Second Sunday of Easter


Happy Easter! No, I don’t have the day wrong. In the church year, Easter is a season, not a day – a season that lasts for seven weeks, and ends with Pentecost. While the stores filled with Easter candy and cards and cute bunnies, we were recognizing the solemn season of Lent. Now that we’re celebrating Easter, the stores are probably stocking up for the fourth of July. The eggs are colored, found, and made into egg salad. The chocolate bunnies have been eaten and Easter baskets put away. For most people, Easter is over. Which is a shame. Because we live in world that needs Easter. Not just one day, but every day. As my husband Lee said to me the other night, if you feel your spirits getting too high, just spend a few hours listening to the news. Our nation has become more polarized and insensitive. We are amazed not so much that Don Imus should make such degrading and demoralizing comments, but that he should be disciplined for the sort of mean-spirited comments that have become commonplace on radio and TV talk shows. Concern about the environment increases, as even former detractors are starting to take global warming seriously. Most disturbing, the war in Iraq continues with neither an end nor a goal in sight. Despite McCain’s heavily guarded stroll through Baghdad this week, almost everyone in Iraq – foreigners or Iraqis, soldiers, politicians, or aide workers –now live in constant fear of violence. And Iraq is only one of the many places in our world torn apart by war and violence. It is in this context that we come to church this Easter season, to hear again the stories of the Risen Christ and his followers. The stories began with an empty tomb. Mary Magdalene came to the tomb of Jesus that early Sunday morning, to pay her respects to her dead friend and lord. It was already the third day – the third day in a world Mary Magdalene could not imagine – a world without Jesus. So she came, weeping, to his tomb. She expected to find it sealed. Instead, she found that the tomb was open, and empty. She heard her name spoken, and everything changed again. Her grief was replaced by wonder and joy. Mary was no longer lost, but given a new purpose – to tell not only the grieving disciples, but all the world about the risen Christ. That same evening, the disciples were gathered in a locked room. They did not believe the crazy story Mary came running to tell them that morning. They did believe their lives might be in danger, from the same men who had arrested and killed their teacher. They did believe that everything they had longed for was gone – the one they thought was God’s promised Messiah was dead, and with him, all their hope. Then Jesus appeared to them. Just like that, Jesus came, and everything changed again. “Peace be with you.” Jesus said. “As the Father has sent me, I have sent you.” Then he breathed on them, saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Once before, Jesus had called these men and women to leave the lives they knew to follow him. Now he gives them a new promise – a peace that the world can not give – the peace of knowing and being known by Jesus, who has conquered sin and death. Now he gives them a new purpose – sending them out, filled with the spirit, to witness to what they have seen and heard. He sends them to bear witness to what God has done in the life, death, and resurrection of their Lord, Jesus Christ. After his resurrection, Jesus appears three times in the Gospel of John: visiting twice in a room where the disciples were meeting, fearful and doubting; appearing to his friends as they fished, and eating with them on the beach. Every time he comes to them, they become stronger, wiser, kinder, more daring. Every time he comes to them, they become more like him. Jesus is making them Easter people – his followers, filled with the news of the resurrection and the power of the Holy Spirit. I read an interesting quotation this week from a book called The Resurrection of Jesus: A Jewish Perspective, written by the Jewish NT scholar Pinchas Lapide. For him, the proof of the resurrection lies in the changed lives of the disciples; he writes: “When this scared, frightened band of the apostles, which was just about to throw away everything in order to flee in despair to Galilee; when these peasants, shepherds, and fishermen, who betrayed and denied their master and then failed him miserably, suddenly could be changed overnight into a confident mission society, convinced of salvation and able to work with much more success after Easter than before Easter, then no vision or hallucination is sufficient to explain such a revolutionary transformation.” When they met the risen Christ, the disciples were transformed, from a frightened band of misfits to God’s powerful witnesses in the world. We, too, have met the risen Christ. We, too, have been filled with the Holy Spirit, and sent to bear witness to our Lord. And so we go – hoping that we, too, will become stronger, wiser, kinder, and more daring; praying that we, too, will become more like him. God changes hearts and transforms lives to create God’s Easter people. This is how God continues God’s work of resurrection in a world in need of healing – by sending God’s Easter people to bear witness to the truth. Easter people know that our sins are forgiven, so that we might forgive others. Easter people know that Jesus loves us unconditionally, and sends us to love as he has loved. Easter people know that whatever we face, whatever we fear, it cannot be more powerful than the God who broke the power of death itself. Our world desperately needs Easter people. People who bring comfort and peace where there is grief and despair, bring reconciliation where there has been hatred and fear, bring new beginnings where there has been death and chaos. Jesus lives! –not only 2000 years ago, leaving behind an empty tomb, but now, here, among us. We have heard him call our names – in the water of baptism, in the bread and wine, in the infinite and unique ways Jesus encounters each one of us in daily life. And so we are his Easter people. Alleluia! Christ is Risen!  (Christ is risen indeed!) Alleluia! Christ is Risen! (Christ is risen indeed) Alleluia! Christ is Risen! (Christ is risen indeed!) Amen. Lutheran Church of the Servant, Santa Fe

Photo taken at Chicago Botanical Gardens

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