Sunday, April 08, 2012

Sermon for Easter Sunday, April 8 2012--"He Is Not Here!"

To begin the sermon time today, I showed a video called "Easter Is Coming!"  Highly recommended.  I've attached it below...under that, you'll find the actual sermon text:

He Is Not Here!
Easter Sunday
April 8, 2012

“You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here.”
He is not here!
Yes, this is where his body was laid, this is the tomb, this is where he was so carefully and lovingly placed three days ago after his horrible crucifixion, after the arrest and the kangaroo court trial and the beating and the spitting and the mocking and the crown of thorns and the long trip outside of town to be executed as a common criminal, surrounded by common criminals. I know those visions are still fresh in your minds, the pain is still fresh in your heart, and all you wanted to do was come and give his battered, decaying body some of the respect that it was denied in the awful way Jesus died. You are here to cleanse his body, to anoint him…and maybe in the process, to find some closure for yourselves.
But there is no closure needed, because he is not here!
Listen to me, and listen closely. You may think of this as a physical place where you’re looking for him, and it is, but it’s so much more than that. Your heart is expecting to find death. Your mind is expecting to find someone whose ideas, whose cause, whose being, was defeated once and for all by the power of the world—the military power of the Roman Empire and the religious power of the chief priests and the Sanhedrin.  You are expecting death to have the last word, because you yourselves experienced three days ago that might makes right. The world’s power, the power to kill that which is a threat, was proven in your eyes to be stronger than compassion. Your despair is so much stronger than any hope you might have had that this Jesus really was the Messiah, that he was the one anointed by God to bring healing and deliverance for his people.
So listen to me—he is not here!
He is not here in this place, in the expectation of death, in the limitations you have placed on him. Yes, Jesus encounters your death, Jesus encounters your fears, your despair, your hopelessness, but that’s not where he stays. That’s not where he keeps you.  There are some who would make Christian faith seem like an avoidance of the bad stuff—as though being a faithful follower of Christ means that things suddenly get easy, that it’s all sunshine and rainbows and that if you just believe hard enough and have enough faith, things will be just fine.
You know better than that though, don’t you?  You’ve seen stuff. You know the way the world works.  You’ve seen pain and suffering and injustice, and sometimes the temptation is to let the pendulum swing the other direction, isn’t it? To wonder if God’s really there, or if God’s really listening, or if God really cares about what’s going on.  The echoes of Jesus’ quoting of Psalm 22 on the cross still ring in your heart—“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” You’ve asked that question too, sometimes, haven’t you? Why did this happen? Why did my loved one die? Why is there so much suffering? Why? Why have you forsaken me, God?
You yourselves saw Jesus encounter death. You saw him enter into that same pain and suffering and forsakenness, you heard him ask that same question that you may have asked in those dark nights of the soul. But that’s not where he stayed.  And so that’s not where he is! He encounters the world’s brokenness, but he transforms it! From death into life, from pain into healing, from suffering into comfort, from forsakenness to relationship, from sin to forgiveness, from bondage to freedom, Jesus is alive and at work and is NOT ready to just leave you where you are, here at the tomb, looking for death, thinking that you’ve come to the end when what this is, is really the beginning.
He is not here!
He’s gone ahead of you, ahead into Galilee. I know this sounds strange, I know this is not at all what you expected, but God’s mission isn’t about your expectations. God’s life isn’t about dwelling in the deaths of the past. It’s about encountering the present, encountering the world, about being out and about where things are happening, where people are living and loving and hurting and dying and questioning and suffering, and he can’t stay here in this tomb because there’s already so many others who are walking around just like you are now, trapped in their own tombs of finitude and their expectations and what the world has told them about power and the way things are, and Jesus is already at work transforming those stories too.  And when he’s done there, he’s not going to stay there either!  He’s going to continue his work of transforming, of turning the Good Fridays of the world into Easter Sundays, until all the world knows and believes and experiences that Easter resurrection hope, the transformation of the cross into an empty tomb, the transformation of the world’s brokenness into wholeness, the transformation of all creation into that amazing feast of the victory of new life over sin and death and the devil.
He has taken your own sin—everything that you know about yourself, maybe even things that nobody else may know, and he took on the power that holds you captive to them. You are a child of God, and like a parent who sees their child in danger Jesus confronted that power head on. You’ve heard of the wrath of God—that wrath was not against you, but rather against that power that causes you, God’s children who God loves more than life itself, to suffer and die. Through the cross, God said, “ENOUGH! Sin, you have no more power here! Death, you will die! I will enter all of this, I will be a part of it, but I won’t leave it here!  I am a God of creation, a God of life and hope." The sin that has gripped the world may sweep Jesus to the cross, but that won’t be the end of the story. The story won’t be death, but a new creation!
And so, he is not here!
So, go! Go tell the others, and go to Galilee, where Jesus already is! And from there, go follow where he continues—go to the sick, and the poor, and the outcast, and the prisoners. Go to those enslaved by their possessions, in bondage to their expectations, held captive by the fear and hatred and shallowness that surrounds them, and tell them, he is not here! Be sent, so that through what you say and what you do, others are empowered to also be sent to go themselves, to find where Jesus already is, to enter with him into the world’s pain, and to be his hands and his feet in God’s amazing work of transformation and new life.
You are being invited into the story of the cross. The temptation will be strong to give into your fear, to not say anything, to allow all of the messages that the world tries to tell you about reality guide how you react to what I’m telling you.  But look around this place. He is not here! He is out there! He has taken the world’s messages and has turned them upside down, he has taken the world’s ideas about power and turned them inside out, he has taken those who are outcast and brought them in, he has taken the broken and made them whole, and Jesus is calling you to go out! Go out beyond these walls, go out and be a part of what he’s already doing!
How will you respond? What difference will this make for you, not just in eternity, but today? Right now?
He is not here!
Matt Schur
Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church
Lincoln, NE