Resurrection of Our Lord
Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
Christ is Risen indeed Alleluia.
Fear and love,
these are the underlying emotions
running through this morning ,
the morning of the empty tomb,
the morning where God turned the world upside down
where fear makes the living dead
and love makes the dead living.
It is love that propels the Marys
to go to the tomb as soon as possible after the sabbath.
They loved Jesus,
Mary Magdalene has been with Jesus from the beginning of his ministry,
she has seen him teach large crowds and small groups of disciples,
cast out demons and heal the sick,
she has made his mission her mission
and now it is over
what she lived for is dead.
But love carries beyond death
and so she and the other Mary go to the tomb,
to be with the one they love,
to grieve his death,
their death, the uncertainty of the future.
And all of a sudden their world,
which has already been shaken
as an angel
a messenger of the Lord
descends from heaven and rolls the stone away from the tomb.
And Matthew tells us that for fear of the angel
the guards shook and became like dead men.
But the women,
they manage to stay on their feet,
Why do the guards become like dead men
and the women do not?
It all comes back to love and fear
without the love of God
fear is paralyzing,
with the love of God fear is manageable
because with the love of God comes hope.
“do not be afraid”
the angel greets them in standard angel fashion
knowing that heavenly appearances are always frightening
“I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified.
He is not here; for he has been raised as he said.”
He has been raised as he said,
is that another reason why the women are there at the tomb so early?
Did they go to the tomb
hoping against hope that what Jesus said was true?
That they would experience exactly what was happening in front of them?
Only hope born out of love could be this powerful,
for hope born out of love
looks at the reality of a situation
and still shows up at the tomb early in in the morning.
Hope born of love
means that even though your dreams are dead,
in a tomb, behind a stone, being guarded
and the earth shakes around you,
you remain standing or at least conscious.
The guards did not have this hope,
they did have relatively safe secure lives,
so when the earth quakes and the stone is rolled away
fear paralyzes them,
makes the living become like they are dead.
Fear has that power,
to take the life from the living,
but God’s love is stronger than fear,
stronger than death,
God’s love brings life out of death,
sets us free,
free from paralysis when the earth quakes,
free from the finality of death,
free because God loves us and wants us to have an abundant life.
And the thing about being set free
is that now we are able to go do things
we never thought possible,
freed from worry about ourselves
we are able to care for our neighbor as Jesus taught us,
we are free to share the news about the power of love
to empty tombs.
The angel shows the women the empty tomb,
tells them Jesus has been raised
and then gives them a command
“Go tell the disciples,
he has been raised from the dead
and will meet you in Galilee”
And Matthew tells us
that the women leave the tomb quickly
with fear and great joy.
paired with the joy of love fulfilled,
fear is manageable,
it is the fear of anticipation,
of going forth with a fantastic, unbelievable story to tell,
it is fear that knows that many will not believe what they have to say
but they are going to say it anyway,
it is fear softened by hope.
And then on the way,
Jesus meets them,
Greetings he says,
there is no question about who this is,
it is Jesus,
they grab hold of him and worship him.
Jesus repeats the message of the angel,
“Do not be afraid, go and tell the disciples I will meet them in Galilee”
There’s that caution again,
do not be afraid.
Jesus knows that even as we are set free
and joyfully go out from the empty tomb
we will need reassurance,
we will need the message repeated,
we will need times to worship at Jesus’ feet.
Which is why Jesus comes to us at the table,
in the bread and wine, his body and blood,
greeting us and strengthening us
before sending us back out into the world.
With fear and great joy
This morning is all about fear and love.
We all have tombs in our lives,
tombs that are sealed with a rock and surrounded by guards
and it takes the world shaking to open these tombs,
it is a fearful time,
but because we have the love of God
we remain standing,
and when we peek into the tomb
we find that Jesus has already emptied it.
Alleluia, Christ is Risen,
Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia
Exodus 12:1–4, 11–14
Psalm 116:1–2, 12–19
1 Corinthians 11:23–26
John 13:1–17, 31b–35
Dear fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ,
grace and peace to you
from the one who is love and grace. Amen
Law and gospel, love and grace.
