Easter sermon: Shiny and New

empty tomb grave clothes

Texts used – Isaiah 65:17-25 and Luke 24:1-12

  • We love new things, don’t we?
    • New phone, computer, or tablet
      • Figuring out all the different features
      • Finding favorite new programs/apps
      • Comparing it with your previous device
        • Faster
        • Sleeker
        • (hopefully) easier to use
    • New car
      • Researching best option for yourself
        • Mileage?
        • Passenger capacity?
        • Fuel economy?
        • Options – leather seats, sun roof, towing capability, etc.
      • Driving that new car for the first time (either brand new or new to you … doesn’t matter) → never prouder than driving my 1st car (total junker!)
      • Learning about all the different features
        • Where’s my windshield wiper switch?
        • How do I change the clock?
        • Pre-setting the radio buttons
        • Etc.
    • New pair of shoes
      • Showing off the way they look
      • Getting used to the way they feel
      • Keeping them clean and shiny
    • Today, we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The stone is rolled away. The tomb is empty. Christ is Risen! Hallelujah! – task today: find the “shiny and new” in this ancient story, in these words that we have heard so many times before
  • “Resurrection” = literally: rising again = new life – text: Suddenly, two men were standing beside them in gleaming bright clothes. The women were frightened and bowed their faces toward the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He isn’t here, but has been raised.”[1]
    • “He isn’t here, but has been raised.” What?! Pretty incredible new thing right there! Resurrection. – only been done by Jesus up to this point
      • Lazarus
      • Little girl
      • And Jesus had to be present for those. He had to play an active part – calling Lazarus out of his tomb, taking the little girls hands and instructing her to get up. And Jesus couldn’t stand there and call himself out of the grave.
      • Introduces a whole new world
        • World in which death no longer has the final say
        • World in which God’s love and grace are stronger than anything that try to keep us in the dark
        • World in which a risen Savior reaches down to raise us up with God
          • Paul in Romans: I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created.[2]
  • In the face of this awareness, we need to hear our Old Testament passage in a new light.
    • Call to action
    • Call to discipleship
    • Call to do and to dare for the sake of our radical and resurrected God
    • Text: Look! I’m creating a new heaven and a new earth: past events won’t be remembered; they won’t come to mind. Be glad and rejoice forever in what I’m creating, because I’m creating Jerusalem as a joy and her people as a source of gladness.[3]
      • Acknowledge: We often read it as pertaining to Jesus’ resurrection – that new and crazy-amazing thing that God did by raising Jesus from the dead and enfolding us in pure, irrevocable, undeniable, undeserved, and unconditional grace. And that’s definitely true. In that glorious act of resurrection, God did indeed do a new thing. God did indeed create a new heaven and a new earth – wiping away all those past events that kept us at arm’s length and enfolding us in glad rejoicing forevermore. Alleluia!
    • BUT … I want you to notice something in this text. Did God say, “I have created a new heaven and a new earth?” Like it was something that God had already done? Did God say, “I will create a new heaven and a new earth?” Like it’s a one-time-only future event that requires a save-the-date and an RSVP? No. God said, “I am creating a new heaven and a new earth.” Am. Creating. This is a continuing action – something that God has done and is doing and will do – this new and crazy-amazing thing just keeps coming. And friends, this is where we come in.
      • Often speak of being “the hands and feet of God” in church (pertaining to mission works) – This … is that!
        • Paul in 2nd letter to Corinthians: So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived![4]
    • Is passage speaks of what that new heaven and new earth will be like: No one will ever hear the sound of weeping or crying again. No more will babies live only a few days, or the old fail to live out their days … They won’t build for others to live in, nor plant for others to eat. … They won’t labor in vain, nor bear children to a world of horrors[5] → Friends, this new heaven and new earth is a place of justice and equality. It is a place where those who have more than enough share with those who have need. It’s a place where an honest day’s work earns an honest wage (those who build houses live in them, those who work in the fields reap the benefits). It’s a place where no more children will be born “to a world of horrors” – the horrors of war, starvation, human trafficking, abuse, neglect, preventable diseases, and so much more.
