Written by Pastor Ed
A Day for Fools
April 1, 2018 Easter
I Cor. 15: 1-11
John 20: 1-18
Let me begin with a quote I have been pondering for several weeks now since I first read it.
“Holy Week should make a difference, but it won’t make a difference if all we do is insist on how important it is or should be. The result will only be a circular contention — Holy Week is important because it’s Holy Week; and Holy Week is important. Few will be convinced by such petitions.
Why? Because the core of the Christian faith cannot, should not, and will not be believed. What we preach flies in the face of truth, of power, of all earthly principles and authorities. What we have dedicated our lives to is something that a good portion of the world sees as, at the very least, uncomfortably outside believability and at worst, crazy. No wonder we default to explanation. No one will believe us. No one should believe us. And maybe that’s what we need to remember. Acknowledge the offense. Recognize the resistance. Preach into the discomfort, disillusion, and disappointment.” (Karoline Lewis@workingpreacher.org)
Today is a rather rare occurrence with Easter falling on April 1, otherwise known as April Fool’s Day. And, as it turns out, I also choose this day as my last official day as a pastor, not an April Fool’s joke. For the past almost 42 years, I have been preaching and retelling again and again the stories of this past week and the resurrection accounts as we read today.
But what if it is all an April Fool? As Karoline Lewis points out, particularly in our society today, speaking about someone rising from the dead makes about as much sense as all the other superhero stories we read or see in the movies. I have probably mentioned before that several years ago we went to hear the Calgary Symphony and Orchestra perform St. Matthew’s Passion, a wonderful telling of the Holy Week story. And afterward someone in the audience remarked that the music was good, but they couldn’t figure out the story at all. What was it all about?
It was hard enough for those first disciples, the women and Peter and the others, to believe. They had some evidence right there in front of them, and still they couldn’t figure it out until later. Ad even when Mary met Jesus, it was hard for her to believe, even with Jesus standing right there. So is it any wonder that other people had, and have trouble believing? What distinguishes this story from any other we might believe, like the Easter bunny or Santa Claus?
And perhaps the only response is the one given by Paul to the Corinthians and that is to say “I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received.” If you really stop and think about it, the Easter story is rather unbelievable, and yet it is a story that has been handed down from generation to generation for almost 2000 years. And it is a story that has been confirmed by Jesus appearing to Mary, to Peter and the other apostles, and so on and so on through the centuries.
And that’s what we have to go on – what we have heard and seen and experienced. It’s the change in people’s lives, the breaking down of barriers, the restoring of relationships, the courage to face changes and walk through the really tough places in life. Jesus shows up in all those unexpected places, through unexpected people and at times when we feel the most alone. And every time that happens, the resurrection becomes real again and again.
I can’t stand up here and tell you amazing stories of dramatic changes in someone’s life, or of miracles that I can attest to. Sometimes the road is long and hard and there are set-backs along the way. Sometimes the results of something we do isn’t known until years later. There’s nothing that says life will be easy just because we believe in the resurrection. Tragedy happens to all persons alike, we know that all too well.
If we try to convince someone of the resurrection logically, or explain theologically what the events of Holy Week mean, you really won’t get very far. All people have to do is look around and wonder why things are so bad in the world if what we say is true. And just as Karoline Lewis said about Holy Week, we can’t just say it’s important because it’s in the Bible and the Bible is important. That only works if you already believe the Bible is important.
But I am convinced, and have seen over the years, the importance of that faith which comes from knowing that death does not have the last word, that the story in the gospels doesn’t end with Friday and the cross but continues to the third day and the resurrection. And that means the story is ongoing, even to today and into the future. It’s the story we will keep telling and retelling, passing it on from generation to generation because Jesus will continue to make his appearance in our lives.
As Paul says if you read a bit further in I Corinthians, if Jesus only died, then we don’t have much to go on. The story ends and we are left in our sins with little hope for the future. But, as unlikely as it may seem, we believe that Christ was raised from the dead and therefore we have a hope that goes beyond this present life and our current circumstances. Having that hope means that we can live a different kind of life than if we had no hope. It means we needn’t fear the future, we needn’t fear even death and that is the most freeing of all.
We can talk about lots of other things when it comes to our Christian life, and I certainly have over the years. Theologians write books to explain the meaning of it all, just a Paul wrote his letters to the churchs, or the writer of Hebrews worked to explain Christ’s death and resurrection to the early church. But it boils down to some very fundamental things, the most important of which we celebrate today. Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again!. “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 15: 57)
God of life,
in you, death has no power.
Because of you, this life is not our final end.
It feels good to celebrate new life,
yours and ours.
We long to throw off the heavy blankets of winter
and bask in the sun.
We confess that, just as some folks would like to skip winter,
there are times when we want to skip the whole crucifixion story
and jump straight to the resurrection.
And yet there are other times when death feels more real than life.
When we see an empty tomb,
it is easy to despair,
and it seems futile to hope.
We hear stories of people who claim to have seen you alive;
we want to believe, but struggle.
Forgive us for not recognizing you,
for doubting our fellow believers,
and for trying to hold you back.
May we say with the Psalmist,
The Lord is my strength and my might;
he has become my salvation.
As we bring to a close this Holy Week, as well as this chapter in our lives together, we want to share together in affirming our faith just as Jesus shared with his disciples. In the sharing of the bread and the cup we proclaim Christ’s death, we celebrate his resurrection, and we look forward to that final banquet spoken of in Revelation, the marriage feast of the lamb.
Today we are going to partake a bit differently than our normal practice. I will invite you to come to the front via the centre aisle to receive the bread and cup. You will receive the bread, and will eat it immediately, and then you can go either way to one of the deacons to receive the cup and then return to your seats via the side aisles.