Sermon, “Live the Resurrection”, April 23rd, 2017
I hope you had a wonderful Easter celebration last weekend! Did you know that today is still Easter? We celebrate what’s known as Eastertide, the season of 50 days between Easter Sunday and the 50th day, known as Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles. So, today, one week later, we still proclaim: Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Now I wonder, how do we live that proclamation? Or do we?
I ask this question, because what we believe should make a direct impact on how we live. Dr. Amy Jill Levine is a Jewish professor of New Testament at Vanderbilt University. She has written extensively about the Jewishness of Jesus. But what struck me recently were her words about the resurrection. She argued that “your response to a belief is how we know whether you believe it or not.” In regards to the resurrection of Jesus specifically, she wrote, “I have no doubt that the disciples experienced something, because after Jesus’ death, something sparked a worldwide movement of evangelization that continues today.” Dr. Levine might argue about the resurrection and its facts, but she doesn’t deny that something took hold of the disciples after Easter.
What about us? How are our lives different after proclaiming what we did last week? Today is an opportunity to respond to the joy and celebration of Easter. I hope our desire following Holy Week is what Paul wrote to the Philippians, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection.” Easter is not just a Holiday; it’s an invitation for us to follow Christ into his suffering, death, and resurrection. It’s an invitation to follow Jesus to new life. We have a chance to live out the mission Jesus had for his disciples of all time. To follow is to: do you remember from our Lenten series? We give our prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness. We give ourselves fully to the way of Christ. We serve others in the name of Jesus! This is our response to the resurrection.
While the Gospels differ somewhat on the specific details of Jesus’ resurrection, one thing is clear: The idea that Jesus had been raised from the dead was considered unbelievable. If you read the Gospels you get the sense that this was the last thing the disciples would have ever thought would happen. For some, it might be unbelievable when your child cleans up his or her room without you telling them to do so. For others, it might be unbelievable to think that a human being can walk on the moon. Still for others, it might be unbelievable and unthinkable that we can live in a world free from violence, war, hatred, anger, malnutrition, poverty and the list goes on. But the resurrection is event where the unbelievable becomes believable with our God. God can take ordinary people, broken, sinful, fallible human beings and make us resurrection people!
There is no doubt that the disciples were transformed. These people who had deserted Jesus because they were afraid, who hid behind locked doors rather than help bury him, eventually were lead to the streets of Jerusalem to proclaim the Good News to everyone. They proclaimed the good news that death and evil had been defeated in Jesus Christ. They became resurrection people!
The resurrection is not simply about a dead man being restored to life. Its power lies in the people of faith experiencing resurrection in their own lives, and being so convinced of God’s triumph over evil and death, that we live life different, we begin to love, we begin to live simply so others may simply live. We no longer fear the future, because we become invested in the future of those around us through offering our finances, our friendship, and our helping hand. We don’t just believe the resurrection; we start to live it today!
Today we connect our worship to service and our proclamation of Easter to our living. This is how every week should move, not necessarily directly into service projects, but from worship of our God into living out our worship in word and deed. This is how every Easter should be, we proclaim Christ is risen and then we live it out.
It is my hope that today will be a step forward for all of us; that we will serve with love and joy today, and this Serve Indy Sunday will encourage us to get involved with one of our organizations. You are called to live a life of service.
Some people in our world wonder if the resurrection really happened? It’s unbelievable. And really it is! But I believe resurrection happens every day. Life is about transformation. We are continually transformed by the death of Jesus and the power of Christ’s resurrection. The story of the Resurrection is that “resurrection” is a verb – not a noun. It’s something we live into; it’s not merely an event we remember. Something changed for the disciples. It was transformative. That’s what resurrection both does and reminds us of: true love is transformative. And that’s how we are supposed to serve: with love.
Do you believe that your day of service matters? I hope you do! Last year, I received so many notes and emails from the organizations we served with thanking us for our day of service. From the families who enjoyed homemade meals from our team who went to Riley and Ronald McDonald House to those families who went from hospital rooms and surgeries to enjoying a cupcakes and cookies. You made a difference! From the painting at Martin Luther King Center ready to welcome kids, to serving at Soup’s On, you are making a difference! While some in our city believe that the problems we face are too large, people of faith not only believe, but they know that we can make a different. We proclaim and believe the unbelievable.
We are called to live as resurrection people today! If we do, then the message of Jesus Christ and God’s Kingdom will no longer be unbelievable, but it will be believable and it will be all around us. Let us live as resurrection people today as we serve, tomorrow, and forever and let us proclaim with our words and our deeds that: Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
Thanks be to God! Amen!
SENDING FORTH/ BLESSING
L: Go forth to live boldly, as if death has no power over you. Live as if your lives count for something— because they do. God calls us in abundant love to serve something greater than our own finite lives, a greater cause for which we would even lay down our lives, as Jesus did. For just as death on a tree could not stop the Christ, so our lives in service to God become larger than ourselves, part of the ever in-breaking realm of God — that realm of justice and truth and peace. May God bless you and be with you as you serve today! Go in peace, to love, to serve, and to proclaim with your lips, your lives, and your actions that Christ is risen!
All: Christ is risen indeed!