Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Resurrection People

At some point last year I preached a sermon on the parable of the mustard seed.
After that sermon, one of our members here at Concordia was nice enough to give me a mustard plant.
They wanted me to see how it grows into a big tree.
What I did was totally kill it.
Here it is now.
You can see that there is nothing left of the mustard plant.
This plant is not coming back.
This is where we start on Easter.
We start with the end of everything with death.
Truth is that it is impossible for a mustard seed to grow out of this plant here.
Or is it?

The women who went to the tomb on that first Easter Sunday expected to see well nothing.
They were expecting death.
They didn’t expect an angel, or an earthquake, or lighting, or an empty tomb, and they defiantly didn’t think they would see Jesus again.
They expected a tomb with a large rock rolled in front of it, and a dead body inside.
They expected death.
But God surprised them with something unexplainable and wonderful.

Perhaps we have over complicated things in the last 2,000 years.
We have insisted too much about what we think this story means.
Easter at first is simply a story.
It was not a theological idea- just an amazing unbelievable story.
The one who was dead is alive.
It was a story that from the very beginning was difficult to comprehend.
People don’t come back to life.
We know this because those of us who are here this morning and have experienced death know all too well of its finality.

But in Matthew’s telling of the story Jesus is alive.
He does come back to life.
And Jesus is no ghost, or spirit, but a real breathing person.
He is a real person that the women can touch.
It is important to Matthew that we know this was a real resurrection.
It was not imagined by the followers of Jesus.
They were not dreaming, or just hoping.
And that is what makes the story even more unbelievable.
It is amazing that Christianity has spread so far, and has lasted so long.
Maybe this should be our way of selling it to the world.
Christianity the unbelievable religion!
Christianity you will hardly believe it!

We have misrepresented Christianity in modern and post-modern times.
We have been trying to argue that it can be proven with scientific and/or historical data.
But the resurrection is a question of the mystery of faith.
It cannot be explained.
It can only be experienced and lived.
It is a story we share and tell to explain God, and how we understand what God is doing.

It seems popular on the internet these days to take these quizzes to find out about ourselves.
There are quizzes to find out which character from the television shows “friends” would you be?
What decade you are from?
Where in New England you should live?
If you are a music fan what rock band would you be?
What movies you like?
What type of color you represent?
I think what is behind these quizzes and their popularity is that we are looking for identity.
We want to know who we are and where we belong in the world.
For us Christians the Easter story is our identity.
If we want to know what type of people we are as Christians we are resurrection people.
The Resurrection story is not just about us but also about God.
What type of God do we worship?
And this story tells us that we have a God who breaks out of the normal rules of life.
We have a God who is more powerful than death.
I love the part in Matthew’s Gospel when the Angel rolls away the stone and then sits on it.
As if to say, “this stone is nothing.”
And to God death is nothing.
The story only makes any sense because of God.
Yes, in this life people don’t come back from the dead.
This mustard plant is dead.
But we believe the story because we believe that with God all things are possible.
With God we look at this mustard plant that I killed and think, “But maybe it is not dead.”
In fact what I am going to do today is go outside and scatter this dried up dead plant in the churches yard.
Who knows what will happen from there?

I would like you all to join me in this experiment.
This morning everyone should take home a bag with some dirt.
I have placed in all these bags a seed.
Take it home and scatter it or plant it somewhere in your yard, and then wait and see.
I don’t know what will happen, neither do you.
But think of it as an act of faith.
If it does bloom then have it be a reminder that God brings death out of life.
If it doesn’t remember that you planted it as an act of faith and it is that faith that sustains us when things seem lost and dead.
Think about all the dead things in your life that you want God to bring new life to, and then remember that God makes all things new.
Remember in the planting that we are resurrection people.
Who worship a resurrected God.

This resurrection story is our central story it defines us.
What it exactly means might be different for all of us.
However, the story remains.
We know its power for our lives.
In faith we believe it.
In hope we embrace it.

That is what we celebrate today.
We celebrate again this essential story of God’s victory over sin and death.
We gather together and sing Alleluia.
And we celebrate that we are resurrection people who believe that even the most dried up things can come back to life.
As resurrection people we now do as Jesus tells us live without fear, in constant hope.
Even through suffering, death, and burial- we are resurrection people.
And so we can look at this plant that I killed and still believe that God will make something miraculous and incomprehensible happen just as God can do in all of our lives.

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