Christ Jesus comes to us wherever we are – faithful or fearful – and gives us the gift of peace, so we know God’s resurrection life is true and real and changing the world, and our lives become credible witnesses to this.
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
The Resurrection of Our Lord, year C
texts: Luke 24:1-12; Isaiah 65:17-25
Sisters and brothers in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
How do you know if something is an idle tale or not?
It’s easy from here to criticize the male disciples, locked away in fear while the women disciples did what needed to be done. Because of their faithfulness, these women heard the good news first. But when they came to the locked Upper Room to tell the good news to their brothers, Luke says they were met with disbelief. “An idle tale,” they heard. “Nonsense. Foolishness.”
Actually, from our perspective, if we’re honest, we might agree with the men. Today we hear bold claims of healing and restoration, powerful promises of life in the midst of death, of God’s new creation of peace and love.
Yet sometimes doubt finds us even this morning. Sometimes we hear, “Alleluia, Christ is risen,” and don’t know what it means for us to reply, “Christ is risen, indeed! Alleluia!” How do those beautiful words sometimes get stuck in our throats because of tears? Or doubts? What if this is an idle tale?
Outside that locked room was a frightening world, that’s why it was locked.
For us, too. If Christ’s resurrection is the beginning of Isaiah’s promised new creation, do we see that? We also fear our world. Every day there are terrorist attacks, and not just in Europe, where Americans only pay attention. Sisters and brothers of ours in this country live under oppression and constant threat of violence many of us do not know, because their skin is a dark color. Or because they weren’t born here. Injustice is as powerful and pervasive here as it ever has been. Wolves and lambs may eat together, Isaiah, but Muslims and Christians find it hard. Especially when American followers of Christ carry guns to church and to the market because they believe the Prince of Peace says they should. Locking ourselves in seems a wise precaution.
Or, if God’s new creation is actually a future thing to hope for, in a life to come, are we any surer of that? Some of you have lost dear ones to death since last Easter, and you long to believe the women’s story. Some of our losses from years past still pain us, and doubt and sadness sometimes still suprisingly wash over us, grief stabs at our hearts, and we wonder, “is this true?”
How do we know an idle tale from a true one?
Let’s start with this new creation.
Because if we pay attention to what Jesus actually said, it seems he expected it would begin here, in this world.
Jesus wasn’t a political Messiah; he didn’t come to lead revolution and overthrow the Roman government. Christ let both secular and religious government kill him.
But the way Christ taught and lived is deeply intended for the life we actually live here. He meant to bring the healing of the nations. He meant to begin a new creation here where not only wolves and lambs would share a meal but also human enemies. Where all had equal access to justice and peace, there was enough food for all, and humanity saw sisters and brothers in everyone. But Christ didn’t plan to achieve this through force, violence, or politics.
Christ Jesus came to win over the hearts of humanity, and so change the world. The love of the Triune God was so committed to this, the Son of God died to win us over in love. By changing the hearts of people – forgiving their wrongs and hatreds and sins, and transforming their hearts into Christ hearts – God’s Messiah intended to begin a new creation.
So maybe we can give a little slack to the disciples who were locked away this morning.
Peter tried to be brave. He came out of the room to see what the women saw. But after looking into the empty tomb, he went right back to the room with the others and locked the door again.
We get that. After leaving the beauty of this liturgy, when we’re back in our homes, and seeing the world be exactly as it was yesterday, it’s tempting to wonder if what we saw this morning meant anything. If it is true, that in rising from the dead, Christ Jesus is beginning a new creation in this life, the healing of the nations, and ending death’s power, it’s often hard to see.
But there is this good news today: Christ does not leave us alone in our fear and doubt, and this is where we learn the difference between the truth and an idle tale.
Everywhere his followers were, the Risen Christ came. That’s the wonder.
Yes, the women saw him first. They bravely went out on Sunday morning and got a great blessing, according to two of the evangelists, for he met them on the road.
But he remembered Peter and the other boys who double-bolted their door. That very evening he came to them, too, and gave peace. Thomas was missing, so a week later, Christ came again.
Then there were those two disciples living close by who weren’t in the Upper Room because they left early in sadness and confusion, and walked home to Emmaus. Christ visited them, too.
It doesn’t matter if we’re faithful or afraid, if we lock ourselves away or boldly go out into the streets, our risen Lord and God will come to us. Will bring us peace. And we will be changed.
That’s the other way we know a true story. By the changed lives of the witnesses.
Wherever the disciples first met the risen Christ, they were changed. Within weeks they dared stand before judges and risk their lives to tell others about the new creation begun in that empty tomb. About what it means that death can’t stop God’s love.
But the world around them looked exactly the same. Still filled with frightening things, frightening people. Still filled with death.
Yet they were changed. Resurrection, God’s life, filled them, and they witnessed bravely and beautifully by their lives to what God is doing.
We still see lives of credible witness to the resurrection of Christ everywhere we look today.
In those beloved elder saints whose lives and words witnessed by hope and faith in God’s resurrection life, even when their lives were hard and painful, those who first taught us to believe, in their eyes we saw the light of Christ’s resurrection as they witnessed.
In the person without a home who came here hungry on a Good Friday evening, forty minutes before liturgy, and found a Cantorei member happy to cook a hot meal for him and make sandwiches to take with him, we see Christ’s resurrection in that witness. So did he, as he witnessed in the note he left behind: “God was here today; gracias por la comida.” “Thank you for the food.”
In those of different faiths who refuse to bend to fear but reach out to each other in the love of the God they both worship, we see God’s resurrection in their witness. In those who stand under oppression in our own city and boldly cry for justice, and expect to see it, we see God’s resurrection in their witness.
In our loved ones who entered death in peace and hope, trusting the women’s story, who knew there is life to come and died witnessing to their faith, we see Christ’s resurrection in their witness.
Our lives are full of people who have seen the Risen Lord and whose lives witness to God’s new creation. That’s how we can tell the truth.
And here is a deeper joy: what we see in those witnesses is happening to us.
Christ comes to us, risen, with life and hope. Like before, Christ’s visits aren’t always long, and there are moments of fear and doubt in between. Those first disciples, while changed, still had moments of doubt afterward. They weren’t superheroes, nor are we. But Christ continues to come to us, give us peace, and tell us all things are being made new. And we are changed.
Even if the world looks the same, we are changed. We become credible witnesses ourselves, as we live lives of resurrection and hope, instead of lives bound by fear and hatred. We have met Christ Jesus, and we know his life. And in the Spirit’s grace our lives are witnesses, and the story goes further into the world.
But if any of you still feel fear or doubt this morning, remember those beautiful words you will say are in bold print in our service folder. We say them together. If “Christ is risen indeed, Alleluia,” gets stuck in your throat for fear or sadness, we will say it with you. Together we will witness to this life we have seen, this new creation we know is coming, and is already begun.
Christ is risen, indeed. And nothing will ever be the same for us again.
In the name of Jesus. Amen