Shocking Easter Story
Heavenly Father, we thank you that you loved the world so much that you gave your one and only Son so that we that believe shall have eternal life – Amen
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. …
10He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. 14And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-5 & 10-14)
That is the beginning of the Gospel according to St. John
Apart from it being my favourite piece of scripture
It sets the stage for today - Easter Sunday
Now if you are like me, this is not your first Easter Sunday
You have heard, each year, the account of Resurrection of Jesus
You have heard the story of the empty tomb
Of the stone that has been roll away
Of Mary Magdalena in Garden
Of Peter and John running to the tomb
The story is so well known – so familiar
Might I suggest it may have lost it’s impact
But the incredible reality of it all is that it is a completely shocking story – and there is nothing familiar about it at all in our world
Each year, and I do it too, you will hear people speak of springtime and new birth, where the flowers are starting to come out of there long winters rest and new life springs forth
It can be a metaphor for the Easter story – where Christ comes out of the tomb and new life is born
Well each and every year Spring and all the promises of new life from the long slumber of winter is completely natural – completely part of the lifecycle of creation
But Easter is so completely unnatural – resurrection just doesn’t happen
When something is dead it stays dead
We, who know the whole story, often look at the disciples and wonder how they didn’t see it coming
Jesus told the disciples, and told them and told them… but they didn’t understand
How the disciples could have missed what Jesus said so many times – that he will died and rise again – that the temple will be destroyed and in three days be rebuilt, and on and on…
But the disciples like all of us are rooted in the world, rooted in the understanding that when someone dies – they stay dead
So the fact that they were afraid after their leader had appeared to have failed and been killed, crucified on the cross, … Their hiding is understandable
The movement of this Jesus, where they thought that He was the THE messiah, has ended
And now they are all afraid of what the world will be for them
So it comes as a great shock that he was not dead
It is completely unnatural
It is a shocking – life altering moment
Peter reveals this in his sermon that he gave that was our reading from the Acts of the Apostles
Peter has, through a strange turn of events, been made part of the story of the conversion of Cornelius, the Roman centurion
And through it he comes to the shocking realization that Jesus is Lord over all….
Not merely the long expected, long prophesized messiah for the Jews
Not merely the victor over death and all that is death (if that were not enough)
Not merely the Son of God – resurrected shockingly
But… Jesus is Lord over all – including the Gentiles – all means all
And Peter has just come to this startling realization
He proclaims, what the early church would have come to understand its first statement of faith
Before the Nicene Creed, and even before the Apostles creed –
Peter reveals this “aha… moment in the form of a sermon declaring all the shocking details
- Shock of God showing no partiality – that God is in fact for all nations
- Shock of Jesus being the fulfillment of the scriptures – proclaimed so long ago by so many prophets
- Shock of the incarnation that God came in the flesh and began His adult ministry by humbling himself to be baptised by John in the Jordan
- Shock of the miraculous healings – of driving out evil and releasing those oppressed by the devil
- Shock of the cross – of the crucifixion
- Shock of the resurrection – of life after death and the numerous appearances and multitude of witnesses
- Shock of bodily resurrection, where Jesus ate and drank with many – not merely some ghostly figure
- And finally the complete shock of the forgiveness of sins for everyone that believes
However many times that you have heard the Easter story – try hard not to domestic it
Consider what John Updick wrote in an Easter poem – titled ‘Seven Stanzas at Easter’
Consider two of those stanzas
Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.
Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle, and crushed by remonstrance…..
So the first message that I want share this year is the completely unnatural event that we are celebrating – the shocking story that is Easter
Secondly I want you to consider what Easter means to us as we live our lives
It might be hard to understand how something that happened nearly 2000 years ago could have any relevance to us today – especially in a culture that often carries the mantra “what have you done for me lately…”
But it might be helpful to introduce a Celtic notion of ‘thin places’
This is where time is understood not as we typically understand it
We think of time as linear – yesterday, today, tomorrow
The Christian Celts thought that there were some thin places where the linear understanding was blurred
One such place, was each and every time we celebrate Communion – where Jesus IS present and our remembrance is more like reoccurring presence with Our Lord
Easter shares this understanding – Jesus wasn’t merely raised from the dead 2000 years ago
And we are not forgiven once and only 2000 years ago
But we relive God’s victory over death and all this is death, all the time
We are part of a ‘thin place’ when we participate in the resurrection
And we participate in the resurrection as we live out God’s peace
As we live out the Kingdom of God
Which is the central theme of all of Jesus’ teaching
The peace or shalom of the Kingdom of God
This empty tomb is about the fulfillment of God's purposes, the same God who long before spoke of "new heavens and a new earth."
Easter Sunday was "the first day of God's new week, the moment of sunrise after the long night,
The time of new meetings, new meals, of reconciliation and new commissioning
It was the beginning of the new creation.
It was, therefore, the sign of hope for the future, not only for individuals but for the whole world….
This isn't just about "my own personal life after death," then, but about God's new creation, God's new age,
An age and a way of being that continually calls us to the table,
Calls us to reconciliation and healing,
Calls us to compassion and justice, to participation in the wonders of God's new age, God's new earth
Clearly, there is a commissioning, a call, for each one of us and for our community of faith, to join in.
And so, instead of being the end of the story, Easter is the beginning of a new age in which we live,
An age that has begun but has not come in its fullness
Still, the people suffer.
Still, people war
Still, our hearts are torn and our health worries us, our loved ones die and our doubts trouble us within.
But, "Jesus lives, and Jesus is Lord".
There is always that "but," and it carries us through every suffering, every loss, every Friday experience,
Knowing that hope in the end will triumph and the God of life will have the last word.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead not only eliminates death as the great enemy of life… and it makes possible the "peace that passes all understanding." [Phil. 4:7]
The truth of Easter is contained in our scripture reading from the Book of Acts when Peter first brings the good news to gentiles. "You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ--he is Lord of all." [Acts 10:36]
The peace Christ gives is not subject to the "terms and conditions" imposed upon us by the world.
This peace is not something that can be taken away from us by loss of a job, onset of serious illness, or even death itself.
This peace -- the Easter peace -- can not be given, nor can it be taken away by the world.
That is the central message of Easter.
Easter is not simply a story about a Galilean man who died and rose from the dead almost 2000 years ago -- although that is a wonderful story.
Easter is about a man who rose from the dead almost 2000 years ago and still lives today
To reign in the lives of all who will embrace him as Lord.
Easter brought about the very first confession of faith in the Christian Church. "Jesus Christ is Lord!"
Peter spoke the words long ago, "He is Lord of all."
Do you see how Easter poses a question to all of us? 
How it calls to us to participate in God’s ‘thin places’ as we live out the resurrection by following Jesus the Christ
And… how it challenges with an overarching question “Is Jesus Christ Lord of all -- in your life?
3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.
The Lord IS risen
He is risen indeed
Go and live the reality of the risen Lord in your life - Amen
 N.T. Wright - The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions
 Marcus Borg - The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions