Tag Archives: Jesus

“Christ is Risen!” 2018 Easter Sermon 04.01.2018

Easter 2018 * John 20:1-18 * April 1, 2018Easter 2018 * John 20:1-18 * April 1, 2018

Brothers and sisters in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus the RISEN Christ. Amen.

So this year, Easter falls on April’s Fools Day. The last time this happened was in 1956 and there will only be two more occurrences of Easter falling on April Fool’s Day this century. In case you didn’t know this, the actual date for Easter changes each year. It’s not a set date like Christmas. If you were paying attention as we received the gospel readings over the past four days of Holy Week worship, you’ll note that scripture doesn’t tell us that Maundy Thursday or any of the other days have a specific calendar date – only a specific day of the week. After all, God’s time is not the same thing as human time. It may surprise some, but God, in fact, does not have an Apple Watch.

I’ve never explored this too far but…the date for Easter is determined as the first Sunday, after the first full moon, on or before the Spring equinox.

OK – before I keep chasing after that squirrel, let’s move on.

Since the very earliest days of the Christian movement, there’s been a very significant, and somewhat foolish I might add, greeting used to signify Easter and the resurrection. Someone will say “Christ is risen!” And someone else will say “He is risen indeed!”

Let’s try it.
Awesome! You guys are great.

BUT – wait a minute. Weren’t you listening? Why are we shouting for joy?

In our gospel reading on this Easter Day, Peter and the other disciple whom Jesus loved have been to the empty tomb, don’t seem to understand what is going on so they decide to head for home in order to continue their Xbox video game tournament. Or something like that.

And Mary, one of Jesus’ closest friends and someone whom I believe we should see as one of the first disciples, is weeping.

So why are you and I, followers of Jesus nearly 2,000 years later, shouting for joy?

Here’s something about the resurrection that has rested on my heart this year. Peter, the other disciple, and Mary Magdalene don’t know what’s going on – they don’t know the end of the story. At this point, all they know is that Jesus – this friend of their’s whom they thought was the Messiah – has been brutally killed just a few days earlier. They don’t see any reason why there is going to be anything more to this story than the horrific, bloody death of their friend on a cross. They have to be thinking – this is the end. Nothing more to see here. Let’s move on with our lives.

Early on this first day of the week, they come to the grave where they thought Jesus was to be buried, and he’s not there. Is that all there is to their story? Is the story of Jesus, God’s son, our Savior, over?

You and I know that death on a Friday we dare call Good, is not the end of the story. The first disciples to witness the resurrection didn’t know that, at least not yet.

As Mary is weeping, she doesn’t recognize Jesus, but Jesus recognizes her. Not because of anything she does, but because of what God does for her through Jesus.

We began worship today by giving thanks for and affirming our own baptism. In the sacred and holy waters and words of promise from God that is the sacrament of Holy Baptism, God claims us. A sacrament when we see Jesus recognizes us. Not because of anything we do, but because of what God does for us through Jesus.

Peter and the other disciple have no idea what is going on at the tomb “for as yet they did not understand the scripture.” Over the next few weeks in our worship life together, we’ll discover that they will begin to understand the scripture as they experience the resurrected Jesus first hand. Again, not because of anything they do, but what God does for them through Jesus.

After all of the Easter candy has been consumed – or hidden by wise parents – and the Easter dinner is over, and family and friends have returned to their homes and busy lifestyles; what does any of this mean? What does it mean to be a follower of this Jesus?

This Jesus who couldn’t even be stopped by death. This Jesus who recognizes and calls each of us by name as precious children of God – loved and claimed and freed – in spite of all of the ways that we try to turn and run from God. All of the ways that we try and put God to death expecting that we, somehow, can keep God dead.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the resurrection of Jesus is not simply a historical event that we remember each year like a national holiday or birthday. And the resurrection of Jesus is not only about some future hope that we have for ourselves and our loved ones after our earthly death.

I’m sorry, but if we focus all of our attention on a past or future event, we are completely missing the resurrection promise that’s right in front of us today. The resurrection promise of Jesus that calls us to live with a hope that we can experience and witness each and every day of our life together as part of the body of Christ. Hope that is only possible because of what God has already done, and is continuing to do for us, through the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the savior of the world.

So don’t worry about Easter falling on April Fool’s day this year. You don’t need to ignore it. It actually might be helpful.

One ELCA pastor, Paul Lutter said – “Through his death and resurrection for us, Jesus Christ is God’s foolish power on the loose among us. Our strength is toppled by his weakness. Our wisdom is toppled by his foolishness. And we are never the same again. We are made new. We are turned upside down for the sake of Christ, who dies and is raised from death for us. We are given new identities. Marked with the cross of this foolish Christ and sealed by the Holy Spirit in the waters of baptism, we are made fools for Christ.” [“Foolish Power,” Living Lutheran, April 1, 2011]

So for today, let’s greet one another as fools for Christ with foolish joy and proclaim “Christ is Risen!” “He is risen indeed!”

And just like Peter, the other disciple, Mary Magdalene and every follower of Jesus since that first resurrection day, let’s not be afraid or stand around weeping. Let’s proclaim truth every day.

The truth that God has, is, and will always be a God of resurrection. A God of resurrection that conquers every death we will ever experience. A God of resurrection that sounds foolish to some. A God of resurrection that brings forth new life, always and in all ways.

And so tomorrow, on Easter Monday, let’s continue being fools for Christ as we greet one another with joy and proclaim “Christ is risen!” “He is risen indeed!”

And next weekend we will greet one another with joy and proclaim “Christ is risen!” “He is risen indeed!”

And later this year, we will greet one another with joy and proclaim “Christ is risen!” “He is risen indeed!”

