He Is Lord of All!
Pastor Diane Gordon
Mt Pleasant FUMC
April 1, 2018
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 and John 20:1-18
We humans are a curious bunch. We are continually amazed by the things Jesus told us; amazed that they actually happened the way He said they would. We search for certainty, love, and significance, all the while going about filled with doubt, cynicism, frequent fear, mixed with occasional bouts of despair. And right in the middle of that despair, when we take the time to look up, we find ourselves looking into the face of Jesus – or at least hear him calling us by name. So many times we have been fed by His Spirit when we hungered for comfort in the midst of pain, or healing in times of grief, and still we return to doubt.
We long for the day when he returns and does away with all need for tears, forgetting that he is already with us, calling us to a higher level of living that would bring an end to violence, an end to suffering, and the beginning of God’s kingdom here on earth.
Today is the day we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection – the event that changed everything! Today we remember his presence with us always, as we take communion, claiming our place at Jesus’ table and committing ourselves to be His followers. We proclaim that Jesus is Lord of all this day. Somehow, saying “Happy Easter!” just doesn’t cut it.
Happy Easter brings visions of brightly colored eggs, candy, ham and deviled eggs, and chocolate. Lots of chocolate. But none of those things, delicious as they may be, have anything to do with Jesus or the transformation of our lives. Yes, some of it symbolizes new life, but honestly, how many people really think resurrection and new life while eating a Peep?
So what really happened that first Easter? I suspect most here could answer that question with a recitation of the scripture telling, but it has to go deeper. The meaning has to connect to our lives and the lives of all of humanity, or else it has no meaning. If we don’t embrace what really happened, we live as if it never happened!
God came to earth in the human form of a man called Jesus. (Yeshua in Aramaic.) God sent his Son to show humanity the way to eternal life, the way of love.
The humans in charge of the Temple at that time took exception to the things Jesus said and did; that Jesus had the power to raise the dead to life, like he did with his friend Lazarus, scared them to pieces. They feared the end of their privileged way of life, so they conspired against him and saw that he was put to death, despite the Roman ruler, Pilate’s, hesitation. He could see what was going on, but he too answered to others who demanded an end to the insurgencies and uprisings in the territory. So, Pilate let them have their way, even though he knew it was wrong. He avoided conflict and took the easy way out, like many of us so often do.
Jesus was crucified, died on the cross at the hand of the Roman soldiers, who by now were quite hardened to the brutality and violence of their task. The body of Yeshua was removed and placed in a new tomb by friends, who risked doing what they could, thinking it was too late for the One they had seen do wonders, for whom they had such high hopes, but now he was gone.
They grieved as they lay his body in the tomb and went home to observe the Sabbath. They continued to grieve as the Sabbath ended, and Mary Magdalene came back to the tomb expecting to sit and cry in front of the huge stone door, wanting to be as close to her dead friend as she physically could to grieve and finish saying goodbye. Instead, she found the stone rolled away and the body gone, so she ran to tell Peter and John. You know the rest.
We think we know the rest, but do we understand what it means? Do we comprehend what this means for our lives? This is huge! It means there is more to life than petty scrambling for the biggest piece of the pie. There is more to life than winning, because even as Jesus appeared to lose, he conquered death and paved the way for a new way of life. We are set free to live in the light of Jesus’ love, the love that knows no end. God sent his Son to set us free to love, instead of hate, to surrender instead of trying to control. God sent his son to show us the Way to the Father.
Happy Easter just doesn’t cut it! Praise God! Halleluiah! Thank you, Jesus! We can stop all this warring madness and live in peace with our neighbors. We can love one another without reserve. We can be salt to the world and light in the darkness.
What’s that you say? “I tried that, and it didn’t work?”
Then we say, let’s keep trying. Or in the words of Yoda, “There is no try. Only Do.”
When Jesus died on the cross he did so willingly. Yes, it was excruciating. Yes, he suffered, but he did it because he knew that God would transform his death into everlasting life for all of us who would follow in his footsteps and believe. Jesus gave himself for humankind, not because we are perfect, but because in our flawed human nature we could never attain perfection without His Spirit’s help. We would never be able to obey perfectly enough in order to save ourselves! So, Jesus gave us this gift. Jesus offers us grace to cover all our sins and asks us to do likewise with one another.
As Mother Teresa once said, “People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway. If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good. Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway. For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”
Our directions from Jesus are clear: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. [And likewise,] love your neighbor as [you love] yourself.” “Be gracious and love one another the way I have loved you.”
Grace can be a tricky thing. Our human inclination – that which we learned in kindergarten – is that things should be fair. There is nothing fair about grace and forgiveness. Out of the love of Christ we are able to lay aside our human desire to get even and offer grace. We give to those who are not “deserving” because we love God. We feed the hungry and clothe the poor, not because we owe them anything, but because God has fed and clothed us and has asked us to go and do likewise.
Our petty humanness is shed like the chrysalis left hanging on the branch, while we fly away in the sunlight of God’s love. Because we love Jesus and serve him, we are released from the anger and hatred the world has modeled for us. Our goal is to become a reflection of Jesus.
A new day has dawned. It’s Easter! And nothing will ever be the same. Remember that, ultimately, the life you live, the choices you make, are between you and God. Love God and choose life! Shine the light of Christ’s love in everything you say and do and know that your every word and every action is teaching the people around you what God’s grace is really like, as you live the life of a disciple. This is what it looks like to call Jesus our Lord. Through Christ all things are possible! Christ is risen indeed! Amen!