Easter Sunday 2017
Happy Easter everyone! So happy to have everyone here, especially if you are new or a guest with us today, welcome.
I always love this time of year. Who doesn’t like a good Easter egg hunt, and I don’t know about anyone else, but at least my son was very excited about the Easter bunny.
Yes, eggs and bunnies. Although, I am the only one who got a little screwed up by this connection when they were a kid. Bunny and eggs... I like legitimately thought that bunny’s laid eggs until I definitely too old to still be believing that.
On top of that, I love today because I feel like once we get to Easter we have fully stepped into the spring. We have left behind the brown snow, the salty sidewalks, we have left behind lawn chairs lining our streets to save spots in the snow. We have now hit spring. Although with this being Chicago, I probably shouldn’t say that too confidently.
Well, here at BLV we celebrate Easter as communities like ours have done for centuries. This weekend we build in an annual rhythm of remembering Jesus Death, as we did on Good Friday and celebrating his resurrection, as we do today on Easter. And the wisdom behind this annual rhythm is deep, life-giving, life-changing even, in the best way -- we hope you experience this today being with us...
Let’s begin with the traditional Easter passage of Jesus’ resurrection.
Reading from the Gospel of Matthew, one of the four Biographies of Jesus.
Starting in chapter 28 verse 1.
Matthew 28 1 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. 2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. 5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” 8 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
Slide And so on friday we were invited to remember Christ Crucified, to stop and acknowledge that we are finite and that we are limited people, that often make mistakes, fail, fall short, act in ways that injure ourselves, injure others, injure the world around us, both through our action and inaction. and we also acknowledge all the injustice, violence, oppression, exploitation, and evil we see in the world. All of this both personal and societal is what Bible would call Sin.
We were invited to consider that on that day Jesus died, he took all of that tragic pain and brokenness of history and took it with himself to the grave And today we’re invited to remember Christ Resurrected in which all of that pain and failure and suffering is received, loved, and transformed by an All-Caring God. The cross is the banner of the hurt we do to one another and to ourselves. The resurrection is the banner of what God does to us in return.
THIS is the good news of Jesus... it says: God's character is NOT mysterious -- we do not have to wonder whether he is terrible or arbitrary or only good if we buy him off with religious behavior or ritual -- Jesus shows us God has a consistent character and that character is caring, loving, and invested in human flourishing -- invested to the point of self-sacrifice on its behalf -- God can not be more invested
And that investment pays dividends! It is not merely a kind sentiment. There is power to back it up. God’s self sacrificial love shown in Jesus is so powerful that (as it’s really beautifully captured by the writer of the Bible’s book of Acts) “death could not hold it”
You know, our church exists to make known this good news about what God is really like, and to see it affect people, to heal people, open people up to more, to empower people to step into all they’re meant to be, to help people in their very real challenges, to pull people out of small, isolated lives and into something bigger than themselves -- the big story of life that all of history is telling -- what Jesus called “the Kingdom of God”
And the whole reason I am here, the reason I got into all this, became a pastor, is because of what I have experienced, because of how I have found Jesus to be good news in my life.
And not like, I experienced it once in the past, but... I still experience it today. I keep on finding Jesus to be good news.
Two days ago we gathered for a time of reflection, music, and Prayer for Good Friday And I personally found myself coming to terms with my own failures and shortcomings. The things in my life that I do or leave undone that don’t serve me. Again, what the Bible would call sin. I used that space at our Good Friday gathering to acknowledge all the reality of this sin in my life, and in that space of prayer, it was as if I handed over all of that to God. I thought of my life over this last year and I began to hand over all of the things in my life that I regret, all poor decisions I have made, I handed over all the ways I have injured myself and others, not lived up to the man I want to be or the man or I feel God calling me to be, I handed over all the things that are my fault, and I handed over all the pain and heartbreak I have felt, things that have been done to me, ways I feel as if have been wronged, I handed over my disappointment with world around me, I handed it over to Jesus And I found Jesus taking it all away, and although this all happened inside of me, it somehow felt concrete, tangible, real. That all the ways I fail, and in all of the ways the world fails me. It felt as if Jesus was bringing it with him into death. Removing it from this world And in return I felt freedom. Like he was telling me that I didn’t have to make it all ok, I didn’t have to make up for all I have done, or left undone, or avenge the wrongs done to me. Rather he would take it all and that my redemption would be found in him, not in myself. And with that promise I come here today on Easter where we celebrate Jesus resurrection. And I recognize the resurrection that I feel in my life. I come here today believing and feeling as if I am loved and even more than that, I am worthy of being loved.
I come here today, with the sense that I am not alone in this world That I am fully accepted and belong. I come here today, with the hope and belief that God will continue to be with me, and continue to bring freedom, healing, redemption... resurrection to my life. And can I tell you, that feels good. I feel more, somehow… resilient, hopeful, at peace.