  • New thing is not always an easy or comfortable thing – messengers in gospel reading (to the women): “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” = “Why are you looking in the ‘ordinary’ place for one who has always been extraordinary?” → Like the women, we still have a tendency to look for Jesus in all the ordinary places … the familiar places … the expected places. We often forget or neglect to look for Jesus in the difficult and uncomfortable places:
    • Poor and underprivileged places
    • Desperate and demoralized places
    • Oppressed and violent places
    • Hopeless and fearful places
    • Ailing and afflicted places
    • All of those places that we hesitate to go … all of those places that we would rather ignore, gloss over, forget about. But we forget just how truly radical Jesus was – how he broke barriers, toppled traditions, and upended presumptions; how he spent all his time with exactly the people he was “supposed to” avoid – the sinners, the foreigners, the outcasts, the women. That is the Jesus who was raised from the dead. That is our Resurrected Savior. And that is where Jesus is, even today. That is where Jesus continues to be in all his grace-filled, love-filled, resurrected glory: with the sinners, the foreigners, the outcasts, the women … with those whom society continues to forget, to neglect, to push to the side and hide away.
      • With refugees and immigrants
      • With single parents struggling to make ends meet
      • With the homeless men/women on the street
      • With those battling illness (physical and mental)
      • E.g. – annual papal foot washing ritual on Maundy Thurs.
        • Tradition = deacons who had helped the pope serve Maundy Thurs. mass → always 12 Catholic men in good standing with the church
        • Pope Francis – allowed “wider representation of the People of God to take place in this ceremony”[6]
          • 2013 = feet of young men and women detainees at juvenile detention center
          • 2014 = people at home for elderly and disabled
          • Last year = 12 prisoners (men and women)
          • This year = 12 Muslim, Hindu, and Christian refugees (men and women)
          • Doesn’t just superficially swipe at them with a damp cloth – pours water over them, pats them dry, then leans down to kiss the feet he has washed
  • I want to share a poem with you this morning.
    • Written by Ann Weems = “Presbyterian poet laureate”
    • Died at age 81 on Mar. 17, 2016
    • Wrote powerful poems for life, for liturgy, for faith
    • In Search of New Resurrections” in Kneeling in Jerusalem[7] → “Where change is possible / new resurrections loom!” We are where change is possible! We are the hands and feet and love of God in this world. We are disciples, sent out just as directly and as urgently as those women were sent that morning, to search among the unexpected for the Risen Savior.
      • Scholar (pastor at First Pres in Charlotte, NC): Once you walk up to the tomb and see it empty with the stone rolled back, the role of a follower of Jesus takes on more significance and urgency. No longer is it time to stand idly by, to observe, to wait, to accept the world the way it is. The knowledge of resurrection impels those who believe to walk the pathway of discipleship. To work. To risk. To challenge. To take up the cross … We are threatened by the resurrection. The old life may not be gone just yet, but it will be. Our new life has begun.[8] → Friends, the tomb is indeed empty. Christ is Risen, and it is a whole new world – a world in which our Resurrecting and Resurrected God continues to create new works for justice and peace every minute of every day … through us. Our new life has indeed begun. Alleluia! Amen.

[1] Lk 24:4b-6a.

[2] Rom 8:38-39.

[3] Is 65:17-18.

[4] 2 Cor 5:17.

[5] Is 65:19b-20a, 22a, 23a.

[6] “Holy Thursday Mandatum,” from the January 2016 newsletter of the Committee on Divine Worship, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/liturgical-year/triduum/holy-thursday-mandatum.cfm. Accessed Mar. 27, 2016.

[7] Ann Weems. “In Search of New Resurrections” in Kneeling in Jerusalem: Poetry for Lent and Easter. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1993), 99-101.

[8] Pendleton B. Peery. “Luke 24:1-12 – Theological Perspective” in Feasting on the Gospels – Luke, vol. 2. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2014), 348.

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