Friday, 29 March 2013

Easter Sunday: 'They did not believe them ...'

 Luke 24: 1-12

I wonder how you feel about the response with which we began our worship: “Christ is risen”, "he is risen indeed, alleluia" ?
There’s a mum I know who says to her children, when she doesn't quite believe what they're saying 'really?'. It can be “we’re going on a school trip to the moon!” (“Really?”) or something as simple as “I’ve finished tidying my bedroom”. “Really?”.
Sometimes I feel like making that my response to the statement ‘Christ is risen”. “Really?”.

If you're not quite sure about the whole resurrection thing this morning you're in good company .
The women went to the disciples with the story of everything they had seen and heard... the stone had been rolled away, they’d seen the empty tomb, then there were two men in dazzling clothes, who reminded them of what Jesus had said  - that he would rise again – and these 2 angelic creatures had said 'why look for living among dead ?, he is not here he has risen'.
The women arrived, on what we would call Easter Sunday morning, with their breathless and amazing and wonderful story.

And the disciples' reaction?  "pfft".
They thought it was idle tales. In fact the Greek word used there, 'leros'  gives us our word delirious. They though the women were delirious. That they were talking rubbish, babble, nonsense.

Maybe it’s an ordinary human reaction to this extraordinary Easter story. Christ is risen. Really?

But the evidence mounts, others see the empty tomb, and even meet an angel. Mary sees Jesus in the garden, the disciples meet him in the upper room, Thomas sees and believes, they see Jesus on the beach and he cooks them breakfast, talks to them and forgives Peter. Christ is risen.

And so 2000 years on when we start our worship with the words "Christ is risen" we are expected to say ' he is risen indeed alleluia' and not “really?”.

But this gradual dawning of reality into the hearts and minds of Jesus’ disciples means 3 things;

Firstly, if we find it hard to believe.. It's ok. We’re not expected to get it all in one go. We’re only human, we may need to hear this extraordinary story many times before the truth starts to dawn on us. We may need our own proof, a realisation of where the risen Jesus can be seen and heard in our own lives, it may take time for us to move from ‘Really?’ to ‘he is risen indeed.’

And secondly, this story tells us that if we believe tell others but no-one believes us that’s ok too. The very first eye-witnesses to the resurrection, their hearts still pounding with the excitement of it, failed to ignite the interest of the remainder of Jesus’ friends.
Babble, nonsense – leros – was their first reaction.

This is hard to grasp. It isn’t obviously true on first hearing. It’s not our fault if it sounds a bit too good to be true because that’s just what it is – amazingly, eye-poppingly, strange – but true. Christ is risen.

And finally, if this whole story doesn't disturb us a bit , maybe we've become too used to the story and we're not listening.
There is something rather disturbing about this story of an empty tomb and a man raised from death.
I will admit right now that I am not at all happy with the current trend for zombie movies. I realise this is very damaging to my street cred, but I just don’t like the whole idea of dead people walking around attacking other people. In real life, the dead stay dead and I can’t cope with a story-line where the natural order of things is messed about with.

This Easter story has an element of that level of disturbance. Jesus who was dead has risen. That seems at first like it cannot be true. The dead stay dead.  But the women’s story – eventually accepted and experienced by all Jesus’ disciples – tells us that death is no longer the end. In God's new kingdom all the rules have changed and the Good news is that now it’s death that  is dead.

Jesus is alive, bringing the promise of new life to all people.


Pete Snowdon said...


I am a lay reader up in North Yorks and came across your Easter sermon 2013 when looking for something re Rogation.
Just to say I liked it and have copied it as a resource for the future. It is very much my style and I will be looking at your blog in the future - so keep it up - it's not wasted and I have been wondering about starting a blog myself sometime as I find Twitter really good but sometimes you need to direct people to something with a bit of substance to it. Maybe I might have a go but it's just time as I am also a farmer and video maker as well!

Ruth said...

Thanks for the positive feedback, Pete.
I originally set up the blog as a local thing, to help the 'team' who preach in the four churches where I'm currently minister to co-ordinate what we're doing.

I've been amazed at how many 'hits' I get and I'm always happy to think that people are finding what I write helpful. I'd encourage you to have a go & just see what happens. Blessings to you.