Monday, April 19, 2010

Losing My Mojo

The real countdown is getting going. I have just 3 sermon to write until my maternity leave. They are getting harder and harder. My creativity and ability to focus, to read into the Scripture for the Word for our community now, is just drying up completely. My sermon from two weeks ago turned out OK, I guess, but it was HORRID to write. It was worse than pulling teeth, ended up in a format I don't usually write or like (it had distinct POINTS, like "First...", "Second...", "Third..." Where did THOSE come from?).

I'm off this week becaues of continuing education, but I'm back on May 2nd and already working on it to get the bulletin done before I leave town. This one is likely to again have 3 points, and (get this cheese-factor) might be based on an acronym. What has gotten into me?

My coach has warned me that when I come back from maternity leave I need to cut myself some slack on the sermons I write. I hear her, and I'll try to do it. However, I don't think I was prepared for the need for slack already. Oh my. Well, I guess it's just 3 sermons. I'm almost there.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Get Up and Go!

The second lesson this morning continues our Easter journey in Acts. These are the accounts of the very earliest church, the men and women who were closest to Jesus during his ministry and those who had experiences with him just after the resurrection. They were preaching and teaching and forming communities of faith with the reality of the resurrection at the front of their minds. Everything they did they did because they believed that Jesus had risen, that death would not win. This Easter we’re going to look particularly at how they formed those first churches – what they valued, what they emphasized, what they knew was important to pass on, and how they lived their faith in God our Savior. From their experiences we can ask ourselves - -What does it mean for us to be a resurrection community? What does it mean for us to an Easter church?

Our Scripture passage this morning is likely a familiar one for many of you. Actually, even if you’re like me and have a hard time citing chapter and verse, you will likely recognize the experience. Acts 9:1-20 contains the story we often call the conversion of Saul, whose name is later changed to Paul – the Paul who went on to become the writer of a number of the letters in the New Testament.

In his days as Saul, he was a fierce persecutor of Christians, or followers of the Way. In fact his first appearance in the New Testament is when he participates in the stoning of Stephen, one of the original seven deacons. However, after Saul’s conversion or calling on the road to Damascus, he is a new man, changed forever in his orientation toward God known in Jesus Christ.

All that said, as you listen to this Scripture today, I ask you to listen for something possibly new. Listen to the story told not only of Saul, but also of a man in Damascus named Ananias. Listen now for a Word from God:

Acts 9:1-20A few years ago I attended a retreat for Presbyterian pastors. To open the retreat the 12 or so of us who were there were asked to go around the circle and tell our “call stories”, the story of our life and faith that brought us to ministry in the first place. The retreat leader planned one hour for this activity – giving each of us five minutes to tell our story. Well, this activity ended up stretching into something like 2 ½ or 3 hours.

The leader’s first mistake was thinking 12 preachers could each restrict themselves to only five minutes – clearly an unrealistic hope. But, secondly I think he was expecting some stories like Saul’s. I could tell that story in just five minutes. It doesn’t take long to tell why you decided to follow God if at some point in your life you have seen a flash of light from heaven, heard the voice of Jesus, been blind for three days, and then had scales fall from your eyes as a stranger speaks a message to you from God. That’s a pretty clear message from God about what you’re supposed to do with your life.

However, it takes a little longer to tell the story of a person’s experience with God when that story begins with an infant baptism, continues through the nurture of Sunday School, includes confirmation in the teen years, maybe twists and turns away from God in the later teens and parts of adulthood, before one comes to realize God’s presence or call. That’s not a five minute story – that’s a life story. That’s the kind of journey, I’m guessing, more of us are traveling. It’s a journey that, I think, relates more to the story of Ananias than it does to Saul.

