Sermons That Work

All of the Resurrection Stories…, Easter Day (A) – 1999

April 04, 1999

All of the Resurrection stories have one thing in common. God does something so strange and singular in nature that there is no way to explain what happened. And this strange thing that God does has, as its consequence, either faith, hope, and love, or disbelief.

All we can see are “snapshots” or anecdotes of the Resurrection. The stories of Resurrection are all different. In one, Jesus is known when he speaks. In another, he is not known when he speaks but when he breaks and blesses bread. In one account, he broils fish for breakfast. In another he suddenly appears in a locked room. It is impossible to put together an integrated composite picture of what happened. As one person said, “if the disciples had been using a camcorder, we would have something on tape, but I wouldn’t attempt to say exactly what.”

But the consequence of all o f these stories is either faith, hope, and love, or disbelief. Why did the disciples choose faith, hope, and love? How can we choose faith, hope, and love?

When we examine the Resurrection stories, three patterns of belief emerge. There is no particular ranking or sequence of things. In fact, they seem to be integrated. The three things are: the relationship with Jesus both prior to and after the Resurrection is personal. When Jesus said, “Mary,” Mary knew instantly who he was. When the two disciples saw and heard Jesus break the bread and bless it, the gestures and language were so familiar that they instantly knew who he was. The second thing that enabled his followers to know him is Scripture. On the road to Emmaus, the two disciples heard Jesus explain the Scriptures that told how God would raise him from the dead.

The third thing that enabled the followers of Jesus to believe was the community of other believers. The very first thing that Mary did after she knew was tell the disciples. The first thing the two followers of Jesus who recognized him when he broke the bread went in a hurry to Jerusalem to tell the disciples. Most of the Resurrection stories are stories where Jesus appears to a group.

This leads to three ways of knowing the Risen Lord. For most people these three ways are integrated. So how can we know Jesus in a personal way? What can we do so that his voice is familiar to us?

Most Christians seem to know Jesus personally through prayer and worship. In the story where the two disciples recognized him when he broke the bread and blessed it, Jesus is known in ritual. This makes clear that regular participation in worship, especially in sharing in the Holy Communion, is a very powerful resource for knowing the Risen One.

In our worship, especially in Holy Communion, we experience the Lord.

St. Paul was clear. He said that we eat the bread and drink the wine “perceiving” the body of “Christ”. Somehow, the meaning of bread and the meaning of wine change to become the meaning of Jesus’ flesh and blood. Some worry that they really don’t understand how this can be. Others are concerned about children receiving Communion. They wonder if the children really understand what is going on. One very senior and wise bishop, when asked, “can a child understand enough to receive Communion?” responded, “I’m concerned that I don’t understand enough to receive Communion.” In fact, none of use really understands enough. But whatever the level of faith you possess, even if it is as tiny as a mustard seed, let that faith come forward to receive Communion in adoration of the Risen Jesus. Many of us feel that coming to Communion feeds the faith in us.

If you want to know the Risen Lord, worship him!

If you want to know the Risen Lord, study Scripture. One Christian describes this practice. “During Holy Week, I read St. Matthew’s Gospel while listening to Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. The combination of Gospel, the music, Holy Week, and anticipation of Easter is always meaningful to me. It is one of the ways I am present with Jesus in his ordeal and triumph.” Many prefer to share the Scripture in small groups. However it is done, many of us come to know Jesus through the Scriptures. To know him is to love. him.

Finally, one of the ways we know the Risen One is to “hang out” with his friends. The process of loving and being loved by friends of Jesus leads us to know the Lord. Many Christians come to the realization that the love they experience from their friends and family is the love of Jesus. Christian marriage may be one of the better ways to know this. In a Christian marriage, Jesus is the first person in the relationship. So the people in the marriage, because they are in a relationship with Jesus and experience his unconditional love, are able to share that unconditional love with each other. The marriage is sacramental. The marriage becomes a vehicle of God’s love for the couple. Now, none of this is easy. Regular worship means doing something that every part of our culture mitigates against. Some of us work 60 hours a week. Sunday is the only free day that we have. Children’s soccer seems to be played on Sundays. The list could go on and on.

Regular Bible study requires discipline. Hanging out with Jesus’ friends is a lot of trouble. They are all sinners and hypocrites. Some of them are just plain mean. But, as hard as it is to do so, it is still the way with life and ultimate love. So, surrender your lack of faith. Give up your fear of really loving someone. Stop thinking that you must profoundly understand things before you have faith. Give yourself to however much faith is in you. And even if your voice is shy, soft, and barely audible, join in the praise and acclamation for our Risen Savior, Jesus, the Christ of God. The Lord is risen! The Lord is risen indeed!

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Christopher Sikkema


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