The Message, April 17, 2022, Easter, "Risen!"

The Message, April 17, 2022, Easter, "Risen!"

Author: Rev. Scott W. Cousineau
April 19, 2022

 

“Risen!”
An Easter Message by Rev. Scott W. Cousineau
Luke 24:1-12

            Wow! What a week it has been! Last Sunday we celebrated the triumphal entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem. We marched with palms. We sang, “Jesus is coming, pave the way with branches!” We might have even offered a “Hosanna” … or two! The word spread through the city … “He’s here! He’s here!”

            And then we gathered again on Thursday evening and the mood was much different. We shared a meal together … a simple meal of broken bread and poured cup, but the meaning of the meal was profound. We shared in community just as Jesus called us. Throughout his ministry, Jesus gathered people together to share a common meal, at a common table.

            After the meal, we traveled the short distance to Gethsemane with Jesus and the disciples. The disciples drifted off to sleep, but we heard the anguish in Jesus’ prayer. And then we witnessed him arrested … taken away … tried … and condemned.

            We traveled that hard road with Jesus as he struggled. We saw him hand the burden of the cross to Simon. And we were there for the unthinkable … the unimaginable. We were there when he took his last breath …

            Our tears mingled with the tears of Mary as he was taken down from the cross and placed in the tomb.

            And then we sat in the darkness of death.

            Of course, our lives returned to normal just moments after we left the sanctuary. We had things to do … preparations that needed attending to … shopping, cooking, cleaning.

            The disciples did not spend Friday at Hannford, or Shaws, or Market Basket. They did not need to clean that upper room. They were not expecting anybody. In fact, they hoped that no one would find them!

            But then, the third day came. The woman went to the tomb with their spices and ointments so that they could perform the required ritual. They carried heavy hearts along with their rags and spices. Last Sunday’s shouts of, “He’s here!” were replaced by incredible news … “He is NOT here!”

            “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here. He is risen!”

            “Risen? What do you mean … risen? Has he been taken away?”

            “No … risen. Just like he told you. Remember? In Galilee? He would be handed over, crucified, and then on the third day … be raised?”

            Obviously, they did not remember. Or perhaps … they did not believe.

            We understand that. We have a popular saying in our day and age, “If it sounds too good to be true … it probably is!”

            “Jesus will rise from the dead? Sounds too good to be true. Let’s bring our species to the tomb so that we can care for his dead body.”

            It was not like a case of Schrodinger’s Jesus. In their heads there was not a question of whether he was both dead and alive. They brought the spices. They expected him to be in that tomb.

            We can understand their shock … their confusion … their fear … even their disbelief. And we can also run with them to tell the others. We can fully appreciate their joy! He is risen!!

            But then, the disciples had their own moment of disbelief. The women burst into the room … breathless … trying to tell the whole story of what had happened at the tomb …

            “Stone rolled away … two men … dazzling like lightening … He is NOT here … HE IS NOT THERE!!! HE IS RISEN!!! Just like he told us!!”

            “Ladies … please. I am sure that it was very traumatic. You are just being emotional. Now … take a breath and tell us what really happened.”

            They did not remember Jesus’ words either. They believed the women’s proclamation of Easter joy to be idle chatter.

            They too seemed to believe that Jesus was dead. And in their experience … dead is dead.

            Except that Jesus had shown them a whole new reality!

            Jesus had raised the widow’s son from the dead in the village of Nain.
            Jesus had raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead.
            Jesus had just raised Lazarus from the dead.

            Where Jesus is concerned … dead is NOT dead!

            But the doubt of the disciples does not really surprise us. We have seen that even though they traveled with Jesus, day and night for three years, they were still slow to comprehend.

            They had seen him perform miraculous acts of power.
            They had seen him heal the sick.
            They had seen him restore sight to the blind.
            They had seen him help the lame to walk and cast out demons.
            They had seen him calm the storm.

            And even still, when the women told them the news … they questioned, they doubted, they did not believe that it could be true.

            But it was! He was NOT there! He is risen!

            And that is why we are gathered here this morning.

            Of course … for those of us gathered here, or watching online … there may be questions, there may be doubts. We are not one monolithic mind. No doubt we are likely in different places when it comes to this.

            Some may believe with absolute certainty that Jesus died and rose again, and that there is a place being prepared for us in the very Presence of God. That is the cornerstone of our faith.

            And there may be some others who are not quite be there just yet. You may not be so certain. You HOPE that that is the case. You HOPE that there is something after this … but … you are still not quite sure of what that is, or what it means.

            And that is okay. That puts you in very good company. You are right there with those disciples.

            Every Sunday, I begin the worship service saying, “No matter who you are, no matter where you are on your faith journey, you are welcome here.” And we mean that … absolutely and sincerely. You are welcome here.

            We are on this journey together.

            Remember, even the four Gospel writers did not agree with the account of what happened at the tomb on Easter morning. There was one man in dazzling white … there were two men that shone like lightening … there was one angel … there were two angels.

            However, they all agree on one thing … the tomb was empty. Jesus was not there. He is risen!

            The Gospel writers also differed in their account of the birth of Jesus. Luke had angels and shepherds; Matthew had magi. John and Mark did not include the birth narrative at all. But all agree that the love of God, Love Incarnate was made manifest on earth in the person of Jesus Christ.

            And as we heard from Santa Claus in the Children’s Message this morning, the two celebrations are part of the same wonderful story. It is the story of God’s love.

            Jesus showed us what the love of God looks like. He showed us the power of that love.
            Love heals the sick.
            Love cares for the widow and the orphan.
            Love welcomes the outcast and the outsider.
            Love seeks out the lonely.
            Love created community.
            Love conquers any and every power on earth, including the power of sin and death.

            That is our story. That is why we are here today. That is why we are called “Easter People.” God’s Love broke into the world in a powerful way. God’s Love fills our lives with purpose and meaning. God’s Love is our comfort and our calling.

            God’s Love could not be contained by a tomb of human making.
            God’s Love is alive and active in the Word and in the world.
            God’s Love … Jesus Christ … is risen! Risen for us and risen IN us!
            Hallelujah! Amen.


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