Rev. Doug Floyd
Acts 10:34–43, Psalm 118, Colossians 3:1-4, Luke 24:1-12
This is the day that the Lord has made and I will rejoice and be glad in it.
This day is the day of salvation. The day of resurrection. The day when heaven and earth erupt in waves of joy. This is the day for singing. This is the day for telling of jokes. This is the day for feasting and laughing and dancing. This is the day that the Lord has made.
Of this day, G.K. Chesterton writes, “On the third day the friends of Christ coming at daybreak to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away. In varying ways they realized the new wonder; but even they hardly realized that the world had died in the night. What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening but the dawn.”
Even as we proclaim that Christ is Risen from the dead, and sing our Alleluias, we remember that when Christ died, the world died; when Christ died, we died. When Christ arose, the world arose. When Christ arose, we arose. Now even as I speak these very words they are too strange for use to grasp. Every day when we awake, we awake in a resurrection saturated cosmos. We awake in the eighth day, that is the first day after the last day of old creation.
“Old things are passed away, behold all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). In today’s lesson, Paul reminds “you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3). Truly this great and glorious news is bigger than us, bigger than our minds can fully see.
And though we awake in the new creation, in the eight day, we live as though we are in the seventh day when Christ was still in the tomb. Our world lives in the seventh day. In the time of unraveling and decay, of death and destruction, of fear and fallenness. Sadly, we so often live outside the reality of the risen Christ.
Sadly even on this day of days, we tend to live as a people all too acquainted with world that has and is passing away. Today many Christians will skip worshipping the Lord of Glory on Resurrection Sunday to prepare for family meals. In fact family celebrations will easily overtake Jesus celebrations on this most glorious day. The pressures of cooking, cleaning, seeing relatives, and other holiday challenges will easily outweigh the unspeakable joy of the resurrection.
Truth be told. It is difficult for all of us to right respond to this glorious news. It is difficult live in a state of never-ending joy at the Good News of our Risen Lord. Life happens. We face challenges, disagreements, disappointments. We get hungry and hangry. We get sleepy and like children, we may snap and pout and finally grumpily put ourselves to bed.
Though we have been raised in Christ, we live in bodies that grow weary and weak. With our earthiness in mind, let us pause over the Gospel text this morning. Here we have the story. The great story. The story that rings from age to age of Christ conquering death. So we should expect to find joy, dancing, laughter, parties, and songs unending.
As we read our Gospel story, we hear words like perplexed, frightened, idle tale, did not believe, and marvel. The story is more than they can bear. The story is more than we can bear. We hear and sing and even shout it, but it more than we can begin to grasp. It is more.
Our Gospel story begins with a group of faithful women. History is filled with wondrous stories and event and glorious victories that have come to pass that started with a group of faithful women. These faithful women apparently worked late into the night and rose long before dawn to prepare the spices for the body of Christ. The disciples were disheartened, disbelieving, depressed, and unsure. But this group of faithful women were working, serving, and caring the body of Christ even in their grief. They come to the tomb before dawn with spices for his body.
But they did not find his body. They were perplexed, troubled, confused. What has happened? Where have they taken our Lord? In the midst of their distress, two dazzling men appear. The glory is so great, so overwhelming, these women fall down in fear. Faces to the ground. Now they hear and we hear, the first Gospel proclamation of the Risen Lord,
“Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” (Luke 24:5b-7).
Here is the heart of the Gospel:
- Why do you seek the living among the dead?
- He is not here, but has risen.
- Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.
This first statement could be wise counsel for our lives and our churches. Why do you seek the living among the dead? Jesus is not a past event but a present reality. Though we may be perplexed, disheartened, discouraged by news at home and abroad, Jesus is not among the dead but the living. He is alive. He is present and he is calling us to follow him into the future.
Though we may be in difficult situations, though we may not be sure how to proceed, Jesus is alive, Jesus is present by His Spirit, and Jesus will lead us into the future. In 2 Corinthians, Paul reminds us that we may face difficulties, great difficulties, we may even despair of life itself. Our bodies may fail, our hearts may grow weak, but we are becoming more glorious, more filled with heavenly light. Christ is leading us into our future, His reality, Christ is leading our broken, bruised, mind and bodies into glory, so much so that His life will swallow our mortality.
In this brief pause, before our ascent let us live as a people of Good Courage, trusting in His faithful love to lead us home.
In our Gospel reading, the two men, the two angels provide a short summary of the Gospel proclamation: “Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise. He is not here, but has risen.”
