The Vicar’s Three-Point Sermon on the Resurrection

A sermons offered by The Rev. Lisa G. Fischbeck, Vicar, for Year C – Easter II, April 3, 2016, @TheAdvocate

 

 

Last Sunday, Easter Day, we had an unusual sermon time here at the Advocate.

The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is what we celebrate especially on Easter Day and through the season of Easter, I said.

Then quickly made three points about that resurrection:
1) it beyond our understanding. It’s a mystery, not logical.
2) the meaning of it knows no bounds. The exploration of it is endless
3) Believing it, living it, will surely take us outside our comfort zone.

And so we danced. No more words, no more reasoning, no more illustration. Just dancing.
Alleluia, Alleluia, Christ is risen. 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3, etc.

But just because the resurrection is beyond our understanding, knows no bounds,and takes us outside our comfort zone, doesn’t mean we can’t talk about it, reflect on it, ask ourselves questions about it, see if there is indeed something we think and believe about it.

In fact, we should do these things.
We mention it at least twice every Sunday, after all.
Not just in the season of Easter.
It comes up in the Creed

He suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
In accordance with the Scriptures;
He ascended into heaven….

and in the Eucharistic Prayers:

Christ has died
Christ is Risen
Christ will come again.

or

Dying he destroyed our Death
Rising her restored our life…

So let’s think about it.

I offer 3 categories….

First, there is the event of the resurrection of Jesus in a particular time and a particular place.

Second, there is resurrection of Jesus as the prototype for all the other resurrections that run through the history and experience of Christians and the church.

And third, there is the resurrection of Jesus as the Way that leads to eternal life.

You no doubt would offer others, but for today, let’s look at these three.

First, the event of the resurrection of Jesus in a particular time and a particular place.

Do you believe it really happened?

This is one of those questions that non-believers often ask believers. It is also a question that believers ask of each other a good bit. Right before or after the question: Do you really believe in the virgin birth?

Did Jesus really die and then come back to life in some kind of altered form and appear to his disciples? Did he greet them in the garden, come through locked doors to them, talk to them on the road, cook fish for them by the sea?

I confess that I don’t lose much sleep on this myself.

But when asked, I say, Sure! I mean, I really don’t know how or what. Even if we had video of the day,
it could have been photo-shopped! But I believe. And not just because “the Bible tells me so”, or because it is in the Creed. Though that helps.
Something sure happened to get those early disciples turned around and turned on. They went from hiding out in fear to proclaiming loud and clear. “this Jesus who was crucified, rose… He rose and he appeared among us.”

Why would they make it up? They certainly had nothing to gain from such a tale. And they certainly had a LOT to lose. By proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus and telling the story of what they saw and heard, and even physically experienced, they did not get money or power or popularity. In fact, most of them were gruesomely killed because of it. (though I guess they did get more that 2000 years of notoriety…)

Besides …. if we believe in God who created the heavens and the earth and all that is in them, why couldn’t God make the resurrection happen? Why not?

So, sure, I believe that Jesus rose from the dead, some how, some way, in a particular time and place.

You?

Second, there is the resurrection of Jesus as the prototype for all the other resurrections that run through the history and experience of Christians and the church. There is a resurrection pattern to how God relates to human beings and to the world. This is both a matter of belief as well as a mindset. A very helpful, and I believe, truthful mindset.

Out of darkness, God gives light,
out of sorrow, joy.
out of despair, hope.
out of death, life.

“Those who have gone through the desolate valley will find it a pool of springs” says the psalmist.

This is not just a Pollyanna, optimistic view of the world. It is not just about butterflies and rainbows after the storm either. It does not mean that God makes us happy all the time, or that everyone will be cured of cancer.

Rather, belief in the resurrection leads us to see and know that God is at work in the world and in our lives in order that we may have life and have it abundantly. In order that we may flourish.

Death, literal or metaphorical death, is not the end. And sometimes
often
death is a necessary part of discovering life, life we would not otherwise know.

Those who have eyes to see, let them see:

In the frailty of one person, others discover a capacity to love and care, and they witness profound courage.
In the despair of a failure, someone discovers a gift or a skill that they didn’t know they had and they hone it.
An unjust death promotes a movement for justice.

Out of darkness, light,
out of sorrow, joy.
out of despair, hope.
out of death, life.

It is the way of God and of God’s work in the world. The resurrection of Jesus in a particular time and a particular place is only the beginning.

Third, there is the resurrection Jesus as the Way that leads to eternal life. We hear this in our baptismal rite:

We thank you Father for the water of Baptism
in it we are buried with Christ in his death
by it we share in his resurrection…

Somehow, we don’t know how exactly, in the resurrection of Jesus death is conquered once for all. The devil loses. We need no longer to fear death. We can in fact laugh at it. (though I confess I haven’t come close to that yet myself…)

This, frankly, requires another  leap of faith.
Oh, there are stories told of the visions and dreams of those left behind. But nothing convincing enough to start a movement that rocks the world. Nothing that we see or experience in our daily life and work… directly.

I cannot say how or when I made this leap of faith myself. But I know that my faith was formed in life and liturgy. It may have had to do with that Betty Pulkingham song that I found myself singing in lots of church gatherings in my 20s and 30s…

I am the resurrection,
I am the life,
they who believe in me,
even if they die
they shall live for ever.
and I will raise them up….

(That’s in the Bible, by the way).

Or maybe it was the Christ our Passover (Pascha Nostrum) that we sing and exclaim here at the Advocate in Eastertide – I chanted it a lot in church throughout my 20s and 30s.
Formative years…

Alleluia.? Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us;? therefore let us keep the feast,
Not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil,? but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Alleluia.
Christ being raised from the dead will never die again;? death no longer has dominion over him…..
For since by a man came death, ?by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.
For as in Adam all die,? so also in Christ shall all be made alive. Alleluia.

But I think it was mostly the funerals.
Have you ever been to a funeral in an Episcopal Church? It is powerful. The body, the casket, the box of ashes, is carried into the church. There are the mortal remains of the person you knew the person you loved, the person who challenged you, entertained you, inspired you, maybe even bored you or irritated you. The person you watched slowly shrivel and die. or the person who was snatched up in death way too fast, way too unexpectedly.

The Paschal candle is lit. There is silence.

Then… Footsteps of the clergy and acolytes and pallbearers perhaps, process down the aisle. And the priest proclaims the words of the Gospel of John:

I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord;
whosoever believeth in me, though he were dead,
yet shall he live;
and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.
I know that my Redeemer liveth,
and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth;
and though this body be destroyed,
yet shall I see God;
whom I shall see for myself and mine eyes shall behold,
and not as a stranger.? ?

As a member of the congregation, you stand there, listen there, watch there, feel there.

I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord;
whosoever believeth in me, though he were dead,
yet shall he live;?

Your faith is formed.
Death still happens, but it is not the end.
Death does not triumph.
Somehow instead, Jesus, by his death and resurrection has triumphed over death.
The world indeed, is not as it seems.

Christians, it is said, are an Easter people. We live in the light of the resurrection. Whether we believe slam dunk, or still harbor doubts or skepticism about any or all of these three aspects of that resurrection on occasion or at all times, we are a resurrection people.

There is something more….

So wherever we stand as individuals, on the spectrum of life and faith and doubt, we stand collectively in this season of Easter as Church. We stand collectively and we dance and we sing,

Christ is risen from the dead
trampling down death by death
and upon those in the tomb
bestowing life.                                                           

Alleluia!