The Resurrection of our Lord
Texts: Mark 16:1-8;
Acts 10:34-43; Isa. 25:6-9
THE CONTINUING OF THE GOSPEL OF JESUS
Object for lesson: malted milk eggs [handed out to the kids at the
end]. Pretend this is a real egg and you found it laying outside.
How would you know what's inside it? It could be some sort of bird,
but what kind? And aren't there other animals that hatch from eggs?
(Kids give answers.) Yes, what if it was a snake or a lizard? But
you can't really know that until what's in here actually comes out
on their own, right?
The Easter stories about Jesus seem to say that he rose from the
dead with a different kind of body. People had trouble recognizing
him. And he suddenly appeared in locked rooms. He was in the grave,
and it was kind of like being in an egg. Because when he came out,
people were surprised. He was different in ways that they couldn't
We sometimes talk about going to heaven when we die to be with
Jesus. And we will. But that's not the last thing to happen to us.
Going to heaven is a bit more like being in an egg and growing into
something different. Because someday God will raise us with new
bodies like he did with Jesus. It will be like hatching from an egg.
And it will be a surprise. We can't guess what those bodies will be
like. Different from these bodies, like Jesus' body was different on
Easter. But we'll have to wait and find out when we 'hatch' -- when
God raises us. [End with prayer and giving out the candy eggs.]
Many or most of you know that my Dad passed away a week ago, and
that we will honor his life with a memorial service this Saturday.
Thank you for all the cards, and prayers, and expressions of
sympathy. They mean a lot. So I hope you won't mind if this Easter
sermon has a bit more of a personal flavor.
There are few greater losses in life than the loss of a parent. It
is my privilege as a pastor to walk with many of you through such
losses in your lives. I work to bring a message of comfort and hope
to you at these times in your lives. This week I experience first
hand how that message works for me. Especially since my grief
coincides with the week that we call Holy, I ask myself, "How does
this message play for me?"
It is a message of comfort and hope. First, the comfort part. If
you've been to a funeral here at Prince of Peace, or are aware of my
approach to ministry, you know that I talk a lot about how much the
basic shape of my faith has changed in my own life. It's no
different with the comfort I think the Easter message brings. I grew
up thinking more in terms of "going to heaven when you die" as the
ultimate comfort and hope -- and that Easter somehow assures the
promise of going to heaven when we die.
But we're rediscovering in recent years that that's not really what
resurrection is about -- at least, not centrally. Resurrection is
about what happens after we go to heaven when we die.
God's ultimate project -- for which that first Easter morning is but
the first day -- is to renew and complete the whole Creation. It's a
long process -- hopefully faster than the 13 billion years of
creation that came before Easter, but certainly not something that's
going to happen overnight. Two thousand years passing now since that
first day shouldn't get us down. God works in long timelines. And
the comfort comes from Jesus being the first raised and ascended as
God's promise that none of us will miss out on the glorious ending.
None of us will miss out on the completion of the Creation project
-- that wonderful day when there will finally be no more death and
suffering. Jesus' new resurrection body is the promise that some day
all of us will have resurrection bodies, too, bodies that will not
die or suffer. Bodies that will be well-suited to enjoy the
fulfillment of God's creating power of life.
Jesus is also ascended into heaven as not only the promise that we
do somehow 'go to heaven' when our earthly bodies die. But also that
God in Jesus is now present with us in more powerful,
life-transforming ways than before. Our theme through this Easter
season is "Tethered." Yes, tethered. Even though Jesus died, rose,
and ascended, he now is able to live in us and we in him. A month
from now we'll hear Jesus' words about the vine and branches -- how
it is that we stay connected spiritually, how the power of Jesus'
love and life dwells in us.
And that means that, even though loved ones die, because they now
dwell in Jesus and Jesus dwells in us, our loved ones dwell with us
still. Since my Mom died four years ago, and now with my Dad's
passing, they can be present with me in ways that they couldn't
before. They are forgiven and whole, living in Jesus. And Jesus is
living in me, so Mom and Dad are with me in ways that give me great
comfort. The Easter message brings comfort at a time of loss! It
brings the promise that our loved ones are present with us in
powerful ways because, since that first Easter Day, God in Jesus is
present with us in more powerful ways.
And the Easter message brings hope, too. To me it brings hope in the
form of a gracious challenge. A challenge because New Creation has
barely begun, and you and I are called as disciples of Jesus to take
part in New Creation. Gracious because Jesus, and all our departed
loved ones with him, is tethered to us in order to give us strength
and courage and guidance. Easter brings a gracious challenge to help
bring about New Creation! Easter means that there is meaningful work
for all of us to do, work that can give our lives purpose and hope.
