(My Easter Sermon preached at St. Stephen’s Cathedral
offered as a conclusion to the GOD 640 project)
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen, indeed! Alleluia!
From our gospel reading:
Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told (about Jesus’ resurrection) …to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them… Peter got up and ran to the tomb;… he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.
It was that hard to believe.
It was that hard to believe, Jesus’ resurrection- it seemed an idle tale, made up, farfetched, preposterous, implausible… amazing.
The women were “perplexed” and “terrified” when they encountered two men in shimmering clothes standing at the empty tomb… instead of the lifeless body of their master and friend that they had planned to anoint.
Peter had to see the whole thing with his own eyes, running, breathlessly to witness for himself, the rock rolled away and the shroud cast aside.
God works that way………. sometimes.
We have a hard time wrapping our heads around the resurrection, if we are honest.
There have been lots of theories to satisfy our Western minds about what might have happened, instead:
- Jesus’ body was stolen- by the disciples, or Joseph of Arimathea, or the women.
- Or, dogs got to it.
- One idea called the “swoon theory” argues that Jesus never really died, and left the tomb under his own power. He may have fainted or gone into a coma and then recovered.
- There’s another theory says that the women must have gone to the wrong tomb. (seriously?)
- And then there’s the hallucination theory: It suggests that those who claimed to see Jesus after his crucifixion were imagining it and didn’t really see him at all- they were hallucinating… Jesus, the mirage.
Our rational, linear minds have been twisted out of shape trying to imagine how this fantastic event could have happened.
Most of us- most of us, here, I am guessing- have released ourselves to understanding this event in a way that does not make mathematical, physical, linear, or biological sense. We have leaned into the mystery of it, flexing the muscle of our faith, and, in the name of hope and salvation, we have come to believe that God loves us enough to create, in the resurrection of Jesus, that “new thing” that Isaiah was crowing about, not just for Jesus’ sake… but for ours.
God really did- does- love us (and the world) so much that God gave his only begotten Son so that we, who believe in him, should have everlasting life.
I rest, knowing, by faith, that this is true.
But life, my friends, isn’t all amazing sunrises revealing surprisingly empty tombs. It is ordinary. Muddy. Filled with cornflakes and fiber supplements, and brushing our teeth. It is the same commute for years on end, spaghetti on Wednesdays, kids with scraped knees, leaves that need raking, and snow that comes after you’ve retired the snow shovels to the basement for the season. Life is ordinary. Routine, for the most part… and we aren’t worn out running each morning to the tomb to discover, anew, that God has eclipsed reason again, and Christ is alive.
We seek homeostasis. We like some amount of routine. Our bodies are wired to handle excitement for just so long- about 20 minutes- before we seek to adjust to “normal” again. (This was determined in a study of shoppers, bargains and impulse buying, but I am loathe to go on and find myself connecting dots between the resurrection and experiments with new shoes or golf clubs at reduced prices….)
We know that when we are physiologically excited, the body releases chemicals into the brain that stimulate emotions, reduce conscious control, and create ‘readiness for action.’ Adrenaline is activated which increases oxygen and glucose flow, our pupil dilate, our digestion pauses, and our heart rates and breathing ramp up. But we can’t maintain it.
And then, we’re back at the kitchen table with the cornflakes.
Today I want to proclaim to you the holiness of cornflakes.
I want you to know that the first resurrection of our Lord from the dead was a shining God moment for all time… and…
… that we have God moments happening all around us, every day, in every place that we tread, in every moment. I have 640 ways to prove it to you:
As Ash Wednesday approached this past February, I found myself ruminating over what to do. What kind of new self-discipline could I take on that would assist me in fulfilling the Lenten charge (we call it an “invitation”) to self-examination and repentance, prayer, fasting and self-denial, reading and meditating on God and God’s Holy Word?
I decided to create a project that I called God 640.
I discovered that there are 640 hours if you count the hours between 5 AM and 8 PM Monday-Saturday for the 40 days of Lent. 640 opportunities to pause, take stock, look around, and find Christ, God, Jesus, the Sacred… in my midst.
So a got a little notebook (two, actually), and started recording: “5 AM. Waking. God in the sense of being cradled in warmth and comfort. 10 AM. Driving. God in the beauty of the sun lighting up the mountains of our Northern Tier. 2 PM A difficult meeting. God in giving me strength to speak the truth in love. 7 PM dinner. A beautiful vegetable stir-fry. God in the bounty of our fields and farms.”
And so it went. 40 days. 640 entries.
At the end of it (just last night at 8 PM) I came to a new appreciation of the ordinariness of our days, and the God-soaked moments in which we need only focus for a moment to find grace.
Today, we celebrate God: 1 spectacular moment. The Resurrection.
Allow it to excite you, revive you, feed you, inspire you.
And know that in all of the other moments, there is resurrection power, too.
Look around. You will see it. You will feel it.
And your life will be changed.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen, indeed, Alleluia!