Luke 24:1-12 1 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in, they did not find the body. 4 While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. 5 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!
After this, Luke tells us that when the women told the rest of the disciples, those who had not been there considered their witness to be “an idle tale”. For the past 200 years or so, many who hear the story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection cannot believe it to be anything other than an idle tale. Yet, this is the message we proclaim! Not only do we proclaim it to be true – we insist that somehow this truth impacts our life, as well as all of creation. A pretty bold statement, to be sure. How do we make the connection between Jesus and the needs of a world 2000 years later? Why does this message make a difference?
These are questions the church attempts to answer all of the time, but during the season of Lent, followed by Holy Week (Passion /Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday), we try to tell the story most clearly. Through the readings, the sanctuary art, the hymns of the season help us reflect on these things:
That God’s creation was “very good” and that God had a special role for human kind within creation. This role included being in an intimate, loving and obedient relationship with our Creator.
Stubborn, willful, we decided we could do better on our own, so we wandered off from God, separating ourselves from him. That state of separation is what we in the church call “sin.” Because we live in that separation, our actions and our attitudes often (always?) fall short of God’s intent for us. Guilt drives us even further from our Lord.
This doesn’t sit well with a God who loves us beyond our capacity to comprehend. Refusing to be separated from us, God took on flesh in Jesus Christ, became one of us, submitted to human sin – dying because of that sin -- in order to bridge the gap we ourselves made. We call this gap-bridging, “forgiveness of sins.” This is the good news to which we bear witness, for our own sake, for each others’ sake and for the sake of the world.
But why does this make a difference? A partial answer is this: that when we experience forgiveness on such a divine scale, we are freed from trying to hide our sin from God. All of the energy & effort we have spent covering up our failures, hiding from consequences, justifying our behavior to ourselves and others – is now available for other things! Good things! God pleasing things! Things like: care of creation; seeing to the well being of those who are hungry, homeless or hurting in anyway; proclaiming to others who haven’t heard of God’s forgiving heart, that it is there for them as well. As we are empowered by the Holy Spirit, such things become our privilege, our joyful duty.
Of course, we need to be reminded from time to time, when the cares of the world, even our joyful duties become too large a burden on our hearts. Thus, the gift of worship: God’s gift to us; our gift in response to God. A dance of Holy Joy. So come – come to worship as often as you can to experience the dance. Come to the feast – take the song from this place to those who still long to hear. And, I encourage you to experience the whole story: Begin with the contemplative tones of Lent, followed by the powerful rumblings of thunder and rolling stones of Holy Week. All of this, so that the crescendo of Resurrection explode in our hearts with delight! Then, we’ll be able to declare with all of the hosts of heaven: Christ has risen! He has risen indeed!