We don’t get much information about Ananias in this passage. We know that he’s living in Damascus, and that he is a disciple. That’s about it. My assumption is that Ananias isn’t an extremely remarkable man, otherwise we would probably hear those remarks. But, we aren’t told that he is a great leader in the synagogue or the community. We don’t know that he is well-respected, or that he is rich, or that he is perceived to be any closer to God than anyone else. We just know that he is a disciple. I imagine him to be a faithful man, but not an extraordinary man in terms of his power or prestige.

Yet God decided to use Ananias. God decided to call Ananias to service. Notice, though, that Ananias didn’t get the luxury of a blinding experience like Saul did. He didn’t get Saul’s flash of light and voice from heaven. Ananias got what I think is a much more difficult call from God, but maybe the kind we’re more likely to run into in our own lives. It was a call that came in a vision – maybe a dream in the night while he was fast asleep, or maybe it was a conversation or thought process in his head while he worked, not really even knowing at first whether it was his own thoughts or God’s voice that he heard. However he heard it, the message that came was this, “Get up and go!”

Being a part of the Way, being a disciple of Christ, isn’t just about believing something we’re told. It isn’t about saying yes to the right questions or being able to recite the correct creed or statement. Being a follower of Jesus isn’t even just about living a certain way, according to a certain set of rules or standards. At some point in every believers’ life of faith, and very possibly at many different points in that life, God is going to come calling. Answering that call requires some sort of specific action.

“Get up and go!” God says to Ananias. Actually, it’s the same thing he said to Paul in his call, too, “Get up, and enter the city.” Get up and go do something. Rarely does God come calling and say, “Have a seat; relax. Don’t bother to do anything for me today.” No, God’s calls come expecting action, and often some sort of specific action. Sometimes they are large, this-is-what-I-want-you-to-do-with-the-rest-of-your-life actions, but sometimes they are smaller, this-is-what-I-want-you-to-do-right-now actions. The smaller ones aren’t always as small as they seem though. God has a way of using our simple actions and activities in much bigger ways.

Agreeing to prepare or serve supper at a shelter, taking a shift sorting and distributing food at a food shelf may be a specific call that uses a few hours of your time, but your presence shows the love of Christ that may last someone else a lifetime. Or maybe through that kind of service your eyes are opened to the needs of others that go beyond one meal or groceries in the pantry for now and point to systemic problems in our community you can help change. Teaching a Sunday School class, helping out with Vacation Bible School, or being involved in the youth group may be the way God calls you to serve. It requires some time and a commitment to a new action, but answering the call means nurturing children of God, and growing the community of faith. These are all specific calls to action to which God may be calling you.

Faith in God can’t be a stationary thing. It does not allow a stagnant, inactive life. If there is one thing the disciples learned from the resurrection it’s that Christ is still active in the world. His disciples as close as the twelve from Galilee and those as far away as Damascus all seemed to know that the resurrection was a call to active faithful living. Even DEATH could not stop Jesus from loving all of God’s children. Even the cross could not keep him from being with the world he came to serve, the disciples he came to feed and teach, the sick he came to heal, the captives he came to release. Christ’s ministries, like Christ himself live on and they need active leaders and today’s disciples to carry them out. Faith in the resurrected Christ requires us to be an active Easter church in God’s world; it requires us to change our individual ways of living in general, yes, but also to answer specific calls, be a part of particular jobs and assignments that God sets before us.

When God calls us to get up and go, it means that we might end up doing something we never expected. Imagine how ridiculous God’s call must have sounded at first to Ananias. He knows this man Saul, and how he goes around binding up and killing people who follow Christ. Ananias knows walking into that house into the same room as Saul is practically the kiss of death. He challenges God, and tries to talk his way out of God’s idea.

But the Lord persists, and in that persistence, the Lord provides a promise. Saul, the Lord promises, is an instrument in God’s plan, a vessel God has chosen to carry God’s name to the world. In other words, the Lord is already active in this plan set before Ananias. As unbelievable as it is, Ananias doesn’t need to go into this task thinking he’s alone or being pushed out on a limb. It doesn’t all depend on his ability or talent or strength or confidence. God is calling Ananias into a situation and a mission where God is already present.

