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April 8, 2007 (Easter Sunday)—“Live Also”
Interim Pastor Steven Jensen
In my first parish in Buffalo, New York, I spent much of the first Easter Vigil with them at the hospital bedside of the retired organist whose pacemaker had failed. The doctor indicated his passing would come very quickly and the organist shared his feelings with me about dying on Easter. It was his favorite festival of the year, with the music he most appreciated. He was sad at first that he would miss the joyous celebration with our congregation. Then he brightened dramatically and said, “But I’ll get to hear the angel chorus and get to see the Resurrected Christ myself today!”
He was an Easter person. We are Easter people. Yet in order to truly be Easter people, we need to be fully in touch with all that led up to Jesus’ return from the tomb.
I first heard George Fielden MacLeod’s quote in a sermon by my own pastor before I was ordained, and it comes to mind frequently: “I am recovering the claim that Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles but on a cross between two thieves; on the town garbage-heap; at a crossroad so cosmopolitan that they had to write his title in Hebrew and in Latin and in Greek (or shall we say in English, in Bantu and in Afrikaans?); at the kind of place where cynics talk smut, and thieves curse, and soldiers gamble. Because that is where He died. And that is what He died about. And that is where churchmen should be and what churchman-ship should be about.” (Only One Way Left, Glasgow: The Iona Community, 1956, p. 38.)
Jesus came among us as fully human in part so that we would know he understood what it was like to face life’s challenges. He also came among us to show us how God would have us live the lives He gave us. Individuals and throngs were drawn to him because he spoke to the real needs and issues of their lives and not only gave them hope, but gave them the ability to fully live now. And he gave them a new understanding of God as the Father of love.
He met us where we live. He will continue to meet us where we live.
So now after he has conquered one of the greatest of human fears—death—he returns to minister to the living who act as if there is no life left in them in their terrible grief and despair.
The women who had loved him have returned to the tomb following the Sabbath to do their duty, to anoint the body of Jesus who had become like family to them. They did not come looking for a living Jesus; they came looking for his remains. They had not comprehended the real meaning of his words anymore than the disciples had.
Despite their desire to come and do what was good and right and proper, they are chided by the angels. “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” Why are you acting as “functional atheists,” people who have confessed their belief in Jesus as the Christ, but who now function as if there were no God.
“Remember what he said,” the angels tell them. They do not just say to think about what Jesus said, but to “re-present” what Jesus said and what Jesus did. Let that help you comprehend that He is not here—He is risen.
Remember. The criminal on the adjacent cross we refer to as “The Good Thief” says, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He is not asking that Jesus think about him when he sits upon the heavenly throne. And Jesus’ answer confirms what remembering him will mean: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Remember. As Jesus shares the Passover meal with his disciples, he gives one more tradition from the time of Moses a new meaning. “This is my body.” “This is my blood.” “Do this in remembrance of me.” I am with you whenever you do this in my name.
As the women at the empty tomb remember the words coupled with the ministry of Jesus, they are given new life. They will never be the same. These first Easter people are compelled to go and “re-present” the Good News of the Jesus who walked among them and led them pre-crucifixion and the Resurrected Jesus who will now walk among them and lead them in this new age.
The import of the Risen Lord is not just about the hope of resurrection for those we have loved and lost or even for ourselves when we face our own deaths. It is about new life now. It is about receiving the power of the resurrection and remembering that it comes after Jesus accepted our punishment. Because of his great gift of sacrificial love, we are forgiven. We are restored and enter into a new relationship with the God who offered his only Son for us—for you—for me.
Remember. Remember what Christ has done for you that you can start living free and living completely today. Remember how it feels to be loved that much. Remember that you are a child of God. And remember that there are other children of God who do not know the gift that is theirs.
Hear the words of the messengers of God to remember and then to go and tell the Good News. Christ has left the tomb and is on the road ahead of you. Shouldn’t you be on your way?
Copyright © 2007 Steven Jensen
Comments welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org