These two sentences form the heart of Gospel proclamation and we see them reappear in variation through the book of Acts as the disciples declare the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Gospel proclamation is rooted in remembering. Remembering a specific story from a specific time in history. Jesus Christ, the Son of Man lived and preached in Galilee. He was delivered into the hands of sinful men. He was crucified. On the third day, he rose again.
When the disciples first hear this simple message, they consider it an idle tale and refuse to believe. Think about that. These are men who walked with Jesus, who saw his miracles, who heard his words, who lived with him day and night for three years. Yet, when the women declare the word of the angels, these men do not believe.
It will take time for them to remember. Some will have to visit the tomb. Like Peter in today’s story. Even that does not provoke faith but marveling. Peter is astonished. He and the disciples will only believe when they hear the word of peace from Jesus Himself.
Like the disciples, we are hard of believing. We must hear the good news again and again. All throughout our lives. We must remember it when we gather, we must remember it when we are alone. This involves both hearing, speaking, singing, and ruminating. Meditating. As Katie reminded us a few weeks ago. Waiting before Him quietly. Letting Jesus speak to us afresh by His Spirit. Each of us are different and we will encounter Jesus in different ways. For some, it will feel like a clear address while reading Scripture or praying. For some, he will come as rivers of love and peace in the soul. For some, he will open the ears and the heart, so that they can hear this address of love and peace. By His Spirit, Jesus speaks this word of peace and life to all of us.
We hear and remember the Good News that the angels told the women at the tomb, but His Sprit will also bear witness to us in our hearts, our minds, our imaginations. In one sense, our whole life is shaped by the ongoing encounter with the Risen Lord, with Jesus Christ.
It took time for the disciples to fully believe this Good News, but when they did, these men took the strange, the wondrous news to Jerusalem and to the nations. They followed Jesus into the surrounding lands and most of them suffering and died as witnesses to the Risen Jesus.
In light of this good news, we choose to rejoice. At times, we may not feel anything and simply choose to sing and speak and eat and drink the Good News. But by His Spirit, I remind us all that He will awaken this Good News within us so deeply and so often that, we will see the glory of resurrection everywhere we turn. Many poets have written on how the resurrection transforms their vision of the world.
In his poem, “The Transfiguration,” the poet Edwin Muir dreams of walking into the most difficult parts of town with the risen Jesus.
we went into town, he with us,
The lurkers under doorways, murderers,
With rags tied round their feet for silence, came
Out of themselves to us and were with us,
And those who hide within the labyrinth
Of their own loneliness and greatness came,
And those entangled in their own devices,
The silent and the garrulous liar, all
Stepped out of their dungeons and were free.
Reality or vision, this we have seen.
If it had lasted but another moment
It might have held for ever!”
The poet Bobi Jones sees the promise of resurrection in a weed bursting through the sidewalk. In the growing blade of grass he beholds creation trembling and proclaims, “The foolish civilization of today can kill Him and bury Him deep. The inherent will frolic through the soil.” Just as nothing can stop the weeds, nothing can hold back the resurrection power of the Living Savior.
I included Sarah Klassen’s poem in today’s bulletin. She title the poem “First Day of Creation” while directly alluding to the resurrection in her closing lines. For Sarah, the glory of resurrection hope is bursting forth everywhere. She writes of the first day of creation and simultaneously of new creation in Christ,
“Let there be light! A flash, a bolt, a brilliant blaze that puts the kibosh on chaos. Let light shine on width, breadth, depth, a dazzle to illuminate all matter everywhere.”
I end with a final poem prayer by Anne Porter as she looks toward her own life being caught up in Christ’s resurrection. Her all too honest prayer offers her failures in supplication. She acknowledges a responsibility to right her wrongs while also acknowledging the gravity of her wrongs cannot be righted without the Living Power of Jesus Christ. Eventually the whole prayer is subsumed in resurrection that will take hold of us on that final day.
Whatever harm I may have done
In all my life in all your wide creation
If I cannot repair it
I beg you to repair it,
And then there are all the wounded
The poor the deaf the lonely and the old
Whom I have roughly dismissed
As if I were not one of them.
Where I have wronged them by it
And cannot make amends
I ask you
To comfort them to overflowing,
And where there are lives I may have withered around me,
Or lives of strangers far or near
That I’ve destroyed in blind complicity,
And if I cannot find them
Or have no way to serve them,
Remember them. I beg you to remember them
When winter is over
And all your unimaginable promises
Burst into song on death’s bare branches.
 Chesterton, G. K.. The Everlasting Man (p. 136). Wilder Publications. Kindle Edition.
 Porter, Anne. A Short Testament in Living Things: Collected Poems of Anne Porter. Zoland Books: Hanover, New Hampshire, 2006 (p. 94).