Search This Blog

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The WOW! of Faith

Easter Sunday
May the joy of the empty tomb, the blessings of the risen Christ, and the wonder of the Easter mystery be with you, that daily renewal in the promise and power of Jesus Christ to transform your days and your nights and remain with you always. Amen.
            Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
            WOW! Happy Easter! Today is an AMAZING DAY! It truly is the day that the Lord has made! Let us REJOICE and be GLAD in it!
Okay, so I can tell that for some of you, that’s way too much exuberance to be shared, and IN CHURCH of all places, even if it is Easter Sunday!
Excitement in worship is a little uncomfortable for some of us. It’s a little un-Lutheran-like. It’s not very refined or sophisticated. It’s as though the eleventh commandment should be “thou shalt not laugh, clap, cheer, dance, or shout in worship.” Yet, when you think about it, what better place to express over-the-top joy and excitement than in church, and on Easter Sunday no less?!
How did it come to be that so many of us learned that along with folding our hands to pray, bowing our heads and following along in our bulletins, faithfully singing the same songs we have always sung, that church should be all about minding our Ps and Qs and sharing only the most restrained responses to prayers? Today I invite you to let go and let loose with joyful shouts and gleeful alleluias. For Christ is risen! Alleluia! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
What better place to share an entire range of emotion as we fully engage in the story of our faith and build up our witness to the spectrum of our lives as Jesus followers and witnesses. It is together as community in Christ that we laugh and cry, celebrate and mourn, dance and kneel, bearing witness to the presence of God in the entirety of our human experience, through Jesus.
God loves us as we are – silly, giddy with excitement on a day like today, sometimes serious, sometimes sad or reflective, sometimes doubting or searching. Jesus embraces it all. God gave us a wide range of emotion to help us truly experience life and enjoy our relationships and share our lives with one another.
A full range of emotion has been shared in the Holy Week story we’ve heard about in just this past week, and the last three days, in particular.  
Just a week ago, Jesus was honored and acclaimed as he entered Jerusalem on the back of a colt, an event we recalled on Palm Sunday.
During the course of the past three days, Jesus shared a meal one last time with his disciples, giving them the command to love and to serve, and leaving them with a lasting remembrance in the Lord’s Supper, which he instituted at that Last Supper.
Jesus bore fear and dread to the Garden where he prayed, was arrested, beaten, tried, convicted, sentenced to die. Jesus carried his cross to Golgotha, where he was hung like a common criminal. He was laid in the tomb. And on what we now know of as Easter morning, in came the women, disciples and friends of his. 
Whether you have journeyed through Lent, step by step preparing for this day, or find yourself drawn to the majesty and tradition of Easter alone, the excitement of this day is a shared experience. So it is by Christ’s invitation, and so it has been for thousands of years.
It is an invitation to new and everlasting life through Jesus Christ. This is the WOW of our faith.
The Good News of this day is that it is for everyone. – WOW! Christ came that all might have new life, eternal life, abundant and true life, and Jesus accomplishes this for us all through his resurrection from the dead. FANTASTIC!
Today we feed on the Good News of this resurrection.  And yet, it is news that is met with amazement, and not just a little bit of doubt.
For many of us, the story brings confusion, not clarity. Like the disciples who first heard the claim of the women who excited came to tell them all that has happened, there are times when we wonder, if Jesus really is the incarnation of God, why did he have to die? If he really did die, then how did the resurrection happen? Why does the story at the center of our faith seem so outrageously fanciful?
The Gospel says that when the women came rushing back and went into that room where the disciples were holed up, sharing their story of an open, empty tomb, and talking angels who reminded them of Jesus’ predictions and then shared a message, the disciples did not respond, “WOW!” or “THAT’S AMAZING!” or “ALLELUIA!”
The disciples thought the women’s story was nothing but an idle tale; Made up or imagined by hysterical women. So you could say there is good precedent for our doubt; even the disciples struggled with this story! They didn’t expect it. They didn’t understand it, and wrapped in grief and fear, the witness of the women was easier to deny than to accept.
But something struck Peter. While he had his doubts, they were mitigated by just a smidgen of curiosity or remembrance – and hope. And so Peter made his way to the tomb. In fact, he ran to see for himself just what had occurred. When he saw what he saw, or rather, didn’t see, he ran back to the others in excitement, amazed by what had happened.
The truth is that many of us hang out in that place located between belief and disbelief. As post-enlightenment generations labeled Great, Baby Boomer, X, Y, or Z, faith is a challenge to our sensibilities. As post-Enlightenment Christians, we like our faith to be tangible, practical, and most of all rational. But there is nothing tangible, practical, or rational in the resurrection story, is there?
The resurrection calls us from our old belief in death to new belief in life.
We get death. We see it all around us, in stark images and sorrowful experiences. Resurrection? Not so much. It is not within the scope of our experience on this side of the cross. Like the disciples we remain wrapped in grief and fear – and doubt. And yet, my friends, while Easter is perplexing, and to believe in the resurrection is not easy, today we are invited to do just that.
To believe in the resurrection takes a lot of faith and courage. In the place of the bad news that surrounds us, stories of death and destruction, bombs and terrorists, floods and disease, hunger and drought, to cling to hope takes a lot of faith and courage.
In the midst of our struggles and failures, the bad news we hear and the bad experiences we have, the Easter story invites us to believe that none of that will have the last word, because Jesus indeed broke the bonds of death and overcame the power of the tomb to hold him. Such belief shines new light and new life in the midst of our doubt and fear. It is this kind of new life that causes us to exclaim Alleluia! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Easter raises us up above the chaos of our world  because of the sustaining power of God, who brings life out of death and reconciliation out of conflict.
Opening the door to belief in the power of the resurrection and the victory of Jesus over death opens the door to new life for all the world. New life in the power of the resurrection leads to acts of love and reconciliation for the world. Easter marks the beginning of a new creation.
Today, we follow in the footsteps of Peter. We have heard the rumor that Jesus is alive and to see for ourselves; “What if it is true? What if death is real, but not final? What if Jesus truly does have the last word over death? What if Jesus is not merely past but present? What if Jesus were to meet me here? What would life be like then?” Life would be – WOW!
Easter continues far beyond the beautiful music and flowers and prayers of Easter Sunday. It is celebrated every Sunday when we come together as community; it is at work in every instance of healing and forgiveness and reconciliation; we can see it in every sign of new life around us.
As the Body of Christ, we remember and celebrate this mysterious, miraculous resurrection every time we come together at the Eucharistic table, where we meet Jesus once again and are fed with his body and blood – WOW – given and shed for loving and serving and sharing and proclaiming the Good News of resurrection life. PRAISE BE TO GOD!
The only appropriate response to such a gift is an enthusiastic, no-holds-barred, exclamation of WOW! ALLELUIA! AMEN!
It is that exclamation that I hope you can embrace and shout out whenever you come to receive communion. When you hear the words spoken to you, “the body of Christ, given for you,” I hope your response can reflect over-the-top excitement and gratitude for this Easter day - WOW! AWESOME! AMEN! Or PRAISE BE TO GOD! Let this space ring out with your joy and gratitude.
For Christ is risen from the dead! Alleluia! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

No comments:

Post a Comment