That promise is the same to us today. God never calls us somewhere that God isn’t present already. Wherever we are called to go in God’s name, God already is. God calls us to add our gifts, attitudes, talents, and energy to the work God has already begun. We aren’t the ones beginning the work of the kingdom, but we are called to be witnesses to God’s love for the world as we are a part of that work. We may be called into difficult and even dangerous situations, but we aren’t called into them alone.

Sure Ananias is supposed to go to this house and find Saul, the notorious persecutor, but Ananias is not going alone. God has already gone before him to that house, God is already active in the plan, and God will accompany him on the adventure. And so Ananias gets up and goes. He puts his life of faith into action not simply by incorporating new behaviors or changing some habits. He very physically and very purposefully follows a specific call from God to do something different. He goes with the promise that God is already present where he is headed. He becomes a part of the work God is doing in Saul. He becomes a very important part of Saul’s conversion as he witnesses to Jesus’ healing power and the power of the Holy Spirit. He becomes a part of Saul’s ministry as Paul that stretches throughout the known world of their time.

When God calls you to get up and go, and I promise you, in some way, shape, or form, God is calling each and every one of us and this congregation as a whole to get up and go, the promise in that calling is that we are not being sent out as a lone ranger to carry the full responsibility and risk of that calling. Wherever you are told to get up and go, in your work, in your family, in your friendships, in your relationship with your enemies, in your interests, or in whole new directions, you are called to service with the living God who is already at work in your calling.

The first Easter church got up and went. It is my prayer that so will we.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Who's the Boss?

This Easter season we are going to spend some time in the book of Acts, or more fully, the Acts of the Apostles. These are the accounts of the very earliest church, the actions and activities of those men and women who were closest to Jesus and his resurrection and those who had experiences with him after the resurrections.

Through their experiences we will try to discern some of the marks of resurrection communities. In light of what had JUST HAPPENED, in light of their experience of Jesus who died and rose again to bring forgiveness and new life, what did they do and value as people of faith? What did they emphasize in their ministry and how did they respond to Jesus’ promise of the power of the Holy Spirit and command to be his “witnesses in Jerusalem, all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Our series of encounters with the early church over the next several weeks will give us insight into how these first apostles interpreted and enacted the resurrection in their life together. What did it mean and what does it mean now to be an Easter church?

Acts 5:27-32

Peter and the apostles were becoming regulars in the Jerusalem county court system. Their names were appearing pretty regularly in the police blotter section of the local newspaper. It was almost impossible NOT to notice how often they were running into the authorities, and most people were probably wondering just why they didn’t lay low for a while. If they would just let the dust settle a bit, the air clear a tad, this would all just blow over and Peter and the rest of them could just fade into the crowd again. They didn’t have to make it so hard on themselves by constantly rubbing their teaching and the name of Jesus in the faces of the temple leaders. This was the third arrest and trial for some of them in what had to have been just the first few months since Jesus’ death and resurrection.

What had gotten into these men? One almost has to assume they were either brave or stupid. Either courageous or clueless. They knew they were wanted men so soon after the death of Jesus and then the disappearance of his body. They knew Jerusalem was buzzing with rumors and questions about what had happened, and was anyone going to do anything about it. Yet, they weren’t exactly doing their part to stay out of the limelight. In fact, they seemed to be doing everything they could to get back into it.

Stupidity seems out of the question. There were enough of them, one would hope, for SOMEONE to have the smarts to realize they were in a virtually powerless minority in Jerusalem. Even as they added to their numbers daily, the opposition still had the religious hierarchy, local leadership, and ear of the Roman government on its side. Their cluelessness would have had to have been of such astronomical proportions it’s impossible to believe they persisted because they just didn’t know what they were up against.

