Easter Sunday, Luke 24:1-12
“He is not here, but has risen.” That’s it. That’s all I got. That’s the Easter story. There’s really nothing more to be said about this day than that. To say much more than that borders on saying more than we really know or can know. I don’t know how it happened. I have no proof or explanations. All I have for you is a message; a message of life, a message of hope, a message of new possibilities, a message of good news. “He is not here, but has risen.”
We get exactly the same thing the women in today’s gospel (Luke 24:1-12) got – words, a message. Nothing more, nothing less. The message has never changed. It’s the same today as it was on that first Easter Day. But here’s the thing, it doesn’t make sense to me. I can’t figure it out. On Friday Jesus is killed, crucified. His body is enclosed in a tomb. On Sunday the tomb is empty and the body is gone. “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” two men in dazzling clothes ask the women, “He is not here, but has risen.”
That just doesn’t match my experience of life and what I know of death. I’ll bet it doesn’t match yours either. Something about it didn’t match the apostles’ experience either. The women bring the news of Jesus’ resurrection to the apostles but, Luke tells us, their “words seemed to them an idle tale.” They thought it was an idle tale, nonsense. That’s one way of translating the Greek word Luke uses (λῆρος). That word was also a medical term physicians used to describe the delirious babbling of a very ill person. That’s what the apostles think of the women’s message. That makes some sense to me. Maybe it does to you as well.
Every time I read another story of violence, another mass shooting, another terrorist attack the Easter message begins to sound like another idle tale. When I experience death, sorrow, and losses in my life the good news of Easter sounds like an idle tale. When the craziness of the world becomes the norm, business as usual, the Easter message sounds a lot like an idle tale. I think you probably understand what I am taking about. There is so much about our world and life circumstances that would have us disbelieve and lead us to conclude that the Easter story is an idle tale.
And that’s exactly why I come here today. I think that’s why Easter Sunday is the biggest church attendance day of the year. I think that’s why you come here today. We want to hear the story one more time. We want to be reminded, “He is not here, but has risen.” We want to be told that despite our life experiences, what we think we know of death, and what we see in the world, this story is true. We want to hear the Church proclaim, “Alleluia. Christ is risen!”
The Easter message was true yesterday, it is true today, and it will be true tomorrow. That’s what I believe. That’s what the Church proclaims. Everything about today says you can count on that message. The Easter message becomes an idle tale only when it is held in opposition to our life and world. Resurrection life and truth do not exist in spite of or in opposition to our life’s circumstances but because of and in the midst of those circumstances. That means
- The Easter message of life is found in the midst of death, not apart from it;
- The Easter message of hope arises from the center of our sorrows and losses, not apart from them;
- The Easter message of new possibilities is at the heart of business as usual, not apart from it;
- Death is real but it is not the end;
- Jesus died but he is not dead;
- We may not see or touch Jesus but he is alive and with us.
Those are truths of this day. They do not change the circumstances of our life but they change us in the midst of those circumstances. They do not eliminate our difficulties and problems, they see us through those difficulties and problems. They do not turn back time they take us to the first day of the week, at early dawn.
The first day of the week is not just a day on the calendar. It’s Luke’s way of telling us this is a new beginning, a week of re-creation. That it is early dawn means the sun/son has risen. Am I saying sun, s-u-n, as in light and warmth or am saying son, s-o-n, as in Jesus, the light and life of the world? Yes! Together the sonrise and the sunrise reveal a new life, a new light, a new creation, a new day. It’s the first day.
There is something about first days. The first day holds all things anew, creates every possibility, and withholds nothing.
- Think about the first day of love, your first love, your first kiss. The world was big and beautiful. Life was more real and the possibilities were endless. That first day held more than you could imagine.
- Recall the first day you saw your child or grandchild and how big, unlimited, and beautiful were your dreams for that child. On that first day you held the miracle of new life in your hands and your heart overflowed with love and thanksgiving.
- Do you remember that first day you decided to straighten out your life, to do it differently, or to mend a relationship? You may have had no idea what you would do or how you would do it but something about that first day said there was more life ahead of you than behind you.
- Then there is the first day of heartbreak, loss, or the death of loved one. You didn’t know how you would survive or if you would. That first day looked like the last day. But hidden in that first day was a new life, a new beginning. By God’s grace that first day unfolded into something you couldn’t see then, a life that has brought you to this very moment.
Those are not idle tales. They are first day stories of life, hope, and possibilities. They are first day stories of God’s faithfulness to us. The Easter story is a first day story not just for some but for all. Regardless of who you are, what you have done or left undone, or what has happened in your life this is your story. The son/sun rises on and for all. No one gets left out.
“He is not here, but has risen.” The resurrection of Christ makes every day the first day. So what does your first day look like? What does Easter mean in your life? I don’t know what it is for you. I can’t tell you. This is your resurrection. So let me ask you this.
- What is your biggest, most beautiful dream for your own becoming, for your life?
- If you could write another story of your life, what would it be?
- If you could live without regret, without looking to the past and lamenting, “If only,” what would you be free from? What chains would be broken? What new life would await you?
- If you could live without fear, without looking to the future and crying, “What if? What if that happens? What if that doesn’t happen?” what would you have the courage to do? Who might you become? How would your life be different?
- Fill in the blank on this sentence. “God has a future for me and it is ______________.”
Those are not idle tales. They are first day stories of your resurrection and they are possible all because “He is not here, but has risen.” The resurrection of Christ means God has guaranteed our life. “He is not here, but has risen.”