Saturday, April 15, 2017

All Shook Up: Easter 2017

Matthew 28:1-10 All Shook Up
He is risen.
He is risen indeed,
The great greeting on Easter in many Christian communities worldwide is a far cry from the words most likely uttered by Christ followers that first Easter morning.
Mary, the Magdalene and the other Mary, met early in the morning and walked together to the tomb of Jesus. I wonder what their conversation consisted of as they walked along the path to the grave. I wonder if they were sharing stories of Jesus that made them smile, like the time he welcomed little children to hear his words and receive his blessings.
Perhaps they talked about the things he had done that they did not understand. Why had he cursed that fig tree? What had he meant by saying they should hate their family?
Perhaps there were no words at all, just a deep shared grief as they went to the place where Jesus was buried.
When they arrived, no doubt, they expected to see a tomb. They expected to see all of the things you see in a burial ground. But what they expected, was not what they received.
As they sit there looking at the tomb, Matthew tells us that a great earthquake shakes the land. This is no random event. Matthew tells us that this earthquake happens as an angle of the Lord rolls the stone away from the tomb.
This is not the first earthquake in the book of Matthew. Just a few short verses before, when Jesus breathes his last breath, there is an earthquake that splits rocks. It opens the graves of some of the saints who have gone before and in tears the curtain in the temple from top to bottom.
These earthquakes, these tectonic shifts in the foundation of earth, are moments when heaven and earth connect. They connect in such a powerful way that the world as we know it is changed, upended, disturbed.
No one is safe from the divine reality that is ushered in at this moment. This moment, when everything is changed, when the resurrection of Christ occurs.
We have all heard the stories, seen the Facebook and YouTube videos, of people who have survived death, or even be resuscitated. We hear of people whose hearts have stopped, who have followed a great light only to be turned back. Perhaps we know personally some of these individuals.
But what happened to Jesus is not a resuscitation. It is not a reviving in the cool of the tomb. God breaks into the world and resurrects Jesus from the dead. New life and life abundant, the living water, life everlasting.
And, my friends, if even death is no longer a sure thing, what else might God have changed?
The angel speaks to the women telling them not to be afraid. Don’t be afraid, though the earth may quake, though the soldiers by the tomb are petrified with fear. They don’t understand that God is at work for good. Jesus is not here. He has been raised! Go and tell. He will meet you in Galilee.
And in Matthew’s account the two Mary’s begin running to tell the disciples what they have seen and heard. They go with fear and great joy. I love that line. I love it because it shows us that fear and joy can go hand in hand, much like doubt and faith often keep company.
The Mary’s are afraid of the unknown, of the tectonic shift in the world, of the earthquake that has just changed everything; but, but they are joyous over the news of the resurrection. They cannot wait to share what they have been told.
Suddenly, there on the road, they are met by Jesus. As they are going to do the thing they have been commanded to do, they find the risen Lord.
I took a youth group on a mission trip to Mexico in 1999. We were going to build a house for a family in the squatter’s section of a border town. We had spent time trying to prepare the kids for the extreme poverty they would witness. We talked with them about the difference between their homes and the 20 by 10 cinderblock home we were building. But there is no better teacher than experience.
Every night we would gather together back at the hotel and have a devotional time. On our next to last night a young man broke down in tears as he told us about his day.
Christian had watched a woman bath her two-year-old boy in a bucket of water that he knew was not clean enough to drink from. He had been shocked. A little later that same mother had come out to our work site with a basket full of homemade tortillas for the workers and a large jug of purified water for us to drink. Christian was overwhelmed by the love she had shown to us as strangers, when she had nothing to spare.
How many of you have had this experience? You go someone where thinking you are bringing the good news of Christ, only to find that he is already there!
These women, go to do what they have been told and along the way encounter Christ. Their response is not to question him about what he is doing there. They do not ask for identification or become frozen with fear. They see Christ and they fall at his feet and worship him.
When the risen Christ enters the world, nothing is ever the same, my friends. When God’s resurrection power intercedes, nothing is ever the same. The world is turned upside down, shaken to its very core.
When the kingdom of God breaks in the ways of thinking, living, being, the philosophies of scarcity, hate and fear, they are defeated.
Droughts are replaced with living water. The blind see, the lame walk. The last shall be first. These things that make no sense in the eyes of the world, are the cornerstone of the kingdom of God.
Today, I pray that we are all shook up by the resurrection presence of Jesus the Christ. I pray that the tectonic plates of what should be shift to what will be through Christ. I pray that the foundations of the earth are shattered, so that we might build on Christ’s foundation of love.
New life my friends, that’s the gift of Easter. New life, that shakes everything up.

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