Texts: Acts 10:34-43; Isaiah 25:6-9; Psalm 118: 1-2, 14-24; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; John 20:1-18
I come from a family of worriers. Whether it began before or after surviving the Great Depression I am not sure, but there is definitely a tendency toward worry that seems to have been passed down through the generations. The signs of this worry are typical: sleepless nights, restlessness, over-planning, self-limitation, and expecting the worst. But the one effect of worry that rarely gets articulated is how worry tends to turn good news into yet another cause for worry.
Just this week three lucky gamblers took home $218 million dollars each to share with family, friends, church, charities, and the IRS. Many years ago a close family member of someone I knew won the lottery. While my acquaintance tried hard to continue living a balanced and moderate life, what was good news on one level (financial security and generosity) became a cause for worry at nearly every turn. They had to be cautious about making new friends, protective about where they lived, and measured in how they spent and gave. Many new conditions were placed on their lives as a result of this good news.
At times it seems like the Easter story itself, full of pure wonder and joy, becomes a cause for worry. The good news that is Easter seems to be accompanied by all kinds of concerns and qualifications. Is bodily resurrection really possible? Are the witnesses credible? Who actually gets to benefit from Jesus’ resurrection? Where does the responsibility to interpret the empty tomb lie?
In the face of overwhelmingly good news, our skepticism rises to the challenge.
For this Easter day, I invite you to hear the good news as Good News. No worries; our texts for today clarify the promise: Christ the Lord is risen!
Jesus 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
On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever. Then the Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. It will be said on that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the LORD for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation. Isaiah 25:6-9
I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:21-24
Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her. John 20:18
God, at times you act beyond our ability to comprehend. This thing of defeating death doesn’t match up with our logic. We confess that at times what is good news becomes clouded with doubt and confusion. Help our unbelief. Even more, help our belief.
Thank you for the empty tomb and for those who witnessed your resurrection. Thank you for keeping your promise to save us – from ourselves, from your enemies, and from eternal death. Thank you for providing forgiveness for all who call on your name. Thank you for quiet hope and persistent belief.
In the name of the risen one, Jesus the Christ, we pray. Amen.
The strife is o’er (Francis Pott and Giovanni da Palestrina)
Christ is risen! Shout hosanna (Brian Wren & Ronald Arnatt)
This joyful Eastertide (George Woodward & Alice Parker, arranger)
Christ the Lord is risen today (Charles Wesley)
Celebrate Jesus, celebrate (Don Moen & Gary Oliver)
E. T. – ET is thought to be dead but comes back to life.
Jesus of Nazareth – for a story interpretation of Jesus’ life