Sunday, April 21, 2019
Resurrection of Our Lord: Easter Day, Year C

Prayer of the Day
God of mercy, we no longer look for Jesus among the dead, for he is alive and has become the Lord of life. Increase in our minds and hearts the risen life we share with Christ, and help us to grow as your people toward the fullness of eternal life with you, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Readings and Psalm
Isaiah 65:17-25  New heavens and a new earth
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
Acts 10:34-43 God raised Jesus on the third day
Luke 24:1-12 The women proclaim the resurrection

Sermon
Title:  Good News for Distracted Celebrants

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

Are you feeling a little distracted?  Is it even a bit difficult to hear good news?  Is the – (I hate to mention these two words) – Is the news cycle (that seems to be peddling at the speed of sound) have you so engaged that there is no “attention band width” left in your brain for anything else?  Is this overloaded cornucopia of distractions affecting your work or your sleep?  Is it dominating the conversation?  Are you even thinking now: “How can we just sit here when there is probably the latest breaking news being reported on hundreds…no, thousands of news outlets?”  Well, we have our own breaking news…

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

But if your distractions are making it hard to take this news in, as good as it may be, as world changing as it may be, know that you are not alone.  Those first hearers of this news were pretty distracted themselves.  Distracted by the images that were seared into their brains from the past few days.  A beloved friend and teacher, a new source of hope, they thought, had been arrested – as they stood helpless, they even run away in fear. Their loving leader, Jesus, was tried and convicted before they could mount a defense.  And, the most traumatizing of images, they watched as he was hung on a cross, humiliated, tortured, and finally dead.  With all that filling their minds and their memories, how did they even get out of bed that morning.  But they did.  You could say they were distracted by the duties they owed him.  And so, they went, pushing past their distractions and despair, and they saw the good news that was beyond belief.

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

But, Jesus had died.  He was laid in that tomb.  The reality of what life had taught them now shaped their expectations.  We will find his body in that tomb.  Because when you are dead you are dead.  Their trauma and their understanding of reality was such a huge distraction, that it took angels to remind them that Jesus, the great teacher, the loving friend, the miracle worker, had offered them a new reality.  He predicted his death, but he also had assured them of his rising.  And with this angelic reminder, we read that the women – the brave women who did not abandon him in death, the women who did not let their own fear distract them from their devotion, the women remembered his words.  Because they had been right there with those 12 disciples when Jesus was teaching.  (Jesus did not let societal limitations distract him from calling everyone to follow.) Speaking of those 12, now 11, they were so distracted by their grief.  Perhaps there was lots of regret mixed in – had they thrown three years of their lives away on, yet another, phony messiah?  Had following him now put them in danger of suffering the same fate as Jesus did?  To them, the women’s witness was an idle tale.  The word that Luke used to connote idle tale is closer to what we say when someone is giving us a lot of fake news.  The disciples told the women that their witness was just so much BS.  They did not believe, that

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

I always find these very human moments, like the disciples’ dismissing of the women’s news as authenticating details to the truth of this story.  Wouldn’t they and the early church want to show these early leaders of the Jesus movement in a more positive light?  Wouldn’t they have wanted to tell the story:  “Yes, he rose from the dead and we were right there to greet him.  It was fabulous.”  But the church, with its divine mission and yet very human leadership, has always been distracted.  We hear it in Peter’s sermon that is our second reading this morning.  Even in that first generation of followers, having witnessed the radical welcome that Jesus practiced while on earth, eating with those considered unclean and outcasts; those first leaders were still distracted by their own tendencies to judge and categorize.  It took the Holy Spirit shaking Peter out of his sight-narrowing distraction to preach the words “God shows no partiality.”  And it has been taking the church 2,000 years, and still counting, still working, still wrestling, to put Peter’s witness and words into practice.  Whether race, gender, emotional orientation, or any other judgment or category that might distract our human minds, God shows no partiality, and neither can God’s church.  The church’s mission is to proclaim, without distraction, the good news that…

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

So, what is distracting you this morning?  Are you thinking about walls? Well, hear the good news, the risen Christ is breaking down walls.  The wall of sin that separates us from God is destroyed.  The wall the separates life and death is shattered.  Hear the psalmist sing it out: “The gates are swung open.”  The cornerstone that is Jesus our Savior and our Guiding Lord is rejected by the wall builders.  On him, a home, a dwelling for all is built.

Perhaps you are distracted by so much talk about collusion.  Hear the good news, in Jesus, God  builds a new and just alliance with creation.  Not to damage or destroy, but to renew and restore.  The prophet Isaiah promises it, the risen Christ makes it happen. With this new life that is shared with us in the resurrection, we are included in the kingdom of God in which truth, justice, mercy, peace, are the ruling values.  Generations will live in peace.  Enemies with feast with each other, not on one another.  There is even healthcare for all in God’s kingdom.

Perhaps you are distracted by who will be sitting on the Throne of Iron, uniting seven kingdoms in the end?  (Don’t worry.  No spoilers here.  I haven’t watched any of the new season.)  Hear the good news, the risen Christ not only sits on the Throne of Life uniting all of creation, but he shares this victory with us.  This is only the beginning.  Perhaps you are distracted with thoughts of the end game?  Christ has our end game covered, so we can live today, in fearlessness and peace, we can live as Christ’s people.  Whatever your distraction, set your sights on the life centering news that

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

Friends in Christ, this is the good news announced today for the living of every day.  Whatever the distractions of this world, whether profound and frivolous, challenging or easy, God raises Christ so that we might face all things with the comfort and joy that nothing will separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our risen Savior.  The stone is rolled away, the walls are knocked down, the welcome is extended, the inclusion is complete.  By the grace of God, through the risen Christ, and by the work of the Holy Spirit, we are full citizens of God’s kingdom.  It is a peace-filled kingdom that we are called to work on behalf of today, in spite of the distractions of this world.  It is the peace-filled kingdom that we will dwell in forever.  We know this because, distracted though we may be, we stand at the empty tomb, shouting…

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

The Rev Mark Erson,
Pastor

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