Tuesday, April 18, 2017

All Shook Up, Easter Message; Matthew 28:1-10

Rev. George Miller
April 16, 2017- Easter
Matthew 28:1-10

What a week! And Wednesday was one of those days.

Worried for Silvia’s family in El Salvador as they experience tremors that could signal a major earthquake.

One friend dealing with a horrible event; another friend horribly sick from whatever crud has been going around.

Issues involving Syria, Russia, the US and the UN.

An editorial condemning local pastors for not attending a workshop.

Not to mention all the events and expectations surrounding Easter from Maundy Thursday worship to the community Good Friday service to preparing a potent Easter message.

In other words- life.

So I come home and do what I always do on Wednesday- I clean the house, make a cup of tea. Spend time with God. Take a nap. Write my sermon.

As I’m sipping my tea, I just so happen to open up a book called Moments of Peace for the Morning and turn to where the bookmark is.

It reads “Some days you may feel that no one appreciates the unique pressures you face. And perhaps you are in such an exceptional situation that very few really could. God however knows you intimately and cares about what concerns you.

God knows the hidden thoughts of your heart and can see your circumstances from an all-encompassing viewpoint. He knows how you feel when you are emotionally spent.

Always remember that God understands you very well- even better than you know yourself- and can help you overcome any challenge you face. Take heart today by trusting him.” (page 18, Bethany House, 20003)

On the opposite page were the words of Hebrews 2:14 “We are people of flesh and blood. That is why Jesus became one of us.” (CEV)

That reading gave me great peace, and soon I was napping soundly, with my cats on either side of me, one purring, while the other cat groomed itself.

We are people of flesh and blood. That is why Jesus became one of us.

Note the words that are used- flesh and blood. That means real. That means human.

To say we are flesh and blood means that we are more than just spirit, we are more than just mind.

It means we are biological beings and are living and experiencing things in a physical world.

Which means that when something hurts our flesh, we hurt. When something affects our blood, we are affected.

Through our body we experience joy, we experience pain. We experience the world around us, we experience one another. We experience the best and the worst there is.

Through our bodies we experience life.

And Jesus, the Son of God, became one of us. Jesus became one of us so that he too could fully know what it is like-

To face pressure.
To deal with exceptional situations.
To care and to experience concerns.
To feel-

Jesus, Emmanuel, “God With Us”, became flesh and blood; one of us.

So, when Jesus was betrayed by a close friend, he would have felt the physical and emotional pain one goes through when betrayed.

When Jesus was stripped of his clothes he would have felt the emotional and physical sense of shame as you and I would.

When he endured the crucifixion, as flesh and blood he would have felt the pain, the humility.

The forsakenness that goes beyond the mental and the spiritual and creeps into every sinew, every section of your physical being.

…The depths God went to show just how much we matter, how much we mean to God...

For our Creator to experience our life, even to the point of pain and suffering.

This is what makes part of the resurrection narrative so powerful.

Not only that Jesus would experience the pain of death, but that he would be raised in such a way that says death cannot control, death cannot contain, death cannot consume.

That Jesus is raised, and it is God who raised him up.

But the resurrection doesn’t mean that everything from here on in is going to be perfect.

The resurrection doesn’t mean that suddenly everything is in pastels and the rest of the year will be nothing but pastures of pink and purple posies.

Yes, because of the resurrection we discover that life continues…but it does not mean the tremors decrease.

Let me explain-

Last week we explored Palm Sunday, as told by Matthew the Marketer.

We spoke of how Matthew was a Jew writing for other Jewish people to convince them that Jesus was the Messiah. So he makes Jesus the new Moses. He uses lots of scripture.

And he sure liked to shake things up.

For example, last week when Jesus rode into town, Matthew tells us that the whole city was in turmoil.

The Greek word that Matthew used is more akin to the word “shaken.” So, as Jesus enters Jerusalem, a wave of excitement ripples through the city, shaking it like when the Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan or Ohio State won the National Championship.

On the cross, when Jesus cries out and takes his last breathe, Matthew tells us that upon his death the earth shook and stones were split, scaring the centurion and soldiers around him.

Then Matthew tells us that on Easter morning, as a new week dawned, two women came to the tomb, surrounded by guards.

And suddenly another great earthquake occurs, a shaking so great it ushers in the arrival of an angel. This scares the guards so much that they shake too.

And the Good News is shared- “He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said.”

Tumult, earthquakes, guards being all shook up- direct results of God With Us.

And one can’t help but to imagine the tremors that continued within the two women as they ran from the tomb, only to experience the presence of the Risen Christ…

Easter has arrived once again, and with the proclamation of the Good News, comes yet another chance to explore just what does this all mean.

What does the resurrection have to say to us, today?

What strikes me is this notion of Jesus entering into our lives and there being tumult, there being earthquakes, that we become all shook up.

As one theologian stated, Easter is not a cheery “good morning” but a startling earthquake.

And though I have never lived through such a natural disaster, and sincerely worry about Silvia’s family, I think of how sometimes “shaking things up” is not such a bad thing.

Think about your own spiritual journey. We each have our own unique path, sharing some similarities.

How many can recall the time in their life in which they really became cognizant of what it meant to have Christ in their lives?

Of that moment in which you realized that Jesus really loved you, and because of Christ you were never truly alone.

That moment of realization is a bit of a shaking up, a tremor of the heart and soul.

Then there comes that time in which something clicks and you realize not only does Jesus love you, but in Christ you are forgiven, in Christ you are redeemed, in Christ you are justified.

That moment becomes another tremor, as it did for Martin Luther; a tremor that caused John Newton to put pen to paper and write “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.”

Those tremors continue as we soon come to realize that if we are loved, if we are redeemed, then how do we live, how do me make decisions, how do we interact with one another that reflects these truths?

These tremors grow even more and become more substantial when we realize that how we live, how we think, how we interact with others… can actually affect more than just us, more than just our family.

That our faith in Christ, our experience of the resurrection can actually bring about a new day, can actually change our community, and can actually change the world.

Think of the tremors that the ancestors of our denomination brought about when they staged the original Boston Tea Party, helping to usher in our country’s independence.

Think of the tremors the Congregationalists caused when they spoke out against slavery or participated in the suffragette movement.

Think of the earthquake caused when Christian leaders like MLK dared to dream dreams and stand up for Civil Rights.

Think of the guards of the status quo who were shaken up when the UCC dared to say in 2005 that all people had the right to marriage equality.

Think of the tremors we here at Emmanuel have been able to do by trying our best to welcome all.

Think of the positive ways we have shaken up the lives of those who come to the Shepherd’s Pantry, Diamond Café and Vacation Bible School.

Think of the tremors, the shakes and the seismic shocks that your own experience of the Resurrected Christ has brought to you.

The tremors, the tumult, and the earthquaking-ness of the Good News is not limited to one Easter day or one empty tomb experience, but it reaches out to all aspects of creation.

Yes- some of Easter’s tremors will knock us on our feet; some can scare us,

But hopefully some of Easter’s tremors will inspire us, will give us great joy, will lead us out into the world, and will bring us even closer to God.

Easter morning is not a one-time event. It is an occasion that happens again and again and again and again.

Easter Sunday reminds us that we are people of flesh and blood. That Jesus shook the world when he came here just like us.

That Jesus shook the world through his teachings and healings, eating and being.

And that God forever shook our world, and continues to shake it up through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Emmanuel.

And that we are all the better because of it.

For that, we can say Amen and amen.

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