Practice Resurrection

Lessons for Easter Day (Year B): Acts 10:34-43; Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Mark 16:1-8

“You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here.”

What a glorious statement. John poses it this way, “Whom are you looking for?” Luke asks the question, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” And Matthew, “He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said.”

All of them in their own ways make the claim – Jesus Christ is risen today. And in the claim we have the essential meaning of the Christian life – the very heart of our journey – the center of our story. Jesus has been raised.

Do you remember the comic strip Calvin & Hobbs about the young boy and his tiger? Calvin once a conversation with his stuffed tiger that went like this:

Calvin:     “Why do you think we’re here?”
Hobbes:   “‘Cause we walked here.”
Calvin:     “No, I mean, here on earth.”
Hobbes:   “’Cause earth can support life.”
Calvin:     No, no, I mean, why do we exist?
Hobbes:   “’Cause we were born.”
Calvin:     “Forget it.”

And Calvin gives up.

“You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here…go, tell his disciples and Peter…”

American intellectual, farmer, and poet Wendell Berry once wrote:

…friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
…Practice resurrection.

 “Practice resurrection” is wonderfully splendid phrase. It is quite captivating. Imagine what could be if we all practiced resurrection.

It seems to me that most of us are longing for the practice of resurrection in our lives. Perhaps you are. Maybe you are the widow whose husband has just died – perhaps too young or perhaps after a lifetime of marriage. Maybe you are the young person just trying to fit in. Maybe you are a man in midlife trying to find and start a new career. Maybe you have a friend in depression or a body racked with cancer. Maybe you are a young couple struggling to raise children. Wherever you are, are you longing for something different – longing for newness – longing for just a simple expression of the practice of resurrection?

On that first Easter morning, those faithful women who arrived at the tomb needed to practice resurrection. They went to the tomb in order to attend to Jesus’ body but the tomb was empty.  They went to the tomb as a last, loving service to their Lord and Rabbi who they loved so very much. They were there at his agonizing death when all the men had fled, save John. And then Joseph arrived with the body and they had the hasty burial. The women came with myrrh, spices, and perfumes to do what was right. Their beloved Jesus was dead. The least that they could do was to perform this one final act of love.

But when they reached the tomb there was amazement. This was the place of their deepest loss. This was the place of their darkest fear. This was the very place that held the death of their Lord.  And yet what did they find:

Nothing. Nobody. No body. No Death. 

Christ is risen! The Lord is risen, indeed!  Amen.

“You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here…go, tell his disciples and Peter…”

And there was angel to remind them of what he had said. But perhaps it was more than a reminder. Perhaps it was also a prodding. Perhaps it was just the prodding the Mary needed to go and practice resurrection.

She would go. She would go and proclaim: He is risen! Christ was raised from the dead and so Mary’s part must change. She is no longer merely the dutiful disciples who lovingly performed the rites for the dead. No, now she is apostle. Now she is the apostle to the apostles, bearing witness to the living Jesus, to the risen Lord. Fearful and frightened though she was, she would proclaim and the others would proclaim: God’s life is stronger than death.  God’s love is more powerful than hate.  God’s peace is more potent than any human violence.

And so they practiced resurrection. “I have seen the Lord!” They were perhaps a little slow to comprehend. But they would comprehend when they too began to practice resurrection.  In short order, together with those women, this frightened and cowering group would become the courageous core of apostles who would transform the world.

Friends, it is simple (though not simplistic): The good news of Easter is that Jesus, who was crucified, died, and was buried, has been raised from the dead. And this resurrection changes everything – nigh, it is everything. Death does not have the final say. Death is not the final power. No, Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. Pardon and peace, joy and hope, love and life are the final realities of the world. It is complete!

Christ is risen! The Lord is risen, indeed!  Amen.

But good news of Easter does not end with “He is risen!” It continues with a power and might that can transform our lives and our world as well. But for that transformation and that new life to come here – now – today – we, like Mary and Peter and the others, need to practice resurrection.

Practicing resurrection: It is the story of William Wilberforce as he took on the aristocracy and the merchants to abolish the slave trade in the British Empire. It is the story of Martin de Porres, Dorothy Day, and Mother Teresa of Calcutta as they served the poor even in their own poverty.  It is the story of Martin Luther King Jr., Mohandas Gandhi, Thich Nhat Hanh, and John Paul II in their passive resistance to tyranny. It is the story of Archbishop dom Helder Camara, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Oscar Romero as they died for those they did not know. It is the story of Oscar and Briggetta and so many others who courageously Campaign for Fair Food, fighting to end slavery in America today thus guaranteeing life for all – immigrant and migrant alike.

Practicing resurrection: Friends, it’s the story of you and me as we live out our baptismal covenant. It will be the story of these three children, Melanie, Celmira, and Riley, who will be baptized here this morning. Easter did not happen one morning 2,000 years ago. Easter does not happen just one Sunday in a year. Easter is ongoing. Easter happens over and over again throughout the life of the church and in every day of our lives. Easter is even after the chocolate bunnies have been devoured and when the jelly beans are gone. Easter is when even after the ham has been put away and the eggs have been colored.

Easter is whenever we give hope. Easter is wherever we bring joy. Easter is always in our love. Easter is with every new generation and in each new life as it is proclaimed: “He is alive!”

Is it possible to go into the byways and highways…is is possible to go into our workplaces and marketplaces…is it possible to go to neighbors and strangers, to the popular and the marginalized…is it possible to go to those who seem most unlovable and practice resurrection. Can we, like Mary proclaim: He is alive!?

The promise of Easter is that we can.  We don’t need to look for the dead among the living.  He is alive and because he is the first fruits we can be assured that a similar future awaits us.  The truth of Easter is that the promise of new life doesn’t just await us in the future, but that we are able to live new lives, here and now, by the power of the resurrection.

Christ is risen!  The Lord is risen, indeed!  Alleluia.

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