Jesus is not here, but raised up. They left the tomb and broke the news of all this to the Eleven and the rest. Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them kept telling these things to the apostles, but the apostles didn't believe a word of it, they thought they were making it all up. These are the same people who sat at the table with Jesus, who were there when Jesus got up and washed everyone's feet. Unbelievable, unreasonable, unexplainable.
What is it about this story that is so unbelievable, so unreasonable, so unexplainable? It is that Love wins, not power, not wealth, not revenge, not lies. Love wins. Jesus is raised, so God's new creation has begun and we his followers, like the women who first witnessed the empty tomb, have to tell others. Jesus is raised, so we must act as his heralds, announcing his lordship to the entire world, making his kingdom come on earth as in heaven. This is a message that is effective now, not at some future time. This is good news about now, not some reward at the end of life.
And what is the story we tell? What is the story the women told? What is the story the disciples told? The story is Love wins. The story is that death does not triumph. The story is that God, the creator of all that is seen and unseen, the creator of the universe, the God we just heard about as we rehearsed the ancient stories, walked this earth just like you, just like me. This same God, lived, and loved, suffered and died, just like you, just like me. The story is that God loves you so absolutely and completely that your life is changed.
And just what does a changed life look like? What does eternal life look like? It looks like partnership with God, it looks like taking seriously our responsibility to care for the earth and one another in deeply loving ways. It looks like mercy and compassion and justice, because God's dwelling place is now among the people, not in some far off place. You see, when we take that seriously, when we take resurrection seriously, it changes everything. We no longer live for ourselves or for a reward at the end of life, instead we live as agents, as partners with God, creating a merciful, compassionate, and just world, right here and right now. The women had to run and tell all the other disciples, that everything is changed, that the tomb is empty.
Jesus calls disciples, that's you and me, in order to teach us how to be and what to be. Jesus intention is for us to be growing and changing toward generosity, forgiveness, honesty, courage, truth-telling, and responsibility so that as these things take over our lives we participate with God in creating the world God longs for. The world God longs for, the kingdom of God.
And who belongs in the kingdom of God? You do, we all do. There is no one outside of God's love, there is nothing any one of us could do that would make God love us any less. Any stories you have heard that suggests what you do, or who you are, or what you look like, puts you outside of God's love are lies. The truth is that God loves you, God loves each and every one of us no matter what. You may turn your back on God, but God never lets go.
We have just spent this holy week in the reality of this life, in the reality of pain and suffering, of love and death. The truth is born out in the story of life, death, and resurrection. There is a pattern that leads to life, the pattern is that we must lose our life in order to find it. The truth is that we must die to lies of self importance, the lies of autonomy, the lies of individualism, and rise again to the truth of interdependence, the truth of community, the truth of the Body of Christ. The truth of resurrection shows us that dieing to that which is killing us is the only way to life a live that is worth living.
At the center of the cross are the stories that show us that healing and reconciliation, renewal and return cause God's greatness to shine through the universe. The empty tomb shows us that love, in the end, wins. But, we have a choice. Love demands freedom, we are free to resist, to reject, and to rebel against God's ways for us, we can choose hell on earth. We do that every time we isolate ourselves, give the cold shoulder to someone who has slighted us, every time we hide knives in our words, every time we harden our hearts in defiance of what we know to be the loving, good, and right thing to do. And each one of those choices collects others, our hearts get harder, our minds get duller. But God says yes. Yes, there is water for that thirst, food for that hunger, light for that darkness, relief for that burden.
Tonight (this morning) we baptized Bentley (Soren) into this household of faith. We also renewed our own baptismal promises. We are given all that we need to choose the empty tomb to choose the love that wins.
Alleluia, Christ is Risen. The Lord is Risen indeed. Alleluia!
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