Stephentown Federated Church




Pastor's Sermons

Sermon for April 24, 2011 - Maybe It's Not About Us! Easter, 2011

I know a lot of preachers, and not one of them looks forward to preaching on Easter.

What more can we say?

And, more importantly, how can we be honest?

One of the main tenets of the Christian faith is the Resurrection of Jesus. There are two choices that we have when encountering this: either we believe that Jesus' physical body was raised from the dead, or (as many scholars suggest,) we believe that Jesus' spirit was seen after his death.

Either way, the spirit of the Christ lives on. It encourages, comforts, challanges and empowers us; it continues to teach and lead us into uncharted territory. It abides with us always.

Oh... and the honesty part? Well, let's get real.

As I look out at you this morning, I see many people who are grieving the loss of a loved one. I, too, have had many losses over the years. Not one of these people we love has hopped out of the grave and returned to us. Not one.

In other scenarios in the Gospel, Jesus gives us clear example about how to live.

However, this story does not.

Is it possible that we can find more comfort in the thought that it was the spirit of Jesus which the disciples encountered?

I have been honored to be present with the dying for many years. I will tell you that they DO see spirits. The presence of spirits among us is another sermon for a later time; the point now is that perhaps we can look at Resurrection differently. Perhaps dogma is not what matters most. Perhaps what Easter teaches us is that , in the end, we don't have the capacity to understand anything as mysterious as Resurrection.

The comfort is this: we don't have to.

Perhaps all we have to do is acknowledge our brokenness and humanity, and stop trying to make Resurrection something that we can wrap our brains around.

At this point I must give credit to my son Matt, whose Ash Wednesday sermon was one of the most honest I have ever heard. Thanks also to his wife Elizabeth, who challenged him to be honest. It inspired the thoughts I share with you now.

We went through Lent with all of our usual symbols. In this "Easter" basket, we have our usual Lenten symbols:

A bowl of ashes. We take that out of the basket. A strip of cloth which we used to symbolize Lazarus' unbinding. A palm branch. A bowl used for water, for washing of the feet. A rock, which was rolled away. Take all of these away, and what do we have?

Thanks to Beth Eckhart, who answered immediately: an empty basket.

Yes, Beth; it is empty.

Just the way we feel when someone we love dies.

Just the way we feel when a dream dies.

Just the way we feel when we are scared, lost, broken or confused.

How do we "Journey with Jesus" when we are empty and hurting?

How do we "Rise with Jesus" when we are angry, in pain, doubting?

Maybe we don't.

Instead, maybe we just let Jesus journey with us.

Maybe we just accept our emptimess, and let the Christ rise IN us. "Cause we can't do it ourselves.

We don't need a theologian to explain loss, pain, anger and Resurrection to us. (Did I just talk myseof out of a job?)

We just need to say, "Rise IN me.... because I can't do it otherwise."

I believe that the spirit of the Christ WILL rise in us, bring us to healing and new life, because that is what the Christ does.

All we have to do is be humble and honest, empty ourselves of arrogance and ask that the Christ rise IN us.... and then we can say together, Alleluia!