The Resurrection of the Lord (Easter Sunday) – April 9, 2023
St. Paul – Lyons, KS
Why are you here?
Well good morning (evening) to everyone. It is truly a joy to have you here. Always just fills my heart to see the church so full. And really, it leaves me with one question: Why are you here? What are you doing here? “Uh, it’s Easter, Father.” Yeah, I’m aware! But why are you here? Why today? What is Easter? “Well, I got a cute dress. We are taking our Easter pictures. It’s a family tradition… ? I made Easter baskets for the kids. We are going to look for eggs that we filled with candy. Don’t worry, there’s a bunny involved, so it makes total sense!” Yeah, ok: that’s what you did, what you are doing today. I’m asking why.
Why are you here? Does today really matter? Or is it just another holiday, another reason to gather with family and friends, dress up, eat some food, tell yourself that your diet doesn’t count today? “Well, no, Father! It’s the day Jesus rose from the dead!” Again, I’m aware! My question is, “But why do you care? What does that mean to you?” (Ok, please don’t sound accused or something. I just need you to turn your brain on and think, self-reflect—and I know that’s hard.) What I’m getting at is: Do we believe that this, that Jesus’ death and resurrection makes a difference for us? Do we believe that it affects us? Do we believe that the resurrection changes anything?
Ok. Lotta blank looks still. How about this! Let’s say aliens came down to earth. Just, right now, landed in the middle of this thing here. And they get out and ask you, “Why’re y’all here? What is going on? Who’s this guy with the beard y’all are so into?” And a lot of us would say “Oh, his name is Jesus…from Nazareth.” “Really? What did he do that was so great?” “What he did … that was so great … was … he told us to be … nice to each other.” “That’s it?” “You don’t understand. He died for us.” “Oh wow! Why did he do that?” “Because he wanted us to be nice. To be a good person.”
Like… do you see how ridiculous that sounds?! And yet, many of us say it, or if I put we got put on the spot that’s what we would say! And so we get dressed up and buy eggs … because someone told us to be nice? I mean, I think that’s ridiculous too, by the way, if that’s what this is. I hope that’s not why any of us are here. Because—news flash—that ain’t what this is. If Jesus just taught us to be nice, why come?
So why are you here? What are you looking for?
So why are you here? And if we’re honest—well, many of us, maybe we don’t really know why we’re here. Some of us got dragged here by our spouse (don’t look at them right now, play it cool!). Some of us don’t get it, because in our experience, our life is awesome, and Church is a buzz-kill; it’s a boring thing on Sundays for people that can’t get their lives together. Some of us think, “Look, if ‘church’ works for you, good for you! I don’t really need that.” Which, if you think “Church” is just a “be nice to each other cult”—then yes! I agree!
But here’s the key. If you’re wondering why you experience that—or if you’re wondering why you’re spouse experiences that, or your kids, or your friends—let me give you a key: the resurrection doesn’t matter, Easter doesn’t matter unless you are deeply, personally, and painfully aware that you need it to matter!
If you’re over seven years old—for any of us over seven, we’ve had a lot of life-experience that we haven’t dealt with. There are a lot of really big questions that need some really deep answers…but if we’re honest with ourselves, we haven’t taken the time. We’re too busy. Life, our job, kids, you name it. We’ve had experiences like: accomplishing so many of our hopes and dreams…and still feeling empty, unsatisfied; experiences like waking up next to our husband, with our kids and our dog…but feeling dreadfully alone, asking, “Is this all there is?”; of watching a family member suffer, maybe even die…and asking why bad things happen to good people. But instead of digging into these questions, many just get cynical, jaded—and avoid the questions. We dive headlong into our work, into our kids’ sports schedules, into our hobbies, into trying to make life better for ourselves. And we just go in circles.
So why are you here this morning (evening)? Well, let me tell you why everyone else is here this morning. Something happened. Something happened to them. They met someone. They encountered a person that gave their life a new horizon and a decisive direction. And because something happened, their life became charged, filled with a desire and hope…that things could actually change, that things might actually be different.