It had to have been their bravery. It had to have been their courage and their confidence in their message. It had to have been, Scripture tells us at the first trial, the power of the Holy Spirit that filled them. It wasn’t their outstanding education, the authorities are quick to point out. It wasn’t the armies that backed them up. It was the Holy Spirit, promised to them by Jesus before he made his ascension to heaven. It was the Holy Spirit, given to them in an upper room with the wind and fire of God. It was the Holy Spirit, constantly with them as they healed and taught and received believers into their community, that gave them the boldness they needed to stand up against the authorities in Jerusalem, authorities that had to face head on to follow Jesus’ command to be his witnesses first in Jerusalem, before spreading out to “all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Going against the established authority is never easy. The large scale examples of civil disobedience in India that countered colonialism, South Africa that struggled against apartheid, and the United States that supported the Civil Rights Movement highlight this in a monumental way. Yet even on a much smaller scale we know this to be true. Swimming upstream is never easy. Ignoring or purposely contradicting conventional wisdom, society norms, and the cultural myths we all seem to live under may not change laws, but on the individual or even community level the struggle feel like one is trying to move mountains.

In recent months there have been efforts to change our cultural vocabulary, to remove the “R” word, a word formerly used to describe people with developmental disabilities, from its now common use as an insult or description of something thought to be ridiculous. A friend of our church made a public plea for support in this effort through the local newspaper. Others in our community and around the country have spoken out to try to change what has been accepted as normal, but is recognized by many as offensive, harmful for public discourse, and just plain wrong in the human family.

Other movements such as the fair trade movement, in which we participate as a congregation with fair trade coffee, exist to try to resist the public urge to save my own money even at the expense of someone else’s loss further down the supply chain. Going “green” has become a popular marketing term, but real, lasting participation in the attempt to reduce our impact on the beauty and complexity of God’s creation is a lot harder to accomplish in a culture that values quick, easy, disposable products and the “new and improved” over the “old and good enough. Trying to live life ordered after an authority different from the one in power is never easy, even if it’s ultimately beneficial, and those who attempt to do so, to keep themselves on track, have to keep asking themselves the question “Who’s the boss?”

“Who’s the boss?” Peter and John asked the first time they were arrested and brought before the leaders in Jerusalem. Was it the religious authorities? Was it the occupying government? Was it tradition that claimed healing could only happen in a certain way, by a certain name? Who’s the boss? To whose authority should they defer?

“Who’s the boss?” the apostles had to ask themselves as they decided whether or not to continue this ministry of witness and proclamation. Do we follow the rules and save ourselves? Do we continue to teach as Jesus told us we would do? “Who’s the boss?” they had to decide when they were released from prison in the middle of the night by an angel. Do we go home and go to bed or do we follow the command and put ourselves right in the thick of things, right in the temple teaching with every free minute and every ounce of energy we have? Who is the boss?

Peter speaks for them all when they are confronted for a third time. Peter answers for them all the question that has been following them for months. Who is the boss? Who are they going to obey? “We must obey God rather than any human authority,” he declares for the apostles. We must follow a command that comes from beyond human laws, human tradition, and human reason. We hear the word from Jesus, we have seen the authority of God, and it stands far above the authority of anyone on earth. Bravely, courageously, Peter declares that the apostles stand under a different authority, one that flies in the face of all conventional wisdom and common understanding of how the world operates, and then he shows them all exactly how as he shares with them the gospel he knows.

First, “God of our ancestors raised Jesus.” God who has existed long before any humans alive now is in charge. God who has ruled the universe before these temple leaders were appointed or born into their positions, God who has seen empires rise and fall, conquer and be conquered, build themselves on greed and power only to be destroyed from the inside out by the same, this God is our authority. Our authority is the one who has been faithful even when we are not. The authority we obey is not based on the power of the sword, the threat of physical punishment, or fear of incarceration. It is not decreed by law or convention or coercion. The authority we obey is eternal and unseen, but trustworthy and steadfast. It may seem unbelievable that we would do all of this, risk our freedom on earth, but we have seen for generations upon generations that God is in charge, God is faithful still, and God is our ultimate authority in life and in death.

