Easter Sermon: Get it in Gear
Easter sermon about Luke 24:1-12.
“It is finished.”
We can’t get to the real heights of celebration without acknowledging Good Friday’s desperation. The crucifixion of Jesus is the preface to Easter. On the cross, the divine absorbed the worst of human cruelty and inhumanity.
One detail that captures me is when Jesus, breathing his last said, “It is finished.” But what is the “it” that was finished? Was it just his life, or was he making a broader statement? I read that the phrase “it is finished” appears a few times in the Old Testament and wherever it appears it is talking about the end of an era or someone’s rule that had come to its end. What was finished, was Jesus’ life. But more than that.
What was finished?
- Human arrogance, cruelty and tyranny are now deemed obsolete in the face of God’s love.
- What was over was looking the other way when people suffer the consequences of bullying and dominating and forcing people to obey.
- Over was the bankrupt philosophy of feeling you ought to lash-out and demand and eye for an eye every time you get your nose bent out of joint.
- Finished was the belief that the sinner, the lost and abandoned or addicted or misused have no place in God’s love. Because the one who suffered on the cross pledged his solidarity with all who suffer.
- It is finished. No longer shall status, position, prestige, privilege, and prominence outweigh God’s amazing mercy and grace. It’s the meek not the ultra-bougie that inherit the earth.
- Finished was an era of thinking spirituality was a do it yourself gig because from now on you could have a church, a community of care to support you and help you through the ups and downs of life!
- What was over? The sting of death because it does not have the last word. It gives way to new life.
I read an article the other day about how in a battle the Ukrainian forces OP’d the Russians. OP? What is that? I looked it up and it comes from video gamer lingo and means overpowered. So we recognize that in Easter how much is overpowered. Death is overpowered by new life. Greed is OP’d. Hatred is OP’d. Your depression is OPd, your feeling a sense of lostness and aimlessness is OP’d. Your isolation is OP’d. Your feeling sorry for yourself and like no one cares is OP’d by the goodness and mercy that shall follow you all the days of your life.
That’s all finished. Over. Complete. On the cross, the powers and structures and ways of approaching life that causes so much misery and pain were laid bare and exposed as bankrupt.
What rose on Easter?
So, the reign of terror and misery is over. And Jesus said it is finished and died. But just because Jesus said it was over that doesn’t mean the story was finished. With Jesus rose a movement. People power was unleashed. It wasn’t just Jesus carrying out his ministries, but a whole bunch of people who were committed to principles of integrity, fairness, and reaching out to the least and lost.
- What rose was a community where people were kind to each other, looked out for one another, shared, and helped each other through times of need.
- What rose was people’s expectations that just because things look bad right now, just because your enemies may have the upper hand now, that is not the way the story finishes. What rose was a belief, a hope that the ways of God, the ways of generosity, of compassion, of fairness, of equality, of acceptance of all people, eventually prevail. It’s not supposed to just get worse all the time. It’s destined to get better, somehow, some way God will make a way.
- What rose was the idea that every morning is Easter morning. A day of new opportunities for growth for God’s kingdom to break through the dreariness of our lives. From now on every morning is Easter morning!
An Idle Tale?
Did you notice that in Luke’s telling of Easter that the disciples dismissed the women’s account of the empty tomb as “an idle tale.” If you don’t believe anything else about the Easter story at least this part rings true. A group of men discounted the voices of women. I heard someone say there must be some veracity to the Easter story because if it were all fabricated, there is no way in that time and culture, they would have begun the whole account with the testimony of women. Their reliability was always and still way too often dismissed. That is, if someone were to make all this up, they would have chosen a different way of presenting it to their audience. The story teaches us all to listen carefully to the testimony of women and hear the good news whatever its source.
You’re in good company
Take heart if you have trouble believing the resurrection; you are in good company. Even the disciples had trouble believing it. Even though they were with Jesus every day and heard him on at least three different occasions predict his resurrection. Our doubts put us in good company.
Today’s Evidence of Resurrection
The guards at the tomb weren’t wearing bodycams that recorded what exactly happened on Easter morning. But what I can point to is that the mission of God in Jesus was resurrected and is alive and well even to this day.
All over the world, Christians are gathering this morning to celebrate how Christ is alive in their lives—giving them courage and strength to face whatever the world throws at them.
- The spirit of Christ is alive in this movement where people live by the golden rule—treating people they way they want to be treated.
- The spirit of Christ is alive and well in people who make sacrifices for a better world, who show up at the food pantries, who stand up for justice and fair treatment of others. It’s alive in people who practice forgiveness and mercy.
- You can see the evidence here at Bay Shore Church. Look at how people show up for each other. Sending cards, and meals and support when someone goes through a hard time. Look at Operation Easter Basket, beach clean-ups, providing for abused women and children, feeding the hungry, creating affordable housing through Habitat for Humanity, instilling deep values in kids through our programs and those we partner with. All of this is our living testimony that the Spirit of Christ, God’s project in Jesus is still alive within and among us.
Whatever may have happened on Easter morning, we have overwhelming empirical evidence right here in this room that the essence of everything that Jesus was about, everything that he taught and lived by example rose and are still alive today. This is no idle tale.
Get it in Gear
The only way this becomes an idle tale is if we treat it like one. I like to think of it like a car that is idling. You know. The gears aren’t engaged, and you go nowhere. The story is idle if it doesn’t engage us to live better.
Not long ago I was at a stoplight in my little grey preacher car, and this pimped out sportscar pulled up next to me. It was the kind with those super loud exhaust systems. The dude in the car just sat there revving up his engine. Blam. Blam. Making a terrible racket.
I’ve got to admit that I’m a competitive person and my finger started reaching to take my car out of economy mode and shift it into “sport mode.” I wasn’t going down without a fight! Then I thought how silly that was and how easy it is to get people to lure us into stupid competitions that we can never win and even if we do, so what? They have a nicer house, a better job, better pictures of their food on Instagram. It’s just a lot of noise blam blam.
Similarly, I think it’s an apt metaphor for us to make a lot of noise about our faith, sing Hallelujah and beat on timpani drums but if we don’t put it in gear, it’s just a blam blam.
We celebrate and get it in gear by reaching out, by being generous, by interjecting kindness, by overpowering our selfishness, by standing up for justice, by understanding our place in the world and showing appreciation and gratitude for all that we have.
Don’t let Easter be about the celebration without getting it in gear, to motivate you to do better, to have a hopeful disposition, to pray, to forgive, to do everything in your power to make this a more user-friendly world. When you do good you put it in gear and live without fear, knowing the Lord is near. Come on Rise up. Rise up. Rise up. Amen.