Rebuilding Hope

Easter Sunday Sermon: Luke 24:1-12: Rebuilding Hope

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Luke 24:1-12

1 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in, they did not find the body. 4 While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. 5 The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. 6 Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” 8 Then they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

 

Inconceivable! That clip is from the movie The Princess Bride and it’s the reaction the men have to the women today upon hearing about Jesus being raised from the dead.  Inconceivable!

The women are Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Mary the mother of James, and other unnamed women. They risk their lives to go and anoint the body of an enemy of the state, a menace put to death by Rome, a death that was legally sanctioned by the Roman government and stirred up by the lawyers and the pastors, the scribes and the Pharisees.

It’s the women who upon seeing the tomb is empty are perplexed and then encounter 2 men in dazzling clothes who ask them, “why are you looking for the living among the dead?” These 2 men remind them of what Jesus told them about being raised up. He is risen, they say. And they run back to tell the other disciples.

And the men say, “inconceivable!” Or, closer to the Greek, delirious or, wait for it, manure. I’m not making this up. Huh. Interesting. Men calling women delirious and regarding what they say as, ahem, manure. Nevertheless, they persisted.

But before I slide down that slippery slope of the more things change the more they stay the same, let me say this: I get it. I totally get why the guys react the way they did. They’d been with Jesus for the last few years and these last few days had left them reeling. The women, who’d been following Jesus all along too, would also be reeling in grief and doubt. After all, men and women alike, they deserted him when the authorities showed up to arrest Jesus. They denied they knew him or called him friend. They watched him tried by the Roman government and sentenced to death by an angry mob. A mob of people who had been following him, listening to him teach, being fed by him, healed by him. The same mob then screamed for his death.

And then the disciples watched their friend be crucified, the lowliest form of death in that time. It sent a signal that this was a common criminal, an enemy of the state, and his shenanigans, or any others like it, would not be tolerated.

So, for the women to come reporting that Jesus was raised from the dead and for the men to call hooey? I get it.

Especially if you think about it in literal ways. Do zombies come to mind? Or vampires? We imagine a resuscitated body, staggering to find his footing and his words. Or we imagine a presto-change-o kind of thing, with Jesus looking all shiny and new, singing “I’m baaack!”

Nonsense. Hooey. I’ll believe it when I see it for my own self.

But today, seeing isn’t believing. In today’s story, remembering is believing. At their encounter with the 2 men, the women remembered Jesus’ words: Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again. That remembering is what spurred them on to run back and tell the others.

When we remember what Jesus has told us about who he is, it tells us the ultimate truth about who we are: children of God. And when we remember who calls us by this name, when we remember that, at our core, we are beloved by God, well then, it sets our feet in motion. It changes what we do. It transforms our lives. This isn’t about resuscitation. It’s resurrection. It’s transformation, baby.
The women could have easily just let fear overwhelm them and kept their mouths shut. They could have just gone on with their normal routine, telling the other disciples that the anointing went just fine. But instead, they told their crazy story about their encounter with the 2 men. They remembered what Jesus said, which reminded them who they were, who they are.

Jim Wallis, the editor of Sojourner’s magazine says this about the Easter story: “Hope unbelieved is always considered nonsense. But hope believed is history in the process of being changed.”[1]

And that’s what Easter is all about. When you consider for a moment the actual Easter story, you’ll notice there is no mention of chocolate or bunnies or eggs. Instead, this story’s setting is fear and doubt and denial and grief. The guts of Easter are denial and grief, not nuget. This is what sets the stage for the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Easter is not about making yourself worthy to love. It’s not about making yourself perfect enough to be part of a church. It’s not about getting your life together and then maybe you’ll be good enough for the love of God. It’s not about being strong enough. It’s not about power.

Since becoming your pastor, I’ve been hollered at more times than I’d like to remember: for beer and hymns, for daring to say that we love and cherish and treat LGBTQ people just like everybody else. I’ve had fingers in my face. People have physically stepped away from me when they realize who I am. Most recently I was yelled at for being a woman and being a pastor. I’ve seen people scoff at our giving away root beer floats, insisting on trying to give us money or simply just walking away. I’ve been told the grace in Jesus I preach isn’t the whole Gospel. I’ve been told people are praying for our church to not survive.

These situations could lead us to grief. We could hole up in a room scared for what waits outside. We could spend our time turned in, not willing to risk sharing God’s love. We could just hope it would all change on its own. But Hope unbelieved is always considered nonsense.

But hope believed? Hope believed for others? Well. That’s something else entirely. That’s resurrection. That’s transformation, baby. That’s God rebuilding our hope over and over again.

You know what hope believed looks like? Sounds like?

Like a family sighing, realizing they’d be accepted in our church after being turned away by other churches.

It looks like people who initially scoff at the idea of a free root beer float suddenly turn and smile and open their hands and say, “well, gee! Cool! Yes, I’d love one. Free?”

It looks like a bar filled with people at beer and hymns coming together, singing about the promises of God’s grace as protesters hollered law after law after law.

That’s resurrection. That’s transformation, baby. And I have witnessed it in your own lives.

I know you’ve experienced crazy stories that you can hardly put words to for other people without them thinking you’re crazy.

I know you’ve experienced life in a relationship or a situation that you were certain was a dead end.

I know your doubt and cynicism has been turned around.

I know you’ve experienced reconciliation when you thought all was lost.

We live our lives at the mouth of the tomb. We’re ready to scoff. We’re ready to call BS! Inconceivable! But then. But then. There is new life. There is resurrection. There is this miracle that rattles our bones, that settles into our bones and we find ourselves remembering what we’ve been told and then believing it and then our lives change. One step at a time. One unbelievable, inconceivable story at a time.

[1] https://sojo.net/articles/while-men-were-hiding-women-delivered-greatest-news-world-has-ever-known

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