Lectionary Reflection, Resurrection of our Lord, Year C
April 17, 2022*
But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. — Luke 24:11
Easter is the ultimate festival celebration of Christianity. We pull out all the stops on this day. From triumphant music (horns, organ swell, and enough “alleluias” to make up for all of Lent) and sufficient flowers to open a floral outlet to inspired preaching (hopefully!) and Holy Eucharist, our worship on this day is truly fit for the King of Kings. We reason that this day may be our best opportunity to share the Good News and encourage those who rarely come through the church doors to come back often. Easter is a bold and optimistic day.
This day is a vitally important one in the life of the church–a fact few would dispute. Yet, I wonder how it really plays in the lives of those not connected to a faith community. The commercial marketplace co-opts the holiday, just like Christmas, to sell chocolate bunnies, plastic eggs, and Easter ham, basically anything to fill a cheap basket and increase sales of consumable goods. Is it just another holiday rather than a Holy Day?
Like the women at the tomb, the faithful gather to experience the story afresh, but the wider community often offers resistance to our “idle tale.” Folks have trouble truly believing a resurrection story. After all, when you’re gone you’re gone, right? Shouldn’t we live for the present day and be rational about life? Isn’t religion simply “the opium of the people” ala Karl Marx?
Of course the answer to this, at least from the Christian perspective, is a resounding “NO,” but how can we convince ourselves so that we can show others that Jesus lives and is active in the world? Sometimes I feel like our houses of worship might be better likened to the empty tomb. We invite people in to “see Jesus” when Jesus has already left the building for ministry in the world. Yes, Jesus is present whenever two or more gather in his name, whenever wine is poured and bread is broken, and in the waters of baptism, but Jesus doesn’t hang out in hallowed human shrines 24/7.
Peter took the message out, and he preached in the home of the Roman army officer Cornelius, saying “He [Jesus] commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (Acts 10:42-43). Funny thing, the command is to go, to preach, and to testify this to folks. It doesn’t say anything about creating members or giving units in the congregation. There is nothing in this passage about who can be included and who should be excluded. This Easter message of triumph over sin and death is for everyone.
How will they know unless we believe? How will they respond unless we tell and invite? How will the world see and experience the risen Christ unless we, through the witness of our lives and our corporate life together, are His presence in the world?
The tomb is empty! Go and tell the world that Jesus Christ is risen, and that God is active in this world. Go and be the hands and feet of Jesus to your neighbor. Look around you. This is no idle tale. Jesus is at work in the ministries of your congregation through the hands of hopeful, helpful people. The Spirit’s breathe is equipping new generations of leaders. God is calling us to new vision and new ways of being church. You don’t have to look far to see God in action, but you should look in places where you might not expect to experience the holy. When you start to really look around, you might be surprised at what you see. Share the wonder, the grace, and the love–here, there, and everywhere. This is indeed amazing news!
How can you help people “think outside the box” about looking for Jesus beyond the empty tomb? Maybe you pull out a pair of movie theatre 3-D glasses or some of those comic lenses that distort the look of your eyes. Remind folks that maybe we need to use some different lenses in order to see the holy movement of God in the world.
Last week in the congregation I serve, we traced our hands on a piece of construction paper and wrote our names on them. This week when the congregation arrives, they’ll see a butcher paper banner hanging from the large Lenten cross to remind us that we are the hands of Christ in the world.
Whatever you choose to do, think about engaging as many of the senses as possible so that people not only hear the story but see, smell, touch, and experience the good news of the resurrected Christ.
How do youth experience the Easter story? Do they believe it? Does the world’s view of an “idle tale” make faith falter? Can they embrace the wonder and mystery of resurrection? Consider showing this short video (about four minutes) from Rob Bell entitled “Resurrection.” Click here to watch it on Vimeo. You’ll find a lot of food for thought and discussion in Bell’s words and presentation.
During Lent we collected the “Alleluias” and stored them in a large box in front of the pulpit. It’s labeled “Shhhh….Alleluias are Sleeping!” On Easter Sunday, it is time to let the “alleluias’ out of the box and celebrate their return. The “alleluias” we put into the box were invisible, but now we’ll pull them out as a series of small fabric “flags” on which “alleluia” is written tied to a very long piece of yarn (We put away a LOT of “alleluias!). I think the children–and the congregation–will have fun watching the praises pour forth and being reminded that we have reason to shout for joy.
*This reflection was first published in 2013.
Photos: © compuinfoto – Fotolia.com, © peshkova – Fotolia.com, and © Sergiy Serdyuk – Fotolia.com