Second, in Jesus is given repentance. It sounds ridiculous. Repentance is a gift? Turning around, literally turning ones back on an old way of life. Running from what we know and have known is supposed to be some kind of joy? Besides, everyone knows a troublemaker is a trouble maker. Everyone knows there’s no way to change that kind of life, that kind of person. Everyone knows that you must lie down in the bed you make, and once you’ve made it, there’s no real way to change it. No matter how hard someone tries, we are told again and again, they will never break the cycle in which they live.

Yet Peter says his authority gives repentance. Peter says the gift of God is the chance for new life. Peter says that in Jesus is a way to start over, get a clean slate, turn in the right direction and begin the journey again, putting one foot in front of the other walking in the way of God instead of the way of the world. Peter says this comes from obeying the authority of God instead of the authority of the world.

Third, from God we also receive the forgiveness of sins. Revenge may be the predominant human way to respond to pain inflicted, but it’s not God’s way. An eye for an eye isn’t the way to operate anymore. There isn’t “closure” in seeing someone else suffer just because we also have suffered. Guilt should not be our motivation for anything, because by the grace of God, in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we created beings find our forgiveness from our Creator. We are set free from our offenses. We are liberated from that which ties us down and prevents us from living lives of compassion and peace. When the world says we deserve nothing but the pain we get, God gives forgiveness instead. When the world says we should lord our power over those who have hurt us, the gospel Peter preaches says we should forgive instead.

And lastly, but most importantly because it is the source of all the rest, “God of our ancestors RAISED JESUS!” We go back to the beginning of Peter’s short sermon to hear the most important piece of it all. God who has been faithful and eternal when everything else is fleeting, God who turns lives around, God who forgives and calls us to do the same, this God is our authority for all life on earth and in heaven, because THIS God has done the impossible. The world says death is the end. The world says that keeping our hearts beating is the answer to everything, because once they stop it is all over. The world says there is nothing more than the years we spend alive on this earth, but God is the authority the apostles choose because in God they have seen this wisdom defeated.

“God of our ancestors RAISED JESUS!” Peter insists, and because of this God gets their loyalty; God gets their obedience. God gets their life’s work because God raised Jesus from the dead. God overcame the most certain belief that the world has ever tried to hold onto, that death is the end, that death has the last say, that death is the final authority. In Jesus, God looked that supposed authority in the face and defied it. For that reason, the first among all the rest, for that reason, in God alone the apostles will put their trust. God alone will they obey.

The Easter church, the people of Jesus in those earliest days of faith in him, saw no one and nothing else worthy of their obedience, but God. Conventional wisdom had flown out the window. The norms of society had been turned on their heads. The undercurrent of cultural opinion could no longer pull the apostles along, because God in Jesus had shown another way – another way of treating people, another way of loving, another way of living and worshiping as the people and the community God created us to be.

The Easter church, God’s resurrection communities then and now, exists to obey God, not the world around us. We exist to be witnesses to the good news of life that can change direction, sins that can be forgiven, faithfulness that can outlast generations, and life that goes on beyond death. We exist to share this good news through our words the give hope and our actions that show love and justice that others may find the peace, grace, and joy by our witness. All that we do and all that we say, the way we worship God, the way we treat one another, the way we serve others should show our obedience to God who showers us with grace the world says no one deserves, love the world says no one can return, and mercy the world says will never exist. Then we will be the church of Easter. Then we’ll be showing them who’s the boss!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Friday Five: On the road again

Sophia posted at RevGals: Some Gals and Pals may have been able to travel to join family or visit a vacation spot last week; some who had to stay put then may be traveling this weekend; and, if I recall correctly, some lucky ones are heading out to the Big Event next weekend. Hence: a road trip Friday Five.