This is Jesus’ last evening with the disciples
and he wraps up their time together
with a concise summary of what he is all about,
why he has come
and why he will go to the cross willingly.
It is all Law and gospel, love and grace.
First the law,
Jesus gives the disciples a new commandment,
to love one another.
The law as Jesus gives it
is not a series of prohibitions against this or that
but to treat one another out of love.
It’s deceivingly simple
leaving us with more questions than answers,
chief among them; How do we love one another?
You are to love one another as I have loved you,
Jesus tells the disciples,
the love I’m talking about looks like service
the kind of service I just did by taking off my outer robe
and kneeling before you
washing your feet like a servant,
doing the dirty work of caring for another.
“You’re not better than me” Jesus tells the disciples
knowing that they will be repelled
by the thought of serving in this way,
their upbringing, the culture, their religious beliefs
all tell them that this kind of service is beneath them,
a job for the lower classes, unclean, something to be avoided,
and yet this is Jesus’ new command to them, to us.
Love one another as I have loved you,
This is the mark of my disciples Jesus says
if you have love for one another,
This is the new law by which you will be judged.
Love is now the law.
And even as he gives the new commandment,
Jesus knows that we are incapable of keeping it.
Which is why Jesus follows the giving of the law
with the giving of grace,
the giving of himself on the cross
so that God will look on us as being as holy as Jesus,
even though we fail at loving.
Jesus sets the example of grace this last night too,
though the disciples won’t be able to see the grace
until after the fact,
we get to see the grace of Jesus’ actions,
how even though he knows exactly what is going to happen,
who is going to betray him,
he continues to serve his betrayer.
Did you notice that?
Jesus, knows that Judas is going to betray him
and he still washes his feet,
he knows Judas is on his way out the door
and he still eats the passover meal with him.
When we were preparing for first communion
we talked about how eating a meal with someone
is a sign that you are friends,
Jesus includes Judas in the meal,
eating out of the same bowl even.
This is grace.
And Simon Peter,
he gets the same treatment as everyone else too,
he will betray Jesus,
not as intentionally as Judas,
not for money
but out of fear for his own skin
he will deny that he knew Jesus.
And yet Jesus kneels at Simon Peter’s feet too.
Now Peter has a big mouth,
as a disciple he is often guilty of speaking before thinking
sometimes he accidently speaks the truth
and sometimes he says what the rest of us are thinking
but are too afraid to say.
Jesus is washing the disciple’s feet and he comes to Peter
“Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Peter asks,
though it is completely obvious that that is what Jesus is doing.
“You will never wash my feet” Peter says to Jesus,
he refuses to give up his set understanding
of what is the proper relationship between a teacher a master and his followers,
a master serving a follower, that’s just not done!
We get squeamish when it comes to grace,
when it comes to being served
by someone we respect or anyone really,
we back away, we protest,
we can do this, don’t trouble yourself,
we get squeamish because accepting grace
means that someone else is doing our dirty work,
that they will see what we like to hide,
the imperfections of our feet,
the imperfections of our lives.
Jesus responds to Peter the big mouth,
the stubborn independent disciple
who one minute says he will follow Jesus all the way to death
and another minute denies that he knows him
“unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Jesus says
There are some things we can’t do for ourselves,
there are some things that Jesus has to do,
only Jesus can do
and joining us to him through washing is one of those things,
in our baptisms we are joined to Christ,
God does that it
is a pure gift, it is grace.
Christ comes to us in the breaking of the bread
and pouring of the wine,
God does that,
it is a pure gift, it is grace,
Jesus goes to the cross for us,
it is a pure gift
it is grace.
Law and gospel, love and grace.
In remembering Jesus’ last night with his disciples
We are reminded that we have been commanded to love one another,
self-giving, getting dirty footwashing love
that includes even those we know are going to betray us,
and we are reminded of the good news of grace,
the gift of the cross
which means that we will not be condemned
when we fail to love
but in the water, word, bread and wine
are forgiven and set free to live lives of service,
lives of love and grace. Amen
5th Sunday in Lent
Dear fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ,
grace and peace to you from the Word of God,
the Resurrection and the life. Amen
The movie The Princess Bride is a tale of action, adventure and yes even true love. It tells the tale of Buttercup and Wesley in their quest to be reunited after pirates, a scheming prince and other nefarious characters interfere with their ability to be together in their true love. Toward the end of the movie the prince kills Wesley who is found by his friends Inigo and Fezzik.
