Easter Sunday, April 17, 2022 Luke 24: 1-12 Grace and peace to you from Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. Amen I want to share with you a couple of stories from Holy Week at Christ Lutheran Church, pre-pandemic. On Maundy Thursday, I was setting up for the service. There were two young people from the after-school care who were waiting for their rides home and I needed some help carrying a table into the nave. They volunteered to help me carry the table and when the entered the nave one of them said, “Wow, this is a beautiful room. What do you do here?” I went on to explain that we were celebrating Jesus’s command to love one another as Jesus loves us. The response was – “So it makes Jesus happy when we make other people happy.” I couldn’t have summed up the message of Maundy Thursday any better. Then on Good Friday we had the Journey to the Cross with Jesus event and we had 16 people come through the “Stations of the Cross.” At one station people were asked to pound a nail into a piece of wood. I was sitting by the front door greeting people who came in and greeting them as they left. Each time someone hammered a nail into the wood I would cringe with the thought of that happening to Jesus on the cross so many years ago. When it was my turn to go through the stations I cried as I wrote “I don’t know the man!” and I cried as I hammered the nail. It was such a powerful feeling of betrayal and guilt and revulsion. And now we come to the Easter morning and we can say: Christ is Risen. Christ is Risen, indeed. Alleluia! Shouts of alleluia ring out; flowers adorn our sanctuary; people are dressed in their finest attire; everyone has a smile on their face. We are here to celebrate the resurrection in grand style! Christ is risen! (Christ is risen indeed) And because Christ is risen (Christ is risen indeed), we too have the promise of eternal life. Because the tomb was empty on Easter, we know that no obstacle is too big for God. No matter how final death may be in our human reality, it is not the end of it all. Since Jesus rose from the grave, we can see the grave as a blessed gate to eternal life. Because Jesus overcame death, we also overcome death. As fabulous as the promise of resurrection is though, Jesus’ resurrection isn’t just about pie in the sky when you die. That is a common theological misunderstanding of the resurrection story. Resurrection isn’t just about life after death; it is also about the promise of abundant life-NOW! It has to be! Otherwise, we might as well just convert just the moment before we die. If the resurrection was only about life after death, then instead of being here in worship, we should all be at home with actuarial tables, calculating the moment of our own death so that we could turn to Christ just in the nick of time. But Christianity is not a religion of death - it also holds the promise of life. The resurrection is incredible and it restructures reality, as it exists today! When Jesus was raised from the dead, he did more than just give us a reason to believe (for example, life after death). He also gave us a reason to live! Because Jesus is alive beyond the cross, we see that God can use events that seem like the most wretched failure. Because Jesus is alive beyond the grave, we have the courage to escape from the hurtful places that entomb us. Because Jesus offers us life that lasts beyond death, we can face our own death without fear. Bill Gaither wrote a great hymn called "Because He Lives". The chorus goes like this: "Because he lives, I can face tomorrow. Because he lives, all fear is gone. Because I know he holds the future, and life is worth the living, just because he lives." Jesus’ resurrection gives us reason to live - today! Right now! Easter should not just be a sweet holiday when we all put on our finest clothes and our widest smiles. Certainly we should be happy! Yes, the resurrection should bring us joy, and be a time of festive worship. But Easter should also be a wake up call to life for us. Easter is the awesome, transforming, life-changing power of God shaking each and every one of us awake to new life in Christ now - not just after death. The empty tomb should transform us. The resurrection should stir us to new hope and new courage. Easter invites ALL of us to break out of old patterns, to turn from abusive relationships or habits, to be freed from the guilt or burdens of the past, to entertain fresh thoughts, to love even when loving someone is difficult. Jesus’ resurrection changes us, makes us new, and helps us to really live life in the now! The Resurrection emboldens us to face our fears, to escape envy, to deal with denial. The Resurrection even gives us strength to be vulnerable and open ourselves up for the sake of another person! That is the message of Easter. Not just that Christ is risen! (Christ is risen indeed) Not just that the tomb was empty! Not just that we go to heaven after we die! Not just that God triumphed over the devil! No, the truest, deepest message of Easter is that the same God who raised Jesus from the dead can empower us to face our demons, our fears- our crosses and our tombs. We are free to make mistakes, free to be whoever we are, free to be vulnerable, free to give of ourselves, free to escape the things that try to suffocate or abuse us. What brokenness do you bring to church today? What tombs are closing in around you? What echoes of the unknown are threatening to overtake you? What fears bind you? What rock is rolled in your way that seems unmovable? What habits or relationships hinder you from being the person you know that you really can be? The resurrection gives our life new meaning now - not just after our death. God has already released us from the bonds of death. The grave could not hold Jesus, and it will not hold us either. We can live boldly… because Christ is risen (Christ is risen indeed). We can live fearlessly… because Christ is risen (Christ is risen indeed). We can live graciously… because Christ is risen (Christ is risen indeed). Set us free, O Lord, so that we can serve our risen Savior with joy! Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!!! Thanks be to God. Amen.