1. When was your last, or will be your next, out of town travel?
We returned from a family vacation in Florida right before Palm Sunday. I head out to upstate New York for continuing education at the end of this month - - right when I am 36+ weeks pregnant. Lord, may the flights be smooth!

2. Long car trips: love or loathe?
We NEVER took car trips as a kid, so I always thought I'd hate them. I don't though. I loved driving to and from college (10 hours). My drive for my move from seminary to my first call was like a sacramental rite of passage. If it hadn't taken me two days of driving on my own I don't know that it would have felt real. Not a fan of the car travel with a child younger than 2, but I guess we're about to enter that stage of life again!

3. Do you prefer to be driver or passenger?
Before knitting - - driver. Since starting knitting - - passenger.

4. If passenger, would you rather pass the time with handwork, conversing, reading, listening to music, or ???
As implied above, handwork!!! I love a good car conversation, too, but my husband (my usual car trip companion) is NOT much of a chatter.

5. Are you going, or have you ever gone, on a RevGals BE? Happiest memories of the former, and/or most anticipated pleasures of the latter?
Would love to, but just haven't made it work yet.

6. Bonus: a favorite piece of road trip music.
Pretty much any Indigo Girls will do when I'm traveling alone. Not as much fun when others are with me because I like to belt 'em out! This is a long-time personal favorite for belting, though.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Something's brewing

My favorite Easter afternoon e-mail to receive:

SheRev, We need to talk. Something's brewing that you need to know about. How about Wednesday or Thursday evening?
Signed,
Personnel Chair

Really? "Something's brewing" is all I get and 3 or 4 days to sit with that?

Finding Life

Luke 24:1-12
They had every good reason to go to the garden tomb. They never suspected they’d find anything different from what they expected – the body of Jesus, wrapped in the linen cloth Joseph had brought when he took it down from the cross. They had seen it all with their own eyes, these women who had followed him so faithfully from Galilee.

They had watched Jesus as he died on the cross. They heard his final words as he gave himself over to God. They held their breath as he took his last. They witnessed the Roman centurion who came to belief and praised God when he realized the death of innocence had taken place. And these women were there when his body was laid in the tomb just as it ought to be, so they could return to this place of the dead when it was permissible, after the Sabbath, to finish his proper burial.

They had seen it all with their own eyes. They had no reason to expect to find anything but what they had left behind before their fitful day of rest. And in some strange way, I imagine at least, they looked forward to coming back to that place of the dead where they knew what to expect, where they could DO SOMETHING about what had happened even if it was dressing Jesus’ body for death. They looked forward to coming back to the tomb where they would at least be close to him because figuring out what to do without him was just still too hard that early.

Their world had crumbled around them. A mother they knew was mourning her son, which is never the natural order of things. There were students who had lost their teacher, disciples who had lost their master, people of faith who had lost God in their very midst. Their world was tumbling down around them, because the world had won. The perplexed and terrified establishment had squelched what it did not understand. The oppressive empire had put down the threat of rebellion. The life an innocent man, a good and holy and righteous man, a gracious and loving and compassionate man, a man who walked in the way of God, who loved with the heart of God, who healed with the touch of God, truly a man who was God, had been stolen, and so their world had crumbled around them. The world out there had won.

It’s not hard to imagine what they were feeling. We know about worlds that have crumbled We know about the still-open wounds, tender and hurting wounds, of those who have lost jobs or struggle to make ends meet in this economic climate, of those who have lost loved ones too soon, before the natural order of things has taken place, of those who battle depression or addiction, of those who grieve over relationships that have been strained beyond the breaking point. We know about the indiscriminant nature of earthquakes and floods. We know now that years of ignoring people in poverty can lead to mind-boggling devastation and corruption. We know about abuse, verbal, physical, and sexual, that can leave lives in confused ruins.

