Luke 24:1-11; Acts10:34-43
April 15, 2001
What is your first reaction to news you hadn't heard? Usually it is incredulity. Some typical phrases we would use would be: "No way!" "Go on." "What do you mean?" "You don't say." "Sure."
If the Publishers Clearing House were to come to your house on Super Bowl Sunday and announce, "You've won six-million dollars!", we would stumble around saying, "I can't believe it? Can you believe it? I simply can't believe it!"
If a Police Chaplain were to come to your house with the news that someone dear to you had just been shot and killed, you would numbly mutter, "Are you sure? This can't be true! No! Why?"
This morning we are dealing with news of this personal and dramatic a nature. In the Gospel of Luke we hear these words in regard to the 11 remaining apostles after Mary Magdalene and other women come to pass on the news from angels that Jesus had been raised from the dead, "These words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe the women.."
Here, some 1,971 years after the traditional death of Jesus we still find that words of resurrection seem like idle talk, news too strange to be immediately grasped.
Oh, we know the story. Most of us have grown up with the Easter traditions. There is a reason this is the day of highest attendance at church. People have heard a remarkable piece of news -- the grave is not the end -- resurrection and new life are real. We come to see if there is more to this than some idle tale being told which is full of promise but may turn out to be a big hoax just like we are afraid a six-million dollar check is something our friends came up with to play with our mind or that we can't help holding on to the hope that the murder of our loved one is just a story, no matter how many details we are given.
Unfortunately there is not a good way for us to pass on the news of the resurrection. You could dismiss anything I say today because I'm being paid to say it -- of course I'll tell you the resurrection is true. The women disciples didn't seem able to get through to the men apostles. If the person sitting next to you were to lean over and say, "Yes, I know its true," you would have a lot of questions to ask them.
This business of resurrection, of new life from old ways, of being born from above, of hope residing in us in the direst of times, of committing ourselves to caring for everyone (not just those like us) is overwhelming news. We don't know what to do with it because it is going to change our whole life.
Peter, we are told, had to run to the tomb to see for himself that Jesus' body wasn't being overlooked and that he wasn't being fooled by the women disciples. This was his way of asking all those questions people ask in the face of overwhelming good news or bad news. It is recorded that he found it to be so and was amazed.
A question for this morning is, "what questions do you have to have answered before you are willing to be amazed at resurrection in your life?"
When the amazement of the resurrection finally gets through to the women disciples and to Peter and Thomas and the other apostles, there is a transformation which goes on.
I suspect that part of the reason we are reluctant to really claim that the resurrection is bone-deep true for us is that we are a little bit afraid of what this good news is going to do to us. How will we be changed by this vision of new life?
One example of this is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. Peter was someone who had to be shown in a pretty dramatic fashion that there were new and better ways of living.
Peter, like all of us, was captive to the morality of his up-bringing. The religious and societal norms of Peter's life were pretty strong. He knew what was right and wrong and was going to stay in the path of the straight-and-narrow.
One of the things which Peter knew was that there was to be separation between things which are blessed and things which are cursed, things which are approved and things which are disapproved. This was true about what you should eat and how you should prepare the food. This was true about who you should associate with and who your enemy was.
Peter was blessed with the immediacy of a vision which brought him a great feast of foods his religious and cultural rules said he could and could not eat. Peter's way would have been to pick his way through what he thought he wasn't supposed to eat, to eat only the good things. In the midst of this picky eating, Peter heard GOD say to eat it all. Peter essentially yelled at GOD saying, "You know I'm not supposed to eat pork, you gave us that rule." And then Peter heard the resurrection words, "What GOD has made good, you must not call bad." Can you hear GOD, like a mama, saying to her child, "Macaroni and cheese is good, and so is spinach -- I made them both and I wouldn't make something that was bad for you."
Peter heard these words about food and saw how they also applied to people. Peter had grown up knowing there were good people (people like him) and bad people (people not like him).
Then it was that Peter could change his ways from narrow to broad, from just a few people to many people, from strangers and enemies to friends and lovers. One of the ways of appreciating the power of the resurrection of Jesus is to see what it did for Peter and to raise the question of what it will do for you.
Peter's part in the resurrection was validated when he finally came out with these words, "I now know, and truly understand, that GOD shows no favorites and is not partial. Everyone, in every nation, in every circumstance, who loves GOD and follows Jesus' way of loving neighbors as self and loving enemies and loving sisters and brothers is acceptable to GOD -- everyone!"
So, here we are, gathered to remember that there is a story going around that resurrection has occurred.
I believe our part in the resurrection is also validated when we come to experience the presence of GOD in all that we do which moves us into a life which doesn't show favorites.
We witness to Jesus' resurrection by also going good and healing those who are oppressed. We witness to our own resurrection within life by following GOD's lead in not showing favorites. Thanks for coming. May you leave a much better person than you came for having again caught a glimpse of a much better future for everyone and how you can help that future come to our present.
Copyright 2001. Wesley White, Pastor of St. Luke's United Methodist Church. 1022 Caledonia Street, La Crosse, WI 54603.