They who take Wesley to a local apothecary Miracle Max -played by Billy Crystal- in search of a miracle. Miracle Max is reluctant at first having lost confidence in himself but when he finds out that Wesley is already dead he agrees to take a look, after poking the body he tells Inigo and Fezzik “I’ve seen worse” after they haggle over the price of the miracle
when Inigo questions what Max can do with Wesley being dead Miracle Max says “Ooh looks who knows so much, well it just so happens that your friend here is only mostly dead, there’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead...now, mostly dead is slightly alive, all dead, well with all dead there’s usually only one thing you can do.” “What is that?” Inigo asks “Go through his clothes and look for loose change” Miracle Max quips.
Dead is an absolute,
it seems funny that there could be degrees of dead
and yet when miracles are concerned
skeptical humans invent degrees of dead,
is there possibility of resuscitation or is there no hope?
a miracle isn’t as miraculous
if it deals with someone who is only mostly dead.
Our readings for today
make sure to emphasize the dead in them is all dead.
The bones in Ezekiel are dry,
there’ve been there a long time,
Lazarus has been in the tomb four days,
already there is a stench, he is all dead.
These are small details
but the emphasis is important,
when dealing with all dead
there can be no question about the power of the Word of God
to bring life out of death.
We are at the last Sunday in Lent,
the readings are preparing us,
getting us ready for Holy Week
and what God is about to do in Jesus the Word of God,
the Word who became flesh and lived among us,
who crucified on a cross was all dead
who God raised on the third day.
And how is God going to do the miraculous?
Words are the way God works,
we see that in our lessons for today.
Ezekiel is told to prophesy to the dry bones,
“O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.”
Jesus prays out loud then commands “Lazarus, come out!”
Words are powerful.
Words are powerful because they build relationships,
relationships that stretch beyond logic
to an unspoken truth that is felt, lived with.
Words are how God works in the world,
In the beginning God spoke the world into being
saying let there be light and there was light.
through the prophets God built a relationship with the people
even when they’d cut themselves off,
God sent the living Word, Jesus,
to take on flesh and live and walk among us
creating a bond that is possible
only when words are lived with, held, savored.
ultimately God used the Word in a way that defied logic
but led to a powerful truth
that in this Word death is no longer absolute.
And through our baptisms
we have been joined to the Word
and the rhythm that repeats again and again throughout the song of God,
the pattern where words are spoken,
action follows words,
witnesses are called to speak,
God tells the prophet what to say,
the bones come back to life,
go tell the people of Israel.
Jesus prays to God
cries “Lazarus come out” and Lazarus comes out
Jesus commands the bystanders “unbind him and let him go”
This rhythm is repeated in the events of Holy Week.
Maundy Thursday- Jesus tells his disciples what is going to happen,
Good Friday he is crucified,
Easter Sunday the tomb is found empty
and the women are commanded to go tell the others what they have witnessed.
The rhythm is repeated each Sunday when we gather,
the word of God is proclaimed,
grace is received at the table
and we the witnesses are commanded to go tell others what we have seen.
This rhythm is how we are to pray,
We speak to God,
then put into action what we have spoken
and share with others the results,
we pray for the hungry to be filled,
then we go feed those who are hungry,
then we share our experience with others
as we practice the rhythm
it becomes familiar, second nature even
and if we ever fall out of time for a bit
all we have to do to find ourselves is pause,
feel the beat stir in us again, bringing us back to life.
This is how we live when faced with all dead.
new life comes in unexpected ways,
and we share our life with others. Amen
Pastor Emily Johnson preaches weekly at Christ Lutheran. These are manuscripts of her sermons given at Christ Lutheran. Feel free to engage with them in the comments section of the blog.