And we know that sometimes it feels like the tombs of despair are the only places we belong anymore because it just seems like this hopelessness is all there is anymore. The tombs, the places of death, seem like the only place we can dwell. The mindset and attitude of acceptance seems like the only way we can respond to the world that crumbles around us. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, right? If you can’t stave off the grief and the death and the dearth of hope, you might as well just go to the middle of it all, and get yourself ready to exist with it as the norm.
They had every good reason to go to the garden tomb. They never suspected they’d find anything different from what they expected. They had seen it all with their own eyes, but when they arrived they found something completely unexpected, or really the found NOTHING that they expected. They came looking for the evidence of the death they had witnessed. They came to play the hand they had been dealt. They came to do the only thing they could imagine doing, but they discovered what they never imagined to see.

Death was gone! Jesus’ body no longer lay where they had seen it lay before. They went to the place of hopelessness, and somehow hopelessness was no longer there! “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” the two strangers asked the terrified women. “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” Why do you come to this tomb, this place of death, this place of grief as if it were the end of the story? Why do you come to dwell in the midst of what seems like a hopeless situation when he told you it would be different?

Why do we read the newspapers, watch TV, replay our own stories over and over and over again in our heads as if they are the final story that will get told? Why do we return to these experiences of pain and suffering and believe that they hold the ultimate power in our lives or in the world? Why do we believe or at least live as if we believe that all hope is lost, God is dead, and evil has the final word?

He told the women it wouldn’t end like this. He told us. He told them he would rise again, and we have heard that he has. He is not there in the tomb among the dead. He is living. He is living hope. He is alive!

The resurrection promises us we don't have to keep going back to the places of the dead to look for some sort of false comfort there, to harden ourselves to what is happening and just muddle on through the life before us and the world around us. Jesus, the living one, was not among the dead, and the women discovered they didn't need to go back to the tomb. Likewise, we don't need to, and really shouldn't get sucked into hopelessness because he lives, and if he can overcome death and the tomb, then there is hope for all of this, there is hope for all of us.

It doesn’t mean we forget these things exist. It doesn’t mean we forget the losses in our lives or ignore suffering in our community and around the world. It doesn’t mean that the tomb never held the beaten and broken body of the innocent man. Those things exist; the pain they cause is real. But because of the resurrection, because he is among the living, we don’t need to go back to the tombs, and live them over and over. We don’t have to dwell in hopelessness, looking for comfort where none is to be found. The empty tomb that the women found means miraculously, graciously, that these places of death and hopelessness aren’t where the story ends.

Why do you look for the living among the dead? Jesus, the light of the world, Jesus the Messiah, the chosen one of God, Jesus, God who came to dwell among us, is not dead in the tomb. He has risen. He is alive. He is hope where we thought there was none. He is life where there was death. He is love and grace and mercy where it seemed that anger and jealousy and suspicion had won out.

And because we know this, because we have heard of his life beyond death, we have a job to do, a call to answer, a call to go find this life. We have a call to go out from the gardens of death and be a part of Jesus’ living, breathing, transforming life in the world. We have a call to point to resurrection moments when we see them, resurrection experiences when we have them, and declare, “He IS here! He has risen!’ We have a call to look at the new green sprouts that are springing up from the dead earth, we have a call to rejoice at every person rescued from the rubble in Haiti, we have a call to point to the faith and commitment of youth who give up their vacation to serve the forgotten in the Gulf, we have a call revel in the beauty of songs sung, hymns played, art and creativity shared and declare with full voice, “He is here! He has risen!”
And we have a call to join this resurrection life ourselves. We have a call to be a part of bringing his life to the world, be a part of God’s work that is going on all around us if we just open our eyes to see it, if we just open our ears to listen for it, if we just open our calendars and our lives to participate in it. We have a call to rise above the terror we face when we find ourselves in the places of death because the good news has already been shared; it has already been let loose in the world – He is not here, but has risen! Let us go find and join his life in the world! Alleluia!