Easter Homily 2013
Some people say that Christians are just crazy. There are a lot of folks who say Christians, who believe that there was a guy that came back to life after he was killed, are misguided fools. The belief in resurrection is considered insane crazy talk in “enlightened” circles.
There is a definition of crazy behavior that goes like this. “Crazy” is doing the same thing over and over expecting the results to be different. Insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly thinking next time it will be different. Maybe if I hit my thumb with a hammer, again, it won’t hurt this time! Let’s keep clicking on a broken link on this web page. Surely, the next time it will take me to the web-site I want to go to. That’s being foolish, doing something the same way multiple times that always ends up wrong.
The women in our Gospel story go to the tomb of Jesus to do what should be done to honor the dead. The body needs to be anointed and wrapped properly. And they don’t expect anything to be different about this visit to a cemetery than all the times they’ve gone to graves, before. They are sensible sane women. They know the routine and expect the same result. A body dies, is anointed, is buried and stays dead, decaying in the tomb. They’re not crazy – the women know this is going to emotionally hurt, a sledgehammer to the heart. It always does when you give a loved one the dignity of a proper burial. This will be the last farewell to our Rabbi Jesus.
Ah, but God turns the tables. He’s tired of expecting the same results when one of his own is hammered down by death. It’s time to change the results, to make a crazy sounding statement to humanity. Instead of the same old, same old, the Father makes the results different for Jesus, raising him to a new kind of life among the living.
What was different about Jesus’ death, instead of repeating the age-old human tendency to resist death, which never produces a different result – you always die anyway – Jesus embraces death as the way to a new beginning for humanity. Remember what Jesus said? “Unless you die like a grain of wheat, you will not have abundant life” Remember him saying, “Those who lose themselves gain their true self.” Remember he said, “The Son of Man must die at the hands of sinners but on the third day he will rise.” Jesus didn’t repeat the pattern of fighting death. He did something different. He willingly gave himself over to death and in his sacrifice all humanity is given a chance, through being joined to him in baptism, to experience life that is perfect, like God’s life.
The two guys in white clothes in the Gospel story are a symbol of the church, in their white baptismal garments, announcing that there’s a different result to dying, now! Jesus has changed the rules. The hammer of death now has a different result because of one man’s sacrificing himself in place of us. Instead of resisting death, Jesus went to the cross believing the Father could take his sacrifice of self-made out of love for others and provide humanity a beneficial good, a new way of living without death being a constant fear.
We live in a world hostile to our message. People can’t seem to accept there’s another way to do this living on earth business. People can’t seem to accept that there’s another way to live besides accepting death as the ultimate power to rule over human lives. Wars that bring death continue to be used as a way to solve conflicts between groups of people. There are other kinds of death, too. Humanity still dooms the poor to a life of struggle to survive, a living death just to make the lives of a few privileged folks comfortable. We live in a world hostile to the message of resurrection. It’s tempting to give in and say I don’t believe it. Live for today, whatever the cost to others, because it’s not possible to change the end result for humans.
But Peter takes a chance that the wild story of the women might have some grain of truth. He needs it to be true, because he doesn’t want to live with the regret that he betrayed his friend. Surely, if it’s true, Peter must think, things turn out o.k.! So Peter goes to the grave and believes. He’s about to get more than an empty tomb. He will also see and touch and eat with Jesus, again, as the story goes. Peter is a model of what we need to do. Go experience for ourselves what has been told as improbable news, a change in the results of what we can expect.
Let’s take a chance with Peter that the story is true. The dead can live again. There is no scientific proof, that is true. (Empty graves aren’t conclusive proof and can be explained away). But the clue that the chance is worth taking is following Peter’s example. Go experience for yourself what others swear they’ve experienced. In the life of the Church is where you go to have the experience. Whenever we meet people willing to sacrifice for others with no thought of “what’s in it for me” it’s the presence of Jesus we experience. Whenever we break bread and share a cup recalling sacrifice of self for the sake of others breaks the power of death, Jesus is there! When we trust that death is not the end and are comforted instead of being afraid about the impending death of a loved one, it’s the company of Christ holding us close. Easter is the invitation to take a chance with Peter that the proclamation of three women that Jesus lives is true.
So, who’s crazy now? Is it the folks, is it us, who live with hope that God can change the results of death? Maybe those who say the dead stay dead and the grave is all there is are the foolish ones. Here at the Eucharist and in sharing life as disciples of Jesus out sides these walls we can experience the presence of the one who shows that the foolish in the eyes of the world have found a way to break the hammer instead of the thumb. Let’s keep doing what we always do; Proclaim to the Good News to a world that needs to change if it’s going to be saved from the pounding tool of death.
© 2013, Rev. Joseph C. Rascher