Our bulletins this morning say “2nd Sunday of Easter,”
and our Easter season will last seven weeks and end with Pentecost.
But does it really feel like Easter any more?
The eggs have been colored, found, and made into egg salad.
The chocolate bunnies have been eaten and Easter baskets put away.
For most people, Easter is over.
Which is a shame.
Because we live in world that needs Easter.
Not just one day, but every day.
As my husband, Lee, recently said to me,
if you feel your spirits getting too high,
just spend a few hours reading or listening to the news.
News reports are full of violence, around the world and here at home;
insensitive comments and inappropriate conduct by politicians;
and constant fear for the future of our economy.
It is in this context that we come to church this Easter season,
to hear again the stories of the Risen Christ and his followers.
The stories began with an empty tomb.
Mary Magdalene came to the tomb of Jesus that early Sunday morning,
to pay her respects to her dead friend and lord.
It was already the third day – the third day in a world Mary Magdalene could not imagine
– a world without Jesus.
So she came, weeping, to his tomb.
She expected to find it sealed.
Instead, she found that the tomb was open, and empty.
She heard her name spoken, and everything changed again.
Her grief was replaced by wonder and joy.
Mary was no longer lost, but given a new purpose –
to share the good news about the risen Christ.
That same evening, the disciples were gathered in a locked room.
They did not believe the crazy story Mary came running to tell them that morning.
They did believe their lives might be in danger,
from the same men who had arrested and killed their teacher.
They did believe that everything they had longed for was gone –
The one they thought was God’s promised Messiah was dead,
and with him, all their hope.
Then Jesus came to them.
Just like that, Jesus appeared, and everything changed again.
“Peace be with you.” Jesus said.
“As the Father has sent me, I have sent you.”
Then he breathed on them, saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
Once before, Jesus had called these men and women to leave the lives they knew
to follow him.
Now he gives them a new promise.
He offers them a peace that the world can not give –
the peace of knowing and being known by Jesus,
who has conquered sin and death.
Now he gives them a new purpose –
sending them out, filled with the Holy Spirit,
to witness to what they have seen and heard.
He sends them to bear witness to what God has done
in the life, death, and resurrection of their Lord, Jesus Christ.
After his resurrection, Jesus appears three times in the Gospel of John.
He visits twice in a room where the disciples are meeting, fearful and doubting;
and he appears to his friends as they fished,
and eating with them on the beach.
Every time he comes to them, they become stronger, wiser, kinder, more daring.
Every time he comes to them, they become more like him.
Jesus is making them Easter people –
filled with the news of the resurrection and the power of the Holy Spirit.
A while ago I read an interesting quotation from a book called The Resurrection of Jesus: A Jewish Perspective, written by the Jewish NT scholar Pinchas Lapide.
For him, the proof of the resurrection lies in the changed lives of the disciples; he writes:
“When this scared, frightened band of the apostles, which was just about to throw away everything in order to flee in despair to Galilee; when these peasants, shepherds, and fishermen, who betrayed and denied their master and then failed him miserably, suddenly could be changed overnight into a confident mission society, convinced of salvation and able to work with much more success after Easter than before Easter, then no vision or hallucination is sufficient to explain such a revolutionary transformation.”
When they met the risen Christ, the disciples were transformed,
from a frightened band of misfits
to God’s powerful witnesses in the world.
We, too, have met the risen Christ.
We, too, have been filled with the Holy Spirit,
and sent to bear witness to our Lord.
And so we go –
hoping that we, too, will become stronger, wiser, kinder, and more daring;
praying that we, too, will become more like him.
God changes hearts and transforms lives to create God’s Easter people.
This is how God continues God’s work of resurrection in a world in need of healing –
by sending God’s Easter people to bear witness to the truth.
Easter people know that our sins are forgiven,
so that we might forgive others.
Easter people know that Jesus loves us unconditionally,
and sends us to love as he has loved.
Easter people know that whatever we face, whatever we fear,
it cannot be more powerful than the God who broke the power of death itself.
Our world desperately needs Easter people.
People who bring comfort and peace where there is grief and despair,
bring reconciliation where there has been hatred and fear,
bring new beginnings where there has been death and chaos.
– not only 2000 years ago, leaving behind an empty tomb,
but now, here, among us.
We have heard him call our names –
in the water of baptism, in the bread and wine,
in the many and varied ways Jesus encounters each one of us in daily life.
And so we are his Easter people.
Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
(Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!)