On this day of Resurrection Joy

Easter Sunday 2019women at tomb

Good morning church. On this day of resurrection joy I know that some of you may be distracted because you have an Easter ham cooking on low at home. And I know some of you have sugar highs from whatever you unwrapped this morning.

So for the next few minutes let’s try to think NOT of chocolate Reese’s. Let’s think about the risen Jesus!    One of the truths of Easter is that sometimes you find what you weren’t even looking for.

The disciples were looking for a national savior that would protect them from Roman oppression. Their view had limited their understanding that Jesus was THE Messiah.

There’s an old wisdom tale from the Middle East.  It goes like this.

A clever smuggler came to the border with a donkey. The donkey’s back was heavily laden with straw. The border official was suspicious and pulled apart the man’s bundles till there was straw everywhere, but not a valuable thing in the straw was found. “I’m certain you’re smuggling something!” the official said every time the man crossed the border.

In fact, each day for ten years the man came to the border with a donkey. And every time the official searched and searched the straw bundles on the donkey’s back, he never could find anything valuable.  Hold that thought if you would.

Easter is also more valuable than we’ve discovered. Maybe it’s because we observe it only once a year, that Easter is mistaken for a commemorative anniversary of a past event. I propose something larger. Easter isn’t something we remember. Easter is something we live and breathe.  Easter is a way of living. I hope that today you will be “Eastered.”

If you’re not sure what you believe, and aren’t sure what you’ve “found” when it comes to Easter, know that you are not alone. Even the disciples questioned what the women claimed they found that first Easter morning.

Scripture tells us it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told the apostles that Jesus was alive.  In the other gospels Mary comes face to face with Jesus, not recognizing him until he calls her name!  She believes him to be the gardener because she expects that anyone up that early in the morning must be the gardener.  And she doesn’t expect to see angels, but she does find men dressed in dazzling white.

It makes sense that her mind would have been distracted. After all she did not expect to find an empty grave. Graves don’t go empty. The dead stay dead and don’t walk out under their own power. The dead do not move. And if they do move it is because of grave robbers. That is how her grief stricken mind would have reconciled what was happening.

UNTIL Jesus calls her name, she is opened up and she rejoices!

Can we agree that Mary did not find what she was looking for? She found much more!

And then there are the men. The men were not expecting a risen Jesus! They were too busy hiding out for fear of the Jews.  So when Mary tells them Jesus is alive and that she has seen him, they discount her confession as an idle tale—or “Leros” in Greek, which means crap.  Ouch.

But just in case, the men run to the tomb to see for themselves, and the rest is history.

I think there’s something so human for us to take from that.  Maybe the central question of Easter is not “What happened to Jesus way back then?” but rather… “Where is Jesus NOW?”

When it comes right down to it, Easter becomes not a matter of our questioning the resurrection but of allowing the resurrection to question us. Who are we now, and what must we become, in the light of the risen Christ?

Resurrection is more than an idea we talk about or believe propositionally. It’s something we become, something we “prove” in the living of our lives.

Easter Sunday is the time to meet anew the One who changes everything.  And that’s difficult to do in our heads.  It requires our heart. It requires everything we’ve got!

Whether you believe in a literal resurrection or would say, “Jesus was alive and still lives!” Jesus is here– and here– and there, right this very moment.

It’s something that we celebrate every Sunday at the Lord’s Table. He is risen, alleluia!  That changes everything and if we let it, it changes us!  And changed people change the world. Alleluia!

Oh, but wait– would you’d like to know what happened to our smuggler and the border official?

Many years later, after the border official had retired, he happened to meet that same smuggler in a marketplace and said, “Please tell me, I beg you. Tell me, what were you smuggling?”

The smuggler smiled and said, “Donkeys.”

Amen. And Happy Easter.