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Bethany Evangelical
Lutheran Church

Ishpeming, Michigan † Est. 1870

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Easter Sunday 03/27/2016

Alleluia! He is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

That’s the Easter proclamation. That’s what we say but it’s hard to comprehend all that we say when we say that; maybe we can’t comprehend it all, but only parts of it in small doses and glimpses, because what we announce is about more than Jesus. It’s about a new reality, a new reality where everything is different, a new reality with new answers to age old questions.

Throughout his ministry, with his teaching and with his actions, Jesus had invited those who followed him to imagine the world differently. He consistently upset the expected order of things with stories of undeserved grace and forgiveness, stories of love for those thought to be unlovable. He announced a kingdom where roles were often reversed and those who were thought to be on the outside or undesirable wind up being the ones who do the will of God. He enacted this kingdom by crossing boundaries and interacting with those thought to be sinners.

It seems safe to say that people must have come to expect the unexpected from Jesus. After all, it was his failure to affirm the status quo and do what was expected that got him in trouble with those in power. But it’s also safe to say that even though everyone, including his closest followers expected the unexpected from Jesus, no one expected resurrection.

Jesus had talked about it all along, he had talked about what would happen after three days but apparently it didn’t register; they couldn’t imagine it. They could imagine a lot of what he talked about and for those in power it scared them; they didn’t want the upside down kingdom Jesus talked about with the lowly lifted up and the powerful brought down. They could imagine that and they could imagine other things Jesus talked about, but no one could really imagine resurrection.

Everyone assumed that Friday was the end of the story. The powerful would have breathed a sigh of relief that a threat had been removed. His followers would have been a mixture of sadness and disappointment that Jesus wasn’t who they thought he was, but also fear as they looked at Jesus on the cross, fear that they might be next. What all of Jesus opponents and followers would have agreed on though, was that the story was over and nothing was going to change; Jesus was just another failed prophet.

Nobody expected resurrection; the consistent response to the empty tomb in all the gospels is confusion. No one looks in and says “He is Risen!” No one. In today’s reading from Luke, at first the women were perplexed on arriving at the tomb, then they were terrified but there was no sign of them connecting the dots of what Jesus had said about the third day and I suspect that our response would have been about the same.

Like those first witnesses, we too can imagine a lot of things, but resurrection, not so much. In our world, in our experience, it just doesn’t happen; dead is dead. It’s no wonder that when the women went back to tell the others about what they had found that morning, the others considered it an idle tale because no one believes in resurrection at first.

But here we are, 2000 years later doing the same thing the women did. On Easter morning, we are those women. We join them in proclaiming this idle tale of resurrection. Like them, we’ve been given a message that flies in the face of all that we can imagine, of all we know to be possible and we’re called to proclaim it. We are those women, but at the same time we’re the apostles they told, the apostles who considered it an idle tale. Peter was at least curious enough to run to the tomb and check it out, but it just says that he was amazed and then went back home. We don’t know what he believed, if anything, but we know that he didn’t suddenly announce, “He is risen!”

The prevailing response was confusion which isn’t surprising. It’s not a lack of faith, it’s just a normal, human response and it doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about the women, or Peter, or the other apostles, or us. Our minds don’t easily process the idea of resurrection.

So…is it just an idle tale? Is Jesus’ resurrection just something we announce on Easter morning, part of an early spring festival that celebrates the end of winter and anticipates the new life spring will bring? Do we just proclaim “Alleluia! He is Risen!” because that’s what we’ve always done and then accompany the proclamation with flowers and with uplifting and familiar hymns, followed by a nice Easter dinner, then, on Monday morning do we settle back into the world as it was and join those for whom Easter is just an idle tale and nothing has changed?

The questions persist and for good reason because at this point we’re not just questioning whether or not Jesus was raised from the dead. If you’re here this morning, you’re probably past that. Logic and reason say that no, it couldn’t have happened, people don’t rise from the dead and that is certainly the conclusion of many. But we’re not the many; we are those who in faith believe that God is able to transform reality in ways that logic and reason say are impossible. We believe that with God, new things are possible; God is not restricted by what has happened in the past. We believe that Jesus was raised from the dead. We do proclaim that “He is risen! He is risen indeed!”

The question we’re left with has to do with the new reality that Jesus lived and preached. When we proclaim that “He is risen! He is risen indeed!” what we’re saying is that this was the definitive event in which God entered history in order to create an entirely different reality in which brokenness has been transformed into new life. It’s a reality where love is stronger than hate, where life is stronger than death because even death has been transformed and is now filled with the reality of God. Because Christ is risen, we say that the victory over evil has been won so we don’t have to live in fear. So many times Jesus asked, “Why are you afraid?” In many of the resurrection accounts, the angels ask the same question.

The Easter question for us then, is which reality do we choose to live in? Do we live in the one that wants us to stay afraid, or do we live in the one that offers hope and new life? We do have a choice. To choose hope and new life doesn’t mean to naively deny all the scary stuff that’s out there. It’s real, it happened again this week, but you don’t have to stay there and you don’t have to believe that’s all there is. Believing in the resurrection means that we aren’t consumed and beaten down by the diet of fear and bad news that is served up every day. Believing in the resurrection we see that it is out of situations of brokenness and death, out of situations that seem beyond hope that God does new things and brings about new life. Believing in the resurrection, we know that there is another reality, there is another truth, and that’s what we are offered not just on Easter morning, but all year.

“Alleluia! He is risen,” is the announcement of that new reality. For some, it will never be anything more than an idle tale, but for those who dare to imagine it, it is anything but. The tomb is empty and that changes everything because it changes life itself. There will always be those who will try to put Jesus back in the tomb; but it’s not going to happen.

No one saw it coming, the initial response was confusion; but…the stone has been rolled away and the body’s not there, because, “Alleluia! He is risen!”

Pastor Warren Geier


Bethany Lutheran Church
715 Mather Avenue
Ishpeming, MI 49849

Phone: 906-486-4351
Fax: 906-486-9640

Rev. Warren Geier, Pastor

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