiah in the skies over Bethlehem one night, and it was angels now who proclaimed a new reality in that cemetery.
 No longer would the soft tears of the graveside mark a barrier between life and death that could never be broken. No longer would we live and die in a cycle of futility.  Jesus had shattered the grasp of the grave.  “Why do you seek the living among the dead?  He is not here, he has risen!”
Those were the words that changed everything… EVERYthing.  God’s new reality had come.
Some years ago Leadership magazine had a story about a young boy named Philip.  Philip was a special child; Down’s syndrome they called it then.  He attended a Sunday School class for 8 and 9 year olds, and on Easter Sunday his teacher brought a basket of pantyhose containers to the class; the kind that look like plastic eggs.  And she handed out an empty egg to each of the kids and gave them an assignment:  they had 10 minutes to go out in the yard around the church and find something to put in their egg that symbolized new-life in Jesus’ resurrection.  Back in the classroom they’d all gather around and look at the symbols that everyone had collected.
When they got back in the room the eggs were opened one at a time, and all the kids  ‘ooohed and aaahed’ over a cocoon and a flower and all the things they’d found.  Then the teacher opened an egg that was empty.  The kids all began yelling that someone hadn’t done it right.  Little Philip spoke up and said, “That’s my egg; I did so do it right!  It’s empty – just like Jesus’ tomb was empty.”  Silence fell, then all of the kids agreed that Philip did it right after all.
Later that year, Philip fell asleep and didn’t wake up.  At the funeral, the mourners watched as a line of 8 and 9 year old Sunday School children went forward to the coffin… each one gently placing inside a large plastic pantyhose egg… every one of them empty. 
They understood the new reality, you see.  They understood the angel’s words that morning so long ago. “Why do you seek the living among the dead?  He is not here, he has risen!”
Over the years we’ve developed lots of symbols for this day. Colored eggs, pretty flowers, and (of all things) a rabbit!  But even that silly rabbit can point us to God’s new reality that came to us at Easter.
Some years ago someone wrote a book.  It was called “Everything I Need to Know About Life I Learned From the Easter Bunny” and, despite its silly title – it actually had some wisdom in its pages.  Wisdom like   “Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.”  “Everyone needs a friend who is all ears.”  “Keep your paws off of other people’s jelly beans.”  “Some body parts are just meant to be floppy.”  And, oh yeah, “Sometimes things are not as they seem.”
And that is what we celebrate this morning. Things are not as they seem… not as they used to be.  Because the old reality was to stand at a graveside and see an impenetrable wall.  But now we live in a new reality, and the wall has become a door.
“Why do you seek the living among the dead?  He is not here, he has risen!”
And because Christ rose, we who live and die in faith will awaken from our sleep of death and live forever with him.
For He is risen!  (He is risen, indeed!).  And THAT… changes everything.  AMEN

Pastor Mike 2016
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Soli Deo Gloria