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Easter C

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Year C

Easter Sunday

April 8,2007

St. Francis, Norris

I have friends that take great pleasure in bringing up the fact that women are actually the first evangelists in history. Personally I have no problem at all with this concept. As a matter of fact I have difficulty understanding why it becomes some sort of competition in the first place. But I have my own personal theory as to why things turned out this way.

It seems, to me, as though Jesus could have gone directly to the disciples after his resurrection if he had wanted them to be the first to discover that he had risen. But he didn’t. He waited near the tomb. I think it more than co-incidence that the first to know of the resurrection were the ones that came to serve him, even in death. And the angels spoke with them because they were first, not because of gender. They made the first move toward Christ. Makes sense to me that they were the very first Christians on earth also, since to be a Christian you must believe in the resurrection.

The most intriguing part of the scripture today is what the angels remind them of: Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” 8 Then they remembered his words.[1] Now, what I find intriguing is that while it says that they remembered what he said, I think it is much more than remembering involved here. And they went and told the disciples and they didn’t believe it still.

It seems obvious that it wasn’t a memory problem that they had. They had all heard it before, but none of them believed it. I used to think that if someone had actually had contact with Jesus that they would be automatically compelled to believe that he was the messiah. Of course that is ridiculous. He spent several years with these disciples at his side, almost constantly in my perception. Think about what they saw if they were truly beside him. They saw the Healing of lepers, cripples and the blind and the sick. They saw demons exorcised. They saw water changed into wine. They saw thousands of people fed with two fish and five loaves of bread. They saw a man walk on the water. They saw Lazarus raised after being dead for four days.

I know that Jesus was vague at times when he spoke. He might talk of rebuilding the temple in three days time instead of spelling it out that he was going to rise from the dead in that time frame. But there were enough instances in this case that they should have figured it out. Some of the confusion came with the word resurrection. It had always meant that time when everyone would be raised together up to this point.

But, what about Lazarus? We can make up all the excuses we want for the disciples but how can we excuse the fact that they saw Lazarus rise from the dead? According to John, all the disciples were witness to this event, along with many other Jews. And yet, when the women returned from the tomb and told the disciples that Jesus has risen…they didn’t believe it.

And now we are all expected to believe it… Seeing is believing. Missouri is the show me state. Believe half of what you see and none of what you hear. I’ll believe it when I see it.The people who were witness to an event nearly two thousand years ago didn’t believe and now you and I profess this resurrection constantly.

Everybody always gives Peter a hard time about his behavior in these stories but mostly because he seems to be so much like us. A real, average person. He rarely gets it right, but he keeps on trying. This time, he is the only one who, at least, jumps up to go and find out for himself, what is happening. He returns perplexed. This man who had just denied Christ… three times.

These disciples heard over and over again what was about to happen. Now that it has happened they have the nerve to act surprised.

 Have you ever told a child something like; don’t play with that… you’ll drop it and it will break. Almost immediately, they drop it, it breaks and they look up at you with a look of surprise. They heard what you said but never processed it. Suddenly, AFTER it breaks, the words become meaningful because the prophecy is realized.

That’s where the disciples find themselves. They have heard the words, seen the events but the processing is just beginning. For the words to truly sink in all the way, a face to face encounter with Jesus is required. And that will come. The bible tells of about five hundred people having such encounters. And the disciple Paul will have such an encounter even as he is working to discredit the people who already believe. Thomas thinks he will require more than just visual proof... he needs to touch the wounds.

Let’s go back to me and you now. Where does our proof come from. We hear all the stories of miraculous events from way back when. So what allows us to process the stories in order to understand and begin to believe?

Most of us remember when the metric system was to become the standard in the world and the United States began the conversion process to those metrics. Speedometers started appearing with KMH along with MPH. Signs on interstates started showing distances in kilometers. Cokes started coming in 2 liter bottles. Some gas stations sold gas by the liter. We were well on our way. But something happened. We quit. I remember hearing that it just wasn’t being accepted. So we quit. It was too different. Too many people didn’t want to change. So we quit. We tried it and it didn’t work. Never mind that it works for the rest of the world…it won’t work here.

So this is the same place that we find ourselves in the gospel today. I think the disciples were all ready to quit. It wasn’t going to work, after all. Give them credit for trying, to be sure. They had given up everything in order to make it work. The task was just too mighty for anyone. And now with there leader gone there was no more hope. Maybe they never really had a chance to begin with.

But as the women came in all excited, a spark is kindled, if only within Peter at first. What if…what if Jesus is still with us…maybe we should check this out. And just as the child dropped the object that broke began to process the words they had heard prior to dropping it…the words that Jesus had spoken, begin to become meaningful to the disciples. Yes, he did tell us that he would rise after being crucified…and he did it! I get it…this is real.

And you and I? What happens to make it real for us? We can’t feel the wounds or have a physical encounter like the disciples did. And all this happened centuries ago. What keeps it REAL for us.

Certainly, there is a part of faith that cannot be put into words. That part belongs to our soul and it is something that we just feel, deep inside of us. The part where we know that some things are real even though they cannot be physically touched. It’s where the Holy Spirit lives. Sometimes that Spirit stirs and it is magnificent…but you can’t describe it. But you don’t have to. Because we have all felt it before. We know it. We need no proof.

But there is a conscious faith that we can put into words. And it is that part that brings us to church over and over. The part of us that picks up the bible and reads it. Sometimes for no reason at all. The part that brings us to church to hear that same story we hear every year over and over…since we were children, in most cases. The part that hears something new in that same story told to us so many times before. The part of our faith that consists of illogical intellect. We know it is impossible but we believe it anyway.

 The women told us…the disciples told us…our parents told us…our friends told us… and Jesus tells us. Because he really and truly is Risen!

Alleluia!


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[1] The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version. Nashville : Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989, S. Lk 24:6-8

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