Thanks be to God! Amen.


“Sit Down & Be” – Sermon 07.21.2013

Luke 10:38-42

Click here to view a video recording of this sermon.

Brothers and sisters in Christ grace and peace to you from God our Father and risen Lord and Savior Jesus. Amen.

At this point in the summer season, my guess is that you are saying one of two things – you have already had your fill of the heat and summer fun and are ready for whatever is coming your way this fall OR you are still waiting for your schedule to slow down enough so that you can actually enjoy a little summer fun before it’s too late.

When I’m in El Salvador with our brothers and sisters at Cristo Rey Lutheran Church a common greeting we offer each other is, “como es das?” Which means “How are you doing?” or “How’s it going?” Usually the response is “bein” or “mue bein” – “good” or “very good”.

If I ask that same question to someone in North Dakota the response is very different. More often than not, it sounds something like “I’ve been really busy!” or “I just don’t seem to have enough hours in the day anymore.”

That’s one of our favorite self-descriptions isn’t it? When we are asked how we are doing or how everything in life is going, we like to stress how high our activity levels are. We want people to know all about the craziness of our calendars.

I think that’s one of the great tragedies actually of living in the United States. We place such significance on initiative and  hard work; on getting things done and always trying to outdo the competition, that we fail to take time to slow down and enjoy things like having a little fun in the summer. We are so busy doing something that we rarely stop in order to just be for a little while.

Let’s face it. Most of us, myself included, we’re not all that good at dialing it back a little. We struggle for balance between always doing something; always moving at the speed of light that at times we loose touch with what it actually feels like to just sit down with Jesus and be.

And when we do in fact slow down a little, it’s usually just enough to catch our breath before we jump back into the busy-ness our lives. Our gospel reading today brothers and sisters from Saint Luke speaks to that directly.

Martha was busy – busy sweeping the floor, baking bread, setting the table. Martha, as Luke tells us is, “distracted by her many tasks.” She is caught up in busy-ness, distracted making sure that the dog is in the utility room, that the bikes are in the garage and the skateboards are out of the way; that the hors’ d’oeuvres are ready and the drinks are chilled; that the chex-mix is in the proper bowls and the candles are lit. Martha is busy making sure there is a place for everything, and everything is in its place, no thanks of course to Mary.

Martha is irritated. Martha is annoyed. And in what’s possibly the best version of biblical whining that we have, she marches into the living room and says to Jesus, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to help me.” To which Jesus says “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part.”

“The better part”? Now what in the world does that mean? What is Mary doing that Jesus would point to it directly and say it is better?

I think it’s a point that we often miss in the midst of this very familiar gospel story. Jesus isn’t pushing Martha aside and telling her that she is kind of grabby and needs to take a break. Remember her sister Mary is not stretched out on the couch taking a nap. She is sitting at the feet of Jesus. One could argue that she is in fact doing something.

I believe Jesus is telling Martha, and you and me today, that the core of our existence – of who we are as children of God – is in our life with him. And that life with Jesus is not boring. It doesn’t require us to overbook our calendars. This life with Jesus is experiencing being with Jesus always. Being with Jesus in worship and service and in telling everyone we meet about the story of God’s redeeming love and mercy for all people. It’s an active life who’s center is not in the amount of work we have before us. To keep distractions and worries at the fore-front instead of Jesus.

I think that’s what’s going on here. Jesus calls Martha, Mary, and everyone of his followers since this day in Bethany so long ago, into deep devotion toward the central element of faith – being with Jesus. The apostle Paul describes it as Christ “formed in” us. (Galatians 4:19)

I think Mary was beginning to figure that out. Discovering that her life with Jesus was more important than making sure the lemonade was cold when the guests arrived. Does this minimize our call to serve our neighbor as Lutheran Christians? Absolutely not. But hopefully this story of Mary and Martha helps center us a little.

I just returned from a week of spiritual retreat in Dallas. During this retreat, one of my mentors said that, “our outward journey of faith is deeply rooted in and sustained by our inward journey of faith.”  Did you hear that?

Our outward journey of faith, how the world sees us as followers of Jesus, is deeply rooted in and sustained by our inward journey of faith, the times that we simply sit at the feet of Jesus and be. And Lutheran Pastor Rob James said that the question he wrestles with is: “If we are not listening to Jesus, how are we sure that we doing the right work?”

Believe it or not brothers and sisters in Christ, your life in Christ is way more than making sure you say a quick prayer from time to time to check in with God or methodically doing a devotion every day or even showing up for worship once in a while. Jesus offers Martha, and you and me too, a better part that isn’t just about staying busy all the time.
Two things to take with you – First, when you and I are distracted by many things, we miss what’s most important. Martha is worried and distracted by her mile-long to-do list. Jesus doesn’t say that having a list or wanting to do the list well is wrong. He simply says that Mary has chosen the better part. In other words, Mary has stepped out of the fast lane, put down her to-do list for a short while, and slowed things way down.

The best “To-Do List” I think I’ve ever seen had five things on it: 1. Wake up, 2. Take a shower, 3. Eat, 4. Breathe, 5. Blink when eyes start getting dry. Repeat as necessary.

Hopefully you the see the wisdom there. I think it reminds us of what is most important. So the second thing I offer you today to take with you is this. It comes right out of Mary’s example: “Don’t just do something, sit there.” A lot of us never take the time to do that and for some of us it is almost impossible to even think of attempting it. But I challenge you to do just that in the next seven days.

Don’t just do something.

Sit there.

Sit there.

Set aside all of the distractions and worries that make up your life and focus on the “better part” that Jesus offers.

And in doing that, I hope and pray that you experience being with Jesus. It’s the better part for all of us who seek to follow the risen savior Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God. Amen.