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Apr 16, 2017

A New Creation

Passage: John 20:1-18

Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Kurt Gerhard

Series: Easter 2017

Category: Easter

Summary:

Easter is about a new way of living. How do we take love and forgiveness into the world.

Detail:

Alleluia, Christ is risen!

Alleluia was far from the minds of those closest to Jesus early on that first Easter morning. When Mary Magdalene appeared at the tomb, she expecting to see it closed up, sealed shut, but she instead discovered it open. So, she ran to tell others suspecting that someone had stolen Jesus’s body. The ones she told, Peter and the faster disciple. We don’t know his name other than he was the one Jesus loved (even though we know that Jesus loved them all). Even though that guy beat Peter (in the foot race), he didn’t crawl into the tomb. He just looked inside. It was Peter who went first, finding the linens and the head wrapping. Confirming exactly what Mary Magdalene told them. The tomb was empty. And then John tells us that they came to believe. Now, we aren’t sure what they believed. It was certainly not that Jesus was resurrected. They weren’t proclaiming Alleluia. It could be that they believed exactly what Mary had told them, that Jesus’s body had been stolen by some nefarious individual.

It wasn’t until after Peter and the other guy left that Mary encountered the angels who told her the Good News. And then Jesus, whom she didn’t recognize, visited her. It wasn’t until he called her name that Mary realized that he wasn’t the gardener; that he was the resurrected Jesus. Then, and only then, did she understand that it was an Alleluia moment.

Mary Magdalene was the first to discover the empty tomb and the first to witness the resurrected Jesus and she was also the first to spread the news. Our reading ended with Mary Magdalene returning to the disciples and telling them that she had seen the Lord. She delivered the first sermon about Jesus’ resurrection.

As you know for being here today, the resurrection is important to Christianity. It was what made what Jesus had said and what he did on Good Friday make sense. Without the resurrection, the disciples would have stayed boarded up in their room worried about what might happen to them and Mary Magdalene would have been satisfied tending to Jesus’s body. Instead, they realized that something had changed and that there was no going back. From that moment on, they were part of a revolution a new creation that continues to this very day. 

Yes, it is important to proclaim, Alleluia, Christ is Risen, but it is equally important, if not more so, to recognize that Jesus’s death and resurrection inaugurated a new creation. A new creation that we are still a part of today. Jesus won a victory over the human authorities and over death itself. And it opened up, to those who believed, who called Jesus Lord, the opportunity to be free, free from the human powers and free to be liberated by following the love of God.

We can debate the miracle of Jesus’s resurrection for the rest of eternity, but we can see it if we pay attention to a way of being that is different than our natural inclination (vengeful) and instead look at a new way of being human: one that starts with forgiveness (God’s gift to those who turn from their selfish wants and desires) and continues with forgiveness (the forgiveness offered by Jesus’ followers in his name and by his Spirit to all who have wronged them). (paraphrased from Wright, 385)

In the old covenant, forgiveness is a weakness. If someone does you wrong, you should get even. You should seek justice. This is a philosophy that eats people up because it consumes their entire lives.

In the resurrection (in God’s Kingdom), forgiveness is the greatest strength.

On Monday, I rode my bike down to meet friends, share a meal, and play games. I do this most Mondays and I always ride my bike. When I walked out to get my bike to ride back up the hill from Connecticut Ave to Wisconsin, I discovered that one of my tires had been stolen. The frame of my bike and the other tire were still locked to the rack. I don’t know exactly when my tire was taken, I don’t know if there were witnesses, I don’t know who took it or why. I could be consumed with discovering all of those things and seeking the return of what I know is mine. But, I am not going to let the wrong done to me twist my life out of shape. I forgive and move forward.

Now my bike tire is small in nature, but there are examples of radical forgiveness. In June of 2015, the relatives of the Charleston, South Carolina victims met the killer face-to-face. Several of them told the killer that they forgave him. It is hard to imagine that kind of forgiveness because it was unforced and seemingly unnecessary. But forgiveness was part of their culture, so much so, that it was a practiced part of their character. That is Christianity. That is God’s Kingdom. That is what Jesus told his disciples to go and do. It is not to abdicate our responsibility to stand up against power, it is coming to the realization that we are not tied to that power for our purpose.

It was later on that very first Easter that Jesus commissioned his disciples to follow him. To give everything, to suffer greatly, to live with so much love that it would exude from their very being. That call transformed their lives. It empowered them to focus on God’s way instead of being trapped in fear of what might happen to them. Jesus makes the same call to us on this Easter. We are called to carry the revolution forward, to implement God’s Kingdom right here, right now.

Alleluia! Christ is Risen. Jesus’ resurrection turned the world upside down, made everything new, and called Christians to live life in love for others. To forgive everything. As we step from this glorious Easter celebration. May forgiveness surround our very being.

The Rev. Dr. Kurt Gerhard

Easter 2017

St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church