Believe and Respond

April 20, 2019

Epistle                        Romans 6:3-11

Gospel                       Luke 24:1-12

 

 

"Alleluia. Christ is risen!" ... "The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia"

"Alleluia. Christ is risen!" ... "The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia"

"Alleluia. Christ is risen!" ... "The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia"

 

            Thank you for participation. I realize responding to the preacher is a bit foreign to Episcopalians. I suppose that was a bit of a risk. But it is worth the risk on such a joyous occasion. Heavenly hosts and choirs of angels, and all the company of heaven are evermore praising God and saying "Holy, Holy, Holy ... heaven and now earth are full of God's Glory. Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord." Our Alleluias are set free, God is loose in the world, and life, light, and love are triumphant. God and humanity are reconciled. That's worth an A-MEN from God's people. ...

            For all of our rejoicing, the gospel today reveals the trouble many have with belief. Mary, Mary, Joanna, and the other women with them, who had seen it with their own eyes, told the good news to the apostles, the inner circle, those who had traveled with Jesus, had seen the miracles, felt His divine presence, heard his predictions ... yet "these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them."

            In the 1977 film "Oh, God", assistant supermarket manager Jerry Landers, played by John Denver, is not much of a believer, until a kindly old man played by George Burns appears to him and proclaims he is God. Later he appears as a taxi driver and then a room service waiter. God informs Jerry he has been chosen to share God's message with the world, and the message is simple ... God lives. After timidly sharing this revelation, Jerry soon becomes the focus of wide spread ridicule. People refuse to believe his story. Jerry eventually takes the matter to court, to prove God exists. Jerry argues that if God's existence is a reasonable possibility, then He can materialize and sit in the witness chair if He so chooses. In a dramatic scene Jerry calls God to the stand, and all the courtroom turns around to the courtroom doors to encounter God. In that moment, they all believed, or at least wanted to believe.

            At first, God fails to appear and the judge threatens to charge Jerry with contempt for what appeared to be a clever stunt. When Jerry raised the mere possibility of God making a personal appearance in the courtroom, he hoped to prove that God at least deserves the benefit of the doubt. This was not enough to win his case, so God steps up and makes an actual appearance. In the form of actor George Burns, God is sworn in, and swears to tell the truth, the whole truth, so help me, me. God identifies himself as God. This is still not enough. God provides some miracles as seed faith, first in the form of a few rather impressive card tricks for the judge. Then, to help the people believe, he leaves the stand, walks a few steps, and with everyone watching, literally disappears before their eyes. His disembodied voice then issues a parting monologue. His closing words are, "It can work. If you find it hard to believe in Me, maybe it will help to know that I believe in you."

            God has shown us in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, that he believes in us. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for; a conviction of things not seen. God has done God's part. Over 2000 years from the events we remember and celebrate tonight, faith carries the day. We don't have to prove anything. God has done the heavy lifting. All we are called to do is believe, tell the story, and respond. The resurrection is ultimately not about pious living, doing things that make us feel good about ourselves, a beautiful building, or fancy vestments ... the resurrection is about reality. The reality is that God's love for us and God's action through Christ affects the world so radically that stones crack and tapestries rip from top to bottom.

            God in the Incarnation reached down to humanity in expectant hope that we will reach back. God knelt down to humanity as a servant to show us the way back to God, back home. God has demonstrated to us that we are worth all the trouble, that we are forgiven, that we are valuable, and that we are claimed as God's own. On the first day of the week, as in Creation, God is doing something new, putting the world in order, reconciling all things to God's self. The world has been turned upside down to us; right side up to God. Old things are being made new. Death has been over come with life.

            It is a story worth telling, even in the face of ridicule. It is a story that we are compelled to tell believers and unbelievers alike. It is a love story of death and life, that is a matter of life and death. We are called to life in Christ. We are called to live in Christ together. We are called to go and tell the story, to make disciples of all the nations. Jesus did not become human to show us how he could die; he came to teach us how to live.

            Remember all he told us when he was in Galilee? Remember all that we are shown in the gospels? We are invited into faith in the risen Christ, to believe, to live in Christ. Brothers and sisters, in faith we are alive.

            Run to the tomb, see that death no longer has power over us, and be amazed in what God has done. "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen."

"Alleluia. Christ is risen!" ... "The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia"

AMEN

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