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April 1, 2018 (Easter)

“Rise Up!”

By Rev. Katrina Pekich-Bundy

Acts 10.34-43

Luke 24.1-12

April 1, 2018

            Celebrating Easter on April Fool’s Day is incredibly rare, but also incredibly appropriate. If you remember last year we celebrated Holy Humor Sunday the week after Easter. It is a day when we celebrate the day the biggest joke was played on evil – just when people thought Jesus was dead – gotcha! He’s alive! One of my new favorite jokes comes from a recent Saturday Night Live Weekend Update. What did Jesus say when he was resurrected? “You crossed the wrong guy!” I love this because it’s a pun, but also because it sets us up for our message today – being jazzed up to take on the world after resurrection.

            Barriers and boundaries have been our topics for Lent, and we finish our series today. Part of why jokes – at least, good jokes – are important is because they can help us see the world in a different light. Miles Townes wrote in a recent article in Christian Century: “A good joke helps us see the distance between who we are and who we should be.”[1] Consider political cartoons or other jokes that make us realize that we are flawed, and our world is flawed, and we have a long way to go.

            There is a barrier between where we are and where we should be in our lives. This isn’t a physical barrier or a physical place, but perhaps a reflection of the kind of person we wish to be – or the kind of person God hopes we will be. We want to be inclusive and loving and kind, but too often we mess up and there is a barrier that stops us from being the person we aspire to be. There are barriers everywhere – frequently they are barriers we put up for ourselves. We have discussed what barriers need to be broken down. In the scripture passage today we see the barrier of death is torn down, and resurrection rules the day.

            On the barrier of night and day, the women come to the tomb to anoint Jesus. They had recognized that he had not been anointed and they feel it is their duty to preserve the body, so they quietly make their way to his tomb.[2] When the tomb is found empty the women are filled with shock and surprise! Two men in dazzling white gowns appear next to the tomb and ask “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” Here is that barrier of life and death again. Death and life are not found in the same place – there is a fine line between them at times but we do not go looking for a tomb in a coffee shop, nor do we go looking for newborn babies in a cemetery.

The question is logical – why are they looking for someone who is alive in a tomb? This question can be applied to many areas of our lives, especially when we go looking for something that no longer exists. Too often we are stuck in tradition or even routine because that is how we always do it, without realizing that it doesn’t make sense to do it anymore. When we look back to former visions of institutions or ourselves we forget that there has been a crucial change, and that we cannot find that vision in the present.[3] Why do we look for the living among the dead? With this question posed to them, the women immediately recognize that Jesus has been resurrected. Breaking the barrier of their silence they rush to the disciples and tell the men, who do not believe them at first.

            When barriers are broken an energy surrounds us, like adrenalin pumping through our veins. The joke at the beginning of the sermon portrays that idea, that Jesus is fueled after being resurrected, and he not only rose, but did so with a purpose and an agenda. When we begin to break through barriers we cannot just stop at the rubble, but must continue on, for we must clean up the ashes.

            John Dominic Crossan and Sarah Sexton Crossan recently wrote a book about resurrection. They studied the Greek word “anastasis,” literally translating as “up-rising.”[4] To order the words in this manner changes the meaning – rising up and up-rising are two distinctly different things, but both are relevant in the resurrection. We have seen an uprising across the country these past couple years: from #metoo to Black Lives Matter to the National School Walkout. People are taking to the streets to make their voices heard and are rising up from the ashes – their own resurrections.

            Sometimes our stories are not received well at first. These uprisings are not necessarily new. Think of the Civil Rights marches that happened, think of the outcry after the first school shootings. Women have been fighting against harassment for a long time – but their stories have not always been believed. As Susan Maxwell Rothenberg points out – even the women at the tomb were not believed at first.[5] Unfortunately sometimes an uprising must happen over and over again to be recognized. Perhaps that is why we celebrate Christ’s uprising – his resurrection – every Sunday. We celebrate the new life and rejoice in the new day.

            Crossan and Crossan state emphatically that an uprising is nonviolent and is communal. The concept of the resurrection is different in the Eastern and Western churches. The Western church focuses on the individual, but the Eastern looks toward the resurrection happening to the entire group of people – not just one person. [6] The Acts scripture passage portrays this idea of a communal resurrection and the importance of inclusion.

            Peter is speaking to Cornelius, a Centurion, as well as a group of people who have gathered. He tells them that God shows no partiality and loves all. He goes on to state that this message of God’s love is for all people. Peter’s message is especially speaking to the divide between Gentiles and Jews. He is trying to impress upon the people that God puts up no ethnic boundaries when it comes to salvation.[7] The boundaries are knocked down. God’s love crosses state lines, country borders, language barriers, and so much more. We are called to love beyond the boundaries that humanity attempts to put up.

            The cover of your bulletin has a picture that was taken on campus just a couple weeks ago. A student organization built this temporary wall and asked people to write on it things or words or concepts they would like to see destroyed. I loved this, since it is exactly what we have been talking about during Lent. After everyone wrote on it, they destroyed the wall and knocked it down. There is power in writing down those worries and barriers that separate us, and physically knocking it down. The symbolism ignites a fire within us that reminds us that we have the power to knock down the walls.

            Christ is risen – and his uprising has started something new. The resurrection is not just a resuscitation – it is about tearing down the old and beginning anew. We have a new door open to us – a new gateway. We have the option of beginning again – and I pray you will take it, and that you will rise from the ashes of Lent ready to change the world and show God’s love and mercy in all places and in all times. Thanks be to God. Amen.

 

[1] Miles Townes, “The Jesus who laughed” in Christian Century, Vol. 135, No. 5, February 28, 2018, p. 12.

[2] Eric Franklin, “Luke” in The Oxford Bible Commentary, eds. John Barton and John Muddiman (Oxford: University Press, 2001), 958.

[3] Nancy Claire Pittman, “Luke 24.1-12” in Feasting on the Word: Year C, Vol. 2. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009), 351.

[4] John Dominic Crossan and Sarah Sexton Crossan, “Rising Up with Christ” in Christian Century, Vol. 135, No. 3, January 31, 2018, p. 22.

[5] Susan Maxwell Rothenberg, “Sexual Harassment in the Church” in Presbyterians Today, Vol. 107, Issue 6, January 2018, p.10.

[6] Crossan and Crossan, pp. 24-25.

[7] Fred B. Craddock, John H. Hayes, Carl R. Holladay, Gene M. Tucker, Preaching Through the Christian Year: B (Valley Forge: Trinity Press International, 1993), 226.