Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Sermon

The End (Period) THIS IS THE END (Question Mark ) And Then (Comma)

I don't much care for tv shows or movies that end...
leaving you wondering what the end actually is...
Some of you who were fans of the HBO show Soprano's know what I mean
The last episode after what six, seven seasons... goes dark with the possibility of the main character Tony Soprano getting
whacked in the restaraunt...
or maybe not...
but that is the end
maybe... maybe not....I don't care for that....
artsy movies that show the characters driving off into the sunset with no resolve to the story.
Give me thelma and louise... they drive off a cliff... at least you know what the end is... I'm not glad it was a cliff by the way but at least there was some closure...
And I find season finale's particularly frustrating Do you remember the 'Who shot JR' uproar in the 80's? My mother was a devoted fan of Dallas and that summer waiting to find out who shot JR
it was all anybody could talk about!

And that is kind of how I feel about Easter Morning stories in the gospel... What exactly IS... the end of the story?

In Mark (if you read the original ending) you get... Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.
We've talked about this before if you recall in the original greek it is even more disturbing and unsatisfying because the last words are 'they said nothing to no one!' Now what are we supposed to do with that!

Luke doesn't like that ending so he finds some other versions of the story of Easter Morning...It goes like thisLuke 24:13-24
13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.
17 He asked them, "What are you discussing together as you walk along?"
They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, "Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?"
19 "What things?" he asked.
"About Jesus of Nazareth," they replied. "He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn't find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see."

Now, I like this a little better... Jesus appears But notice that the ending is still up in the air for most of this story. Cleopas and his friend are wandering on the road... perhaps feeling the way I feel... This can't be the end.... Jesus was supposed to be the one to redeem us... but we saw him die and even though Jesus is right there with them... they can't see him.... What are we supposed to do with an Easter morning story where JEsus is there... risen... but the people don't see him and just wander back to life the way it was before Jesus?

And John. Well I read John...some of John... it has two or three endings I suppose. Peter and the disciples have all gone back to fishing And in Johns version Jesus appears and they see him
but they still head back to life the way it was before Jesus..
nothing had changed...
And so Jesus chases after them and challenges Peter
Follow Me! All of the Gospels (except Matthew) have this same theme
the disciples, afraid, doubting, disappointed...
wander back to life the way it was...
and Jesus appears (or in mark an angel appears)
and the message is... follow me!
In John, Jesus even seems a bit put out by Peter and the others for going back to life the way it was... don't you love me more than this? he asks When Peter answers in the affirmative, Jesus challenges him then follow me!

And I want to ask Jesus… What did you expect? You showed them miraculous power and promised them authority. But your life ended with arrest, with abuse, with surrender, with meakness and humiliation. No wonder they went back to their fishing career. It didn’t offer the benefit of changing the world by joining the Jesus cause. But neither did it offer the disappointment of watching all your hopes and dreams for a better life for you and your family and your people ripped from your hands by a cruel empire. The most disappointment of fishing is a slow day, a torn net, low prices for your catch. No wonder they went back to what they new.
Your Follow me started with fireworks and lazer light shows and voices from heaven. But follow me ended with silence and moaning, weeping and defeat.