Why did they run to the tomb?
Why did the disciples run to the tomb? Why did they show up that morning? Why did Peter and John take off sprinting to the tomb? “Because they were in the first race for hunting easter eggs! Basket of candy was there: first one there wins!” No. A woman came to them, and told them what she had heard when she went to the tomb that morning. She told them the body wasn’t there. And she told them what was told to her: “He is not there. But, he has been raised.” That’s it! “He has been raised. He is risen.” And that simple proposal changed everything! And that wasn’t the moment they decided to start gathering every Sunday to tell each other to be nice to one another. No, all of a sudden they were ready to die for this man, die announcing that he had been raised from the dead.
Why? Why? Why was that such a life-changing event? Such a life-altering event? Because something new had finally happened. I don’t know if you know this, but every person that has ever come into this world has had a very predictable end to their story. They were born, had a good life or a bad life, rich or poor, etc etc etc … and then they died. Tale as old as time!
And while people used to take this seriously, while it used to provoke us, now? Well now, it’s just a “cold hard fact of life.” But the reason people used to take it so seriously is because (when you think about it)—that is so unfair! If I’m just going to die and rot in the ground one day, if I’m just a cosmic accident, if my life has no greater meaning than whatever I can accomplish in my few decades … why keep going? Think: we’re all dead anyway.
The resurrection doesn’t matter unless you need it to matter. And when we start asking the bigger questions, when we start asking why we’re here, where are we going, how do we get there—then all of a sudden, the announcement “he is risen”…well, it becomes the announcement that life—well, maybe life is different now. Maybe life is now charged with meaning beyond anything we could possible hope or imagine.
The Resurrection Changes Everything
For those of us who have been on the journey these past twelve weeks that we’ve called, “Rerouting…”, everything has led us to this proposal: “He is not here. But, he has been raised.” He is risen. This announcement changes everything. Everything. The early Christians, as a greeting, one would say, “Χριστὸς ἀνέστη! (Khristós anésti!),” and the other would respond, “Ἀληθῶς ἀνέστη! (Alithós anésti!).” Translated, this means, “Christ is risen!”and, “He is risen indeed!” This wasn’t a greeting of, “Jesus is risen. Isn’t that nice?” No! It was, and still is, “Jesus is risen! Holy smokies! Everything is different. My life is different. Your life is different. The world is different! Everything.”
The Light That Has Come Into the World
Why are you here? Why do people continue to come to our door? Why?
Because there is something here that the world cannot offer, that it can never offer—that no matter how hard anyone works, they will never achieve. Here, there is access to a newness of life, and fullness of life that nothing else can give. We are here because, if we’re honest, we know that without Christ life is nothing great—and its definitely headed nowhere great. We are here because Christ is risen, he is alive—which means he is present.
Friends: this is the EVENT that has changed everything. And continues to change everything. And so my simple proposal today is this: let it. [Those being baptized, joining church. They have done this / are doing this.] Friends, let it change everything in your life. Do not let your life be the same. Don’t walk out of here and say, “Ok, where are them eggs at??” Walk out of here with a spark kindled that says, “THIS man….he’s not dead. MAYBE, just MAYBE everything can change. Everything can be made new. My life could be made new.”
And if it sounds abstract, if that sounds too difficult to figure out on your own…well, that’s why we’re here. We’re here to offer everyone a life-changing encounter with this Risen Christ, to walk with you along this path to being his disciple—to experiencing this life he offers. We’re here every Sunday, every weekday.
And for us who have given our lives to Christ, surrendered our lives to Christ in a more profound way—we are sent out in the community to be a light before others, to shine (like the Easter candle did as it entered the darkened church) as a light in a dark world. We have given our lives to Christ so that he might use us to bring others to him.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Do not be afraid to follow him, to give your life to him. Because—he is risen, which means alive, which means present…which means he can change you. “Christ is risen!” This is the announcement. This is why we are here. We are here because everything is different, everything is changed, everything is being made new.