How does that work? Well, it works a bit differently for each of us,
based on both our differing gifts and also our differing
circumstances in life. A meaningful part for me, in being my
father's son, for example, is his battling alcoholism through much
of his life. But then, through the Twelve Step spiritual program of
Alcoholic's Anonymous, he found the Easter power of transformation
to become sober -- more than the last 20 years of his life. It was
something he could then pass on to others by staying in the program
-- the 13th step of helping others. I'm proud of my Dad's sobriety,
and it is a circumstance in my life for me to help tell that story
to give hope to others.
But my gifts and circumstances have taken me other directions, too,
into other passions that give my life purpose and hope. You can see
them represented in the top pieces in today's Peace Proclamations
[our parish announcements page]: resisting and healing racism and
helping to bring greater economic justice to our common life. These
are big things that effect us all. I hope you will consider joining
us for these events [in the Peace Proclamations]. We are all called
to battle the powers of sin and death. But I feel called to help
provide leadership to our joint efforts in working with God to help
renew Creation by battling the powers of racism and poverty as they
impede our renewal as human beings. And it's not my Dad's presence
that helps me quite as much as someone like our friend Art Hoekstra,
who died a couple years ago, and who spent his life battling poverty
and racism. In Jesus Christ, he and other saints are tethered to me
to strengthen me for the continuing work of bringing justice and
peace to this world.
In fact, the Civil Rights movement is a good microcosm for the work
of New Creation launched at Easter. Those who've battled racism all
their lives know that they probably won't see the end of racism
before their deaths. But that the movement continues on through
others gives hope. That's the way of Easter for all our battles with
the powers of sin and death. We most likely won't see the final
victory before our earthly bodies give out. But the resurrection is
the promise that the work continues and will be complete some
glorious day -- a day when we then receive resurrection bodies to
revel in the victory of life and love over the powers of sin and
So what are your gifts? What are the circumstances of your life?
What are you passionate about that you might join with God and your
fellow disciples to help bring about New Creation? Is it to take
better care of God's good Creation and all of God's wondrous
creatures? Is it to create and support art that enhances our
environment and praises the beauty of God's world? Is it to bring
healing to those in need of it? Or all the things that lead to
healthy living, like recreation and food? Is it helping to serve
others in humble and life-enhancing ways? Is it nurturing children
and helping to raise them into the meaningful work of God's New
Creation? And who are the saints who've gone before you that are
tethered to you and strengthen you?
Whatever your gifts and passions, "Christ is risen!" means there's
work to do. That first Easter was just the beginning of the Good
News. God works in long timelines, because God works through the
power of love and freedom, not force and coercion. So you and I are
called to be the continuing of Good News in the world.
None of the Gospel writers makes this point quite like Mark, and so
it is the point we want to end with and emphasize today. Back in
January we watched a video of Lutheran superstar preacher Nadia
Bolz-Weber elaborate on the first verse of Mark's Gospel: "The
beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, Son of God." But here at
the end of Mark's Gospel we're completely left hanging. "Christ is
risen! He's not here!" proclaims the young man at the empty tomb.
But the women run away afraid, not telling anyone. That's it! That's
the strange ending of Mark's Gospel. Why? Precisely, I think,
because it's not the ending. It's the beginning. And you and I as
Easter people are called to be the continuing of the Good News of
Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Let's let Pastor Nadia finish the
play video from 6:23 (1)
Alleluia! Christ is risen. He is risen indeed! Alleluia! And that
means there's work to do. You and I are called to be the
continuing Good News of the Easter victory. Amen
Paul J. Nuechterlein
Delivered at Prince of Peace Lutheran,
Portage, MI, April 5, 2015
1. Nadia Bolz-Weber, Animate
Bible adult education series on the Gospels. Her main points
can be summarized: If we go back and look at those first few
verses of Mark, we see that it truly is, "The beginning
of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God" (Mark 1:1). It's
not the whole story. It's not even most of the story, because it
doesn't stop there. The stories of Jesus in Matthew, Mark, Luke,
and John have done its work in people for centuries -- to right
now here in this place where you've gathered.... Mark was right.
Hearing is only the beginning of the Good News. His declaration of
the Good News was meant to elicit a response. Those who have heard
the story become part of the story. We are agents of the
continuation of the Good News of Jesus Christ the Son of God.