Your life in the risen Christ – a new creation, a new being – already exists in God’s heart and as you know Christ you will be revealed more and more to be like him.
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
The Resurrection of Our Lord, year A
Texts: Colossians 3:1-4; John 20:1-18
Beloved in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Were you surprised by the readings you heard today?
Did you come here wondering what was going to happen to Jesus after Good Friday? Probably not. We walk through Holy Week and shadow the actions of Christ Jesus, waving palms, washing feet, sharing Christ’s meal, waiting in the garden with Jesus, watching with him through his death on a hill outside Jerusalem.
But last night the news we heard here in the dark wasn’t a surprise: Christ is risen! And none of you were likely surprised this morning to hear the Gospel tell us of a rolled away stone, an empty tomb, and Jesus alive. We don’t celebrate Holy Week and pretend we don’t know the story.
So why did you come today, if you already knew Christ is risen?
Maybe because your life of faith can feel a lot like Holy Week.
We can have moments of joy and clarity like the crowds felt last Sunday, celebrating God has come to be with us. And “hosanna” springs from our hearts to our lips. We’re full of joy and hope in what God is doing in Christ. “Gloria” and “alleluia” pour from our prayer and our song.
But last Sunday we followed the ancient practice of going from the joyful procession of palms immediately to the reading of the passion and death of God-with-us. And then we walked through Holy Week. Because that’s what this world does to our joy. And our faith.
Hosanna moments happen: God is with us! Then we look around and see oppression and evil, pain and suffering. The death of loved ones. We realize, as they all did this week, that there are powers arrayed against God-with-us, powers that will do whatever they can to stop any grace and healing and love God intends in Christ for all God’s children. We see, as they did, that there are structures of that evil embedded in our society and our world, and we see Christians perpetuating and building on those structures. Then we look inside and see our own struggles to live as Christ, to walk the life of faith. We find biases and other sinful things written into our own hearts. We feel the world betraying Christ, and we even betray. We have the same anxiety Jesus and the others felt during this week.
And sometimes, in our life of faith, we have true Good Friday moments, where all hope is sucked out of our hearts, for us and for the world.
That’s why I’m here today. Not because I doubted Jesus would rise. Because I want to know if Christ’s resurrection has an answer to all the death and power and systems and structures and brokenness. I want to see if what happened long ago matters to us today. To me. To this world.
If you do, too, start by seeing what happened with all these first witnesses.
Mary met the risen Christ and was transformed from a grieving, empty, lost person to the first apostle, filled with joy and power and new life, sent to declare to the others, “I have seen the Lord!”
The Bible says this happened to them all. Their lives were changed. Their hearts burned within them with joy and hope. Terrified cowards found bravery and risked everything to share this good news. They became notorious for being people committed to loving all people in Christ’s name. Believers were filled with an abundant generosity and shared everything with each other, especially with the poor. Because Jesus is alive they had a purpose and direction and hope for their lives. Paul said everyone in Christ are a new creation, reconciled with God and each other.
The world was still oppressive, evil, filled with suffering and pain. Just like ours. But they were different. And that made all the difference. Because they began to heal and change the world as Christ.
But now you see the problem before us: do you recognize that life?
Are your hearts burning with joy and hope in God-with-us, no matter what happens? Are you fearlessly God’s grace in the world? Do you live in abundant generosity, known as someone who loves all in Christ’s name? Do you sense a purpose and direction and hope for your life? Do you experience living as a new creation? Are you being changed so you can change the world?
Hearing of the joyful, fearless, loving lives of those who experienced the risen Christ can be another little Good Friday for us, if our lives of faith don’t seem to compare favorably. We know Jesus’ call to walk his path, to love God and neighbor, can be a hard path. But these believers seemed to walk that hard path with joy and zeal and hope. And make a difference. While we struggle with our lives of faith in our ordinary, boring lives, it doesn’t seem to match their joy or zeal or hope. Is something wrong with us?
Well, today Paul has wonderful news.
You and I have died in our baptism, Paul says. And our risen life, this new creation, already exists! It is “hidden,” Paul says, “with Christ in God.” All that heart-warming, courageous, abundantly generous, sacrificially loving, joyful living that is your life in Christ is already real, hidden in God’s heart with Christ. You don’t have to make it, or worry that you don’t have it, or despair that you’re just not like these heroes of faith. You’re exactly like them, Paul says.
And Paul says that as Christ who is your life is revealed, you also will be revealed with him in glory.
Do you see? As you know Christ more and more, your new life hidden in God with Christ, this new creation, this life that you seek, will become more and more revealed, more and more visible. To you and to the world. As you worship here and meet Christ, as you eat and drink God’s body and blood in this Meal, as you pray with this community, as you live in Christ here and in your world, wherever you are, that life you seek that already exists in God’s heart will ever more be seen in you. For the healing of this world.
Mary came to the tomb because it was the only thing she could think of doing.
She waited. And she watched. And Christ revealed himself to her. And she was changed forever.
And so we come here. To wait. To watch. To wait for Christ to be revealed to you in your life, in here, in Word and Meal and community, to watch for Christ. You are a new creation, a heart-warmed, fearless, loving follower of Christ. You are Christ for the healing of this world. Already. That truth lives in God’s heart.
And every day as Christ who is your life is more and more revealed to you that truth, that life in Christ, is more and more revealed to you and the world even more. Because you have seen the Lord. And nothing will ever be the same.
In the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen