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24:1-12 April 3-4, 2010 The Rev. Ron W. Griffin “Eternity is in the Air”
O God, who for our redemption gave your only-begotten Son to the death of the cross, and by his glorious resurrection delivered us from the power of our enemy: Grant us so to die daily to sin, that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
On the first day of the week, at early dawn, the women who had come with Jesus from
Galilee came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again." Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.
Good Evening and then Morning, This comes from the New York Times weekly Diary column: Dear Diary: It was a day when the threat of rain hung thick in the air. I drove up to a drive-through market to buy some milk and was waited on by a man wearing a turban. Handing me my change through the car window, he said, with the trace of an Indian accent, "Ah! The smell of
eternity is in the air.” I was impressed, assuming his mystical words were either the Indian equivalent of "It feels like rain," or a philosophical observation like "The end is near." I smiled politely but made no other reply. Then he continued. "Eternity," Aren't you wearing Eternity Cologne?"
Tonight (Today) we begin the season of Easter the smell of eternity is in the air. Christ is risen! The Spring Equinox was March 20, but I think Spring always arrives at Easter. I
always seem to begin noticing new life at Easter I came from a church background that didn’t do Holy Week, but I remember Easter Sunday was always a big deal. It was the one Sunday I had to wear a tie, new shirts and pants that were always scratchy, polyester was the fashion rage, (my mother has the pictures to prove it), I always look miserable. But there was also the surprise of the Easter Bunny, at our house who brought gifts; which seemed to always include plastic green grass in baskets, colored eggs, marshmallowey yellow chicks, jelly beans, (I like the licorice ones) and of course chocolate. My granddaughter Hannah loves Chocolate as well. Several years ago at Easter, Hannah’s family received a large chocolate Rabbit as a gift. She knew it was off limits however because, it was too much for one little person to eat, but she loves Chocolate, and she kept at it trying to convince her mother to give her that rabbit to eat. Hannah at this time in her life was struggling with the reality of growing up, and that she didn’t need a binky anymore. (Everyone know what a binky is? In times past it has been called a pacifier.) Her mother came up a solution to Hannah’s continued requests for the large Chocolate rabbit, she must be willing to give up the binky, for good. Hannah thought about it, that was a big decision, but that was a big Rabbit and she loves chocolate so she said she would. Her mother said, Hannah this is for ever, not just today. I know. She got the Rabbit, and ate it, all at one time. “Was it good” I asked when I heard she was binkyless, yes Papa, but it wasn’t that good. So whether Easter is a time when think about spring gifting us with new life, or the Easter Bunny, scratchy memories, or in Hannah’s case the day her she traded her binky for a bunny. The gift of Easter has come rushing and rising to meet us, tonight, (today). And it is also the apex of our reason for being the church. The gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John saw the death and resurrection of Jesus as central and significant to our faith and belief. While most biographies spend very little time, usually less than 10% of their books on famous people, devoted to the subject of their death, the gospel narrators devote nearly one third of their writing to the climactic last weeks of Jesus life. In the great novel by John Irving, A prayer for Owen Meany, which was later made into an average movie, the character writes: “I find holy week is draining; no matter how many times I have lived through his crucifixion, my anxiety about his resurrection is undiminished--I am terrified that this year it won’t happen; that that year, it didn’t happen.
Anyone can be sentimental about the Nativity; any fool can feel like a Christian at Christmas. But Easter is the main event; if you don’t believe in the resurrection, you’re not a believer. Yet the moment of the Resurrection is a puzzle. In all the gospel accounts, no one actually saw it happen on that first Easter way back 2000 years ago. That moment is the one event in Jesus’ life that was entirely between him and God. There were no witnesses whatsoever. No one on earth can say what happened inside that tomb, because no one was there. But clearly Jesus is not there. Greenville County, South Carolina, Department of Social Services wrote this letter to a dead person. It said: "To Whom It May Concern: Your food stamps will be stopped effective immediately, because we have received notice that you passed away. May God bless you. You may reapply if there is a change in your circumstances." Well, you see when it comes to the gift of Easter there is a change in the circumstances. In addition to the gospels spending time helping us know the details of Jesus death there are many accounts of hundreds of people, from various perspectives that spoke and saw Jesus after the resurrection. The early Christians who by just acknowledging they were believers, placed their family, and them selves in harms way, staked everything on the resurrection, so much so that the Apostle Paul told his community, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” But it has not been useless, and by faith, we believe and are connected by those who have lived before us all the way back to the reliable truth of that Easter gift of that first morning. One of the emails I get every week is from a site that publishes only true accounts. They remind me truth is often mystifying. This is what came last week: • A man sued his doctor because he survived his cancer longer than the doctor predicted. • Two robbers were in the process of their crime when one changed his mind and arrested the other. • A woman had her husband's ashes made into an egg timer when he died so he could still "help" in the kitchen. This didn’t come last week as an email, but is just as true.
There is more documented evidence that Jesus Christ rose from the dead than there is that Julius Caesar ever lived? There is more evidence of the resurrection than there is that Alexander the Great died at age 33. God loved the world so much that he gave to the world the gift of God's love in action, Jesus so that all of us could make a connection with God that no other way would do. And so from the moment after the resurrection with an empty tomb, the risen Christ was busy transferring the gift of the incarnation to us. He had people to see and things to do. The business at hand was to be among the living, to whom he appeared not once but
often. And every time he came to his friends they became stronger, wiser, kinder, and more courageous. And every time he came to his friends, they became more like him. The gift of Easter in us is the reason we gather here as a community of faith. The gift of Easter in us is when we experience God, not just talk about God. The gift of Easter in us then becomes the gift to give to everyone, everyday, in many ways. The gift of Easter in us is the empty tomb and the promise of Jesus: "Because I live, you will live." The smell of Eternity, in the air.
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