The first time that Jesus said to his disciples ‘Follow Me’ he took them to the synagogue to preach and a scraggly bearded, wild haired, twitching, moaning and yelling at the empty air possessed man walked up to him and Jesus threw the demon out like smelly old sneakers. The man was finally right, finally what God intended.
At the beginning of Jesus saying, ‘follow me’ to the disciples, he was teaching on a mountain, and as he strolled down through the crowds of admirers who yelled for a word from him, or grasped at his robe for a handshake or a touch, a man, pale white almost the color of death approached him; fingers missing, sores weeping, clothes tattered, ragged, stinking; saying can you heal me, no one else can, can you end this misery?And Jesus reaches out, I imagine it in a movie scene, slowly the two hands, one clean and flesh-colored and strong, the other pale and stumped and scabbed slowly meeting. And when they touch, the one, hardly a hand at all, grasps, pink and new the hand of Jesus. That was the beginning of ‘Follow Me.’
At the beginning of Jesus command to ‘Follow Me’ he and the disciples were on a boat ride crossing the lake. Jesus slept, he had a nap in the back of the boat. And the wind whipped up all of a sudden from across the mountains surrounding. Clouds rolled in and brought rain that fell in sheets and stung the face like stones. The boat tossed and bobbed and weaved and the best of the sailors among them grasped the side of the boat for dear life. And then jesus awoke and said ‘peace be still’ And there was. That was the beginning of ‘Follow Me’
But toward the end of Follow when Jesus gave the disciples the task of tossing a demon out of a man they could not do it. Toward the end of Follow me, Jesus began to explain that his ministry would end in death
toward the end of Follow Me Jesus said to them, "Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor." He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their lack of faith.
Toward the end of ‘Follow Me’ Peter saw Jesus betrayed by Judas for better salary.He heard himself say that he would die for and with Jesus, but when the soldiers came to arrest him he and the other disciples ran and hid in the garden. At the end, Follow Me, meant flogging, being spat upon, struck, crowned with thorns, nailed to a cross, pierced with a sword and left to die.

The End of Jesus command, ‘Follow Me’ was very different from the beginning of ‘Follow me.’ The beginning was of healing, of eating, of sharing, of feeling connected to people and giving them home. The End of Jesus command ‘follow me’ was the danger of cold dark cells and chains, of swords and spears and pain. The beginning of follow me meant the hope of make a whole new world. The end felt hopeless, it was about loneliness and rejection and betrayal. The end of Jesus command to follow me was very different from the beginning.

Do you see what I mean by the ending... the gospels end... the screen goes blank and we are left wondering... what will the disciples do?
what has Jesus death and resurrection actually accomplished?

Instead of a nice clean close to the story a clear resolution... THE END PERIOD
We get... THIS IS THE END (QUESTION MARK)Perhaps the disciples are struggling with this same issue... Where is the end? Jesus, you were suppose to be the end, the period... no the exclamation point at the end of this story and all we got was a question mark. This is the end?
The story ends the way it began with questions... the same question...
Will you Follow Me? Let me say that again...
The Gospels end with the same question that opened them... Will you Follow Me?

and then the apostle Paul comes roaring in... Not into the gospels... but into our thoughts this morning.
Rom 6:3-123 Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
5 If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.
all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death and united with him in his resurrection...

And suddenly it became very clear to me That Jesus life and death and resurrection wasn't meant to be the end period...
or even the exclamation point...We are united with him in resurrection, new life It was meant to assure us that there would never be an end period... but instead

And THEN comma

We, like the disciples, often go right up to the edge of Easter sunday glory... but not all the way...
the message of Jesus sounds too hard seems to cost too much Forgive and it will be forgiven you Turn the other cheek, Pray for your enemies
Do unto others as you would have them do to you You cannot worship God and money Sell your possessions and give to the poor Loose your life and find it
Take up your cross daily.Like the disciples we grow afraid and run away or wander with lots of questions to Emmaus where nothing ever gets done or even worse... after Easter Morning
like Peter we find we have better things to do , we are just too busy
like head back to fishing...
with nothing about us changed at all.

Like the disciple we wonder, if we give ourselves totally and fully and completely to that way of life it could mean our end... period
the end of life as we know it as we are comfortable with it... period
and it couldn't possibly work could it... to forgive to choose peace to let go of the lifestyle to which we have become accustomed and live more generously.... question mark

On Easter morning the question is answered once and for all
This Easter Morning God turned what seemed to be the period of Jesus death the question mark... how could this be... into a comma... Jesus death on the cross was merely a comma and Jesus resurrection the beginning of a whole new story... And then...

which is why Jesus has a question of his own for us this morning. NOW will you follow?

With God all ending are new beginnings With God sorrow becomes hope
anger becomes peace
disappointment becomes resolve
With God there is no more period... end of story
Only a comma, And then,

a new beginning... for those who answer Jesus call Follow Me....

Comma And Then.... the rest fo the sentence

is up to you...