Slide So today we celebrate Easter, We celebrate the risen Jesus who reveals to us the heart of a good God—a God who teaches love rather than hate, forgiveness rather than blame.
Consider for a second Jesus' encounters with his disciples following his Resurrection. He comes to the circle of followers with whom he had spent three years, the people closest to him, who in his greatest time of need they rejected, betrayed and abandoned him. Following his Resurrection Jesus has the opportunity to chastise them. And yet, in all four Gospel accounts of we see that Jesus neither berates nor blames his disciples. Indeed, Peter, the disciple who had betrayed him three times, is restored by being given three chances to say, "I love you".
In the risen Jesus we see the heart of a good God revealed. We have a God whose power is not shown by dominance but by grace. We have a God who breathes forgiveness. The whole biblical tradition has been moving to this moment where God is identified with forgiveness.
The Resurrection of Jesus tells us that there is no victory through domination. There is no such thing as triumph by force. By his life, death and resurrection Jesus stops the cycle of dominating power. A power that seeks to change things from the top down, from the outside in. Instead, Jesus invites us to relational or spiritual power, where we are not just changed but transformed. And not transformed from the top down but from the bottom up, not from the outside in but from the inside out. In Jesus we see God, the One who is eternally compassionate and eternally joyous, who stands with us in our sufferings and our joys.
I think we all long for resurrection in our lives in some way, shape or form. Maye in a relationship, or in an area of our own shortcoming or failure, the loss of a dream, or maybe it’s just the desire for life to be more, fuller in some way.
This time each year we gather around the conviction that the our brokenness is not finally what is most real and true. We gather around the conviction that God has not given up on the world, and that this world matters.
Each year we celebrate that Jesus was resurrected, but we also celebrate the continued aliveness of Jesus today, that there is resurrection on the table for us right here, right now.
Dying to ways that are not life-giving for ourselves, others, and rising to ways that are. By simply coming before Jesus and asking for his help, healing, and company
The way we help and teach people to experience God here at Brown Line is by every Sunday giving practical suggestions as to how to pray and live out faith, and then encouraging us all to simply pay attention… pay attention for God to respond in kind, to validate the choices you make to try to connect with him or to try to step into the life he calls us to -- by enriching and deepening your experience of life, by filling you with purpose and hope and joy.
So I want to end with an excerpt from Catholic scholar, Richard Rohr's book Immortal Diamond that gives examples of ways that we can participate in the resurrection, daily, now:
Twelve ways to die to that which robs us from the life we desire, and rise to a life that is deeper and fuller If any of these capture you, speak to you, spark something within you. I encourage you to go out this week and try it. And then simply pay attention -- I think you’ll find the reward is not just that these behaviors are attractive in themselves… I think you’ll find the God of resurrection personally validating your choices to live these out.
Refuse negativity: Refuse to identify with negative, blaming, antagonistic, or fearful thoughts (you cannot stop ‘‘having’’ them). I’m Sorry: Apologize when you hurt another person or situation. Resit Lies: Do not indulge or believe the lies we come to believe about ourselves. The little things that whisper in our minds that hold us back from the life you desire. Connect with God: Choose some act that opens up the possibility for connection with God. Prayer, meditation, contemplation. The Power of Positivity: Do not simply stop at admitting your mistakes but look to make some sort of positive action towards making yourself, the world, and the lives of others better Look Within: Always seek to change yourself before trying to change others. Do For Others: Choose as much as possible to serve rather than be served. Common Good: Whenever possible, seek the common good over your mere private good. Look After Others: Give preference to those in pain, excluded, or disabled in any way. Justice: Seek just systems and policies over mere charity. Your Voice: Speak up for justice, peace, hope, speak for those who can’t speak for themselves L-O-V-E: Never doubt that it is all about love in the end
Well, in moment I will pray, and we will enter into a time of singing and prayer. Something that spiritual communities have done for centuries. And I invite you to engage in that time in whatever way feels best to you. Maybe it is singing along and dancing. Maybe it is just sitting back and letting the music hit you. And, as we are doing that we will have a team of people in the back who would love to pray with you, It can be a really meaningful thing to have somebody else pray along with you. And I have found that God tends to show up in surprising and powerful ways when I have asked someone else to pray for me. It’s a safe and good group of people, no one is going to make you feel uncomfortable or give you unasked for advice.
And I also want to encourage anyone here who is feeling the need for resurrection in their own life. Or feeling the desire to connect with this Good God we have in Jesus, Or maybe as I described my experience of Good Friday, you found yourself wanting that. I encourage you during this time of singing and prayer, to ask God for it. I would even suggest that you have someone on our prayer team pray with you about that. And maybe for you it’s for the first time, or the 100th time, But, I believe the freedom, healing, acceptance, restoration God offers is very real and on the table today. In fact on Easter, it’s kind of what today is all about.
So if you will stand with me