Matthew 28. 1-10
The resurrection is the fruit of the cross!
That was an ad I saw, just the other day, on Facebook. And I have to admit, I was impressed! Impressed by the confidence! Impressed by the enthusiasm! And if I didn’t have a prior commitment, this morning, I might have tuned in. But here we are doing almost exactly the same thing. Easter Sunday Service! Livestreamed! Just like the big boys! But about that title … The Power of the Resurrection … There’s something about it that bothers me.
This is my thirty-seventh Easter as a “called and ordained minister of the church of Christ.” And frankly, after all this time, I still don’t really understand what that means. Today doesn’t feel much different from my first. Doesn’t feel much different from any of the Easters in between. We come here – metaphorically speaking – Easter morning and we say the same prayers, read the same words, sing the same songs, we always have. And each year, god says, “Behold! I make all things new!” Then, we go home, fall asleep, wake up a year later, and do it all over, again! Same prayers! Same words! Same songs! Same old promise!
It’s like we’re stuck in a sequel to the movie Groundhog’s Day! Trapped in a never-ending cycle! Fated to repeat the same day! Over! And over! And over! And without the luxury of learning to do it better! Finally, moving on to the rest of the story! It’s a rut, Easter is, a routine, that comes around, at the same time, each year, every year. And nothing ever, nothing really, changes. People are born and people die. People grow up and they grow old. And the entire time, they remain just people. Plain. Ordinary. Everyday. Vulnerable. Exposed. People who fall short. People who miss the mark. People who remain nothing more than just people. Most Sundays, we confess our sins and we hear we’re forgiven. Only to go on sinning the same sins. It’s not because we’re bad people. It’s simply because we’re just people. What did the Preacher say, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun.” And here we are, once again, celebrating, commemorating, “THE POWER OF THE RESURRECTION”! But what if …
What if the world was never meant to change? At least, to change the way we imagine? What if god never intended for the world to become what we expect? What if creation was meant, intended, just to go on … and on … and on … After all, god created it and called it good! Called it, in fact, very good! What if people were destined just to be people? Not angels! Not saints! Just people! Weak! Foolish! People who can be laid low by small things, by tiny things, by things they can’t even see! What if god expected us to be people – my apologies to Ms Streisand – expected us to be people who needed people! What if needing one another isn’t a flaw, a defect, but what it is to be a person?!? We can’t do it alone! We aren’t Rambo’s! We aren’t Lone Rangers! The only thing we get when we try pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps is a knee in our eye!
Faith – Christian faith – isn’t about the power of the resurrection. It’s about the power of the cross! It’s about the power of the crucifixion! The power of grace! Of charity! Of love! Good Friday isn’t there because Easter is here. Easter is here because Good Friday is there! Good Friday created all this! Golgotha conceived it! Love is a willingness, a wantingness, to give to another! Give your everything! Give your all! Especially to those who have nothing! To those who are no one! The lowest! The least! Who can’t repay! The real power is believing in the cross! Depending on it! Relying on it! Staking your life on it! On the sacrifice! On the suffering! That’s the reason – the only reason – we’re here, this morning!
When we give, we hedge our bets. We play it safe. We give as we’re willing. We give as we’re able. We give till it chaffs. We give till it hurts. God gives till it kills. No hesitation. No restraint. That’s how god wants us to give. Not to god. God doesn’t need anything god doesn’t already have. And I’m not talking about giving to a congregation, giving to the church. I’m talking about giving to one another! Giving openheartedly! Giving openhandedly! Living with and living for all those around us! Just! Like! Jesus! Jesus never asked us to pick up our empty tomb and follow him. He told us to pick up our cross! Or rather, to pick up the cross of our neighbor! And he promised he would remake us because of it! Remake us and remake our world! It might look like the same old world. It might appear as if nothing has changed. But truth is, nothing would ever be the same, again. Nothing could ever be the same.
Good Friday isn’t rooted in Easter morning. But the resurrection is definitely rooted in the Cross. As the church, as god’s own people, we don’t dream of a world where people don’t need each other! And we can’t imagine a place where crosses aren’t necessary! Where people never hurt! Where people never cry! Where people never get hungry or sick! We need a place where love is necessary! A place where love is essential! It’s in that kind of world the church lives and moves and has its being! It’s in that kind of world – a world of broken, lost, hurting people – that the church thrives! That the church flourishes! A world in which scars matter!
We are the church! We are god’s own! We have a fight to fight! We have a race to run! Not for the title. Not for the crown. But for the people! For the people all around us! The Power of the Resurrection? Ours is a world where people were never meant to go it alone. Ours is a world that doesn’t exist, that can’t exist, without the love! Without the charity! Without the grace! That’s the new commandment we received, last Thursday evening. The new commandment that led Christ – that drove Christ – to the cross! The new commandment that laid him in the grave! And that’s the commandment that’s drawn us here, this morning. To the start of a new week! To the birth – to the rebirth – of creation itself!
That’s the world – the kind of world – of which we dream! The kind of world we never imagined could exist! A world brimming with chances to be the people we were made to be! To be the people we were redeemed to become! Turning the other! Going the extra! Doing unto! Forgiving not just seven times, but seventy times seven! Picking up a cross and following! Things that can only be done … here … now …. Downturn? Epidemic? Bust? For us, that is the kingdom and the power and the glory! The very things we were saved for, not from!
So, it’s Easter Sunday morning, yet again. And we’re livestreaming, along with everyone else. But while they’re talking about the power of the resurrection, we proclaim the cross! Christ and him crucified! Nothing other than the power of god! And nothing less than the power of love!