The Upredictability of Easter

Easter Sunday

Isaiah 65:17-25

1 Corinthians 15:19-26

Luke 24:1-12

Happy Easter! Christ is risen!

Well, here we are at another Easter Sunday. The Easter holiday or course comes with a lot of traditions in many families. These beloved traditions are things that we can reliably count on year after year after year. I’d like to share a few of my family’s traditions growing up. I’m sure you have some of the same ones.

On Easter Sunday, I would get up before dawn to get to my church for their Easter sunrise service. There, every year, we would sing “Jesus Christ is Risen Today” (which we sang this morning). Every Easter my brother and I would get an Easter basket filled with candy. Every Easter I would trade him most of my chocolaty candies for most of his fruity candies. Every Easter we would have an early dinner at 3pm. We would always have ham, mashed potatoes, asparagus, and my favorite- a brown gravy with raisins in it. And these traditions were held by my family just about every year that I can remember. The sunrise church service, the candy bartering, the early dinner of ham, mashed potatoes, asparagus, and raisin gravy. I loved it. The fact that it happened every year didn’t diminish the significance or the joy of it all. In fact, it was kind of comforting knowing exactly what was going to happen every Easter Sunday. No surprises.

But the core of Easter was and is still surprising. The story of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is absurd and nonsensical. It doesn’t line up with reality and it doesn’t align with human experience since well- ever! Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and several other women come to Jesus’ tomb with spices and ointments. These were used to prepare a body for proper burial. Strong spices had a practical purpose as they were used cover up the smell of one who had been in the tomb for three days. What else were they going to do? The most you can do for a dead body is honor it out of respect for the life it once held. The women arrive at the tomb and find the entrance open. What could have happened? Because it is Easter Sunday we may know the correct answer, but let’s just imagine that it was any other Sunday. Could it have been a tomb robber? Some kids messing around? Did we not seal the tomb properly? All of those explanations are entirely possible. We have seen those things happen before or at the very least have heard of those things happening before. Continue reading

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Proclaiming Christ’s Death

Maundy Thursday

Exodus 12:1-4, 11-14

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

John 13:1-17, 31b-35

Agape_feast_07
Early Christian depiction of an agape feast

Imagine you have been invited to a Christian dinner party in 1st century Corinth, at the church Paul is writing to. Your expected time of arrival is based on your social status. The wealthier and more well-respected you are, the earlier you get to arrive and start eating. The poorer and less social clout you have, the later you have to arrive. Governors, doctors, and the like get to come nice and early. Then, maybe the accountants, the teachers, followed by the manual laborers, and finally the unemployed get to come. The wealthier and more well-respected you are, the better food you get. The poorer you are and the less social clout you have, the worse food you get… if you get to eat at all. At this church in Corinth the well-to-do folks come dressed in ball gowns and tuxedoes and fill their bellies with caviar and get drunk off of Dom Perignon. The middle-of-the-road folks get a falafel sandwich and a coke. The poor folks don’t get a thing.

The early church was doing something incredible just in the fact that the rich and well-respected got together under one roof with the poor and the despised. Very few organizations did this at the time (nor do many today). But other than their shared physical proximity, the Corinthian church was not living into the meal it was celebrating. They were celebrating this meal like they were accustomed to celebrate any other meal. It was completely normal and expected that at any dinner party the rich and well-to-do folks got pampered accordingly and that the poor and not-well-to-do folks were ignored accordingly. It was very important to the ancient Romans that everyone know their place and live into it in all spheres of life.

Paul sees this happening and gives the Corinthian church a wake-up call. They have forgotten that being a follower of Christ means something and it makes a difference. Paul gets back to basics and implores them to remember who Jesus is and why he commanded us to celebrate his last Supper.

…the Lord Jesus on the night when we was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

In this meal we remember that Jesus was given up for the sake of the world. He gave his body and blood so that sin might be forgiven and death might die. Every time we participate in that meal celebrated first by Jesus we remember his self-giving love. More than just remembering it, Paul reminds the Corinthian church and us that we are called to proclaim Jesus’ death until he comes. We proclaim it in the way we gather around the table. It makes a difference in how we eat and it makes a difference in the life it strengthens us to live. Remembering the meal Jesus shared with his friends on the night he was given up to be arrested, crucified, and killed, we cannot live the selfish lives we are used to living. It may be acceptable or even considered virtuous in Corinth or America to look out for yourself first and let others figure out what they need. In America and Corinth it is acceptable for the wealthy and powerful to fully enjoy the fruits of their status and not have to share their hard-earned possessions with those who are poorer or weaker than they are. The apostle Paul comes down harshly in this matter. Those who celebrate the Lord’s Supper in ways that uphold divisions and harm others are partaking in the meal unworthily. Continue reading

Unstoppable Force

Palm/Passion Sunday

Isaiah 50:4-9a

Philippians 2:5-11

Luke 19:28-40

Luke 22:14-23:56

fma

“Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to [Jesus], ‘Teacher, order your disciples to stop [shouting and praising you as king].’ He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.’”

Anybody here take physics in high school? Anyone remember the equation for Newton’s Second Law of Motion, F=MA? Force equals mass times acceleration. The amount of force an object has depends on how big it is and how fast it is moving. An 18-wheeler requires a lot of force to bring to a stop even if it is just traveling 10 miles per hour.  A bullet too requires a lot of force to bring to a stop even though it may weigh only a third of an ounce, but it is still difficult to stop because it is traveling so fast- about 1700 miles per hour.

I experienced Newton’s Second Law of Motion, Force equals mass times acceleration, first-hand when I got the not-so-bright idea to join the football team in seventh grade. One practice we were doing what the coach called “blood drills.” Essentially, we were randomly paired up with another member of the team who would be thrown the football and the partner would have to tackle him. I have always been a small guy. In seventh grade I was about 5’5” and weighed about 115 pounds. Of course I was paired with one of the biggest guys on the team. Luck was not on my side. My partner, Justin, was almost 6 feet tall and weighed about 180 pounds. My coach threw Justin the football and I was supposed to tackle him. Well, I ran at Justin as hard as I could and attempted to bring down this giant of a junior high schooler. I bounced off of him like a ping pong ball. Force equals mass times acceleration. Justin had a heck of a lot more mass than I did and he was faster than me too. His force far exceeded my own.

The Good News of Jesus Christ has a lot of force behind it. Continue reading