Sunday, April 5, 2015

Let Easter Take Your Breath Away


April 5, 2015 – The Sunday of the Resurrection, Year B
Acts 10:34-43; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Mark 16:1-8
© 2015 Evan D. Garner
 
Audio of this sermon can be heard here.
 
Have you ever felt that moment when you get news that’s so good that the whole world just stops? An acceptance letter arrives in the mail. The pregnancy test shows two pink lines. The doctor says it’s a miracle. And then time slows down until it stops, and the whole world feels like it is hanging in that moment with you, and you are too scared to say a word—too scared even to breathe—because it seems too good to be true, and you don’t want it to go away. Have you felt a moment like that—a moment so amazing that it almost seems like it will crumble into dust if you even blink?
 
As a child, I dreamt of that moment, and I knew in my heart that someday it would come, which is why I dutifully filled out and returned every single Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes entry form. I knew that someday the Prize Patrol would pull up to my parents’ front door and ring the doorbell and announce that one of them had won $10,000,000. (I always put their names on the form since I knew that a child would never win.) They haven’t showed up yet, but I haven’t lost hope either.
 
I was feeling nostalgic the other day, so I searched the Web for videos of people who had experienced that childhood dream, and I watched with amazement as, time after time, ordinary people were shocked into dumb silence, often falling down on the ground in tears, when the men and women wearing blue blazers and holding balloons and flowers presented the oversized check to the latest winner. And, as silly as it sounds, their tears filled my eyes with tears as I celebrated with them this most unexpected, most incredible, most amazing miracle. I wept to watch that moment of total surprise and total joy unfold and to see it transform these people from a life of humdrum simplicity to one of brand new possibility. And all of that for a bunch of money. You’d think that a preacher man like me could find a better miracle to cry about.
 
“Very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, [three women] went to the tomb.” They were on their way to anoint Jesus’ lifeless body, carrying the spices that they had bought for the task. And, as they went, they said to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us?”—a reminder that they were thinking only of the steps that they would need to take in order to complete their mortuary ritual. But, then, in a moment of unbelievable surprise, all of that changed. They looked up and saw that the stone had been rolled away. They entered the tomb and discovered, instead of Jesus’ body, a man dressed in white, sitting there as if he were waiting on them. Then he opened his mouth and spoke to them of their teacher’s resurrection: “You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here.” And, in that moment of complete transformation, their hearts were overwhelmed with that strange mixture of joy and confusion and delight and bewilderment. Faced with a miracle greater than they could understand, the women were struck dumb with fear.
 
They were alarmed. Terror and amazement seized them. They went out and fled from the tomb. And, despite having received instructions to the contrary, they said nothing to anyone because they were afraid. Is it possible that God would do something so amazing in their lives that the only response these women could muster was silent fear? Is it possible that the news of Jesus’ resurrection was so amazing, so incredible, and so unexpected that it left them breathless—afraid even to utter a word in case a word might break that joyous spell?
 
Could it be that, in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, God is doing something so powerful in our lives that we aren’t even sure that it’s really happening? Could this news be so big and so good and so surprising that you and I have a hard time believing that it’s true? Is it possible that this moment is so wonderful and so unexpected that we are afraid of it—afraid to believe that it might be true just in case it isn’t? Absolutely.
 
Every single one of us is living a life that is headed in the same direction. Mortality is an unavoidable truth that sinks in a little more fully every day. Each day we get a little bit older. Each breath is one breath closer to our last. Each step is one step closer to the moment when our life’s work—our lifetime of effort—reaches its end. Time’s up. Put your pencils down. Power down your electronic devices. Shut off your cell phone. Turn off the lights. Wrap it all up. Say goodnight. It’s all over.
 
But what if it isn’t over? What if that isn’t the end? What if God is breaking into our lives in order to turn everything around—in order to reverse the course of humanity and change our direction from death to life? What if that very thing you know to be most certain about this life—that one day it will end—isn’t true anymore? What if today is the day when the deepest hopes and biggest dreams of your soul come true in an instant? Could that happen? Is it possible? Do we dare to believe it?
 
Don’t confuse “so good that it scares you” with “too good to be true.” To think that God could rescue us from the power of sin and death and set us free from every fear, every bond, and every doubt is terrifying. That God loves us that much is so amazing that it takes our breath away. It is so dazzling that we aren’t even sure that it’s happening. But just because God is doing something more amazing than you can understand or imagine doesn’t mean that it isn’t true. Easter is God’s way of proving to the world that his love makes the impossible possible. The empty tomb is God’s way of telling you that in Jesus Christ he has saved you even from death itself. Just as those women were shocked to discover the truth of the resurrection, so, too, should you let the shock of new life take your breath away.
 
Alleluia! Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

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