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An Easter Sermon: Stop Making Sense. April 17. 2022

April 19, 2022

This is the sermon I preached on Easter Sunday, 2022, at Grace Lutheran Church, River Forest, IL. You can view the service and the bulletin, too. The image is the Grace Chancel, expertly decorated and appointed for the Resurrection of Our Lord (photo by me).

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

Sisters and brothers in Christ, grace be unto you and peace in the name God the Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

  1. Yesterday morning, Torsten came into my office while I was writing today’s sermon. Watching me type, he asked, “Dad, how do you know what to put in your sermons?” I turned and said, “Well, God tells me what to write.” He thought for a moment. “Those are God’s words? Like, from God?” “Yeah, buddy, of course.” He thought some more: “Then why do you keep deleting them and starting over?” Okay, not a true story. Had Torsten asked about today’s sermon, he would have been less concerned with where it came from and more concerned with how long it was going to last! Fear not! Like Torsten, I know that the key to a good Easter sermon is to have a good beginning, a good ending, and to have them as close together as possible!
  2. I come to this morning’s sermon, thank God, standing upon the wisdom of centuries of Easter preachers. But what about the first Easter preachers? What must these women have thought as they left the empty tomb, the first flicker of faith firing within them? How Mary, Joanna, and Mary must have whispered as they ran: How are we going to tell the others about this? In the end, I imagine, they told it straight, just as they’d heard it: He who was crucified has been raised. They didn’t go for humor, but the men heard it all as a joke, anyway. A poor one, at that. Jesus, the One taken and executed by the Empire, alive again? We saw him pierced, heard his last exhalation. He’s alive? Surely, the men thought as they dismissed the women out of hand, this is nothing more than an idle tale. Package it however you want, it’s still nonsense. Death, after all, is nothing if not dependable.
  3. It is a gift and a joy beyond measure to be here on Easter with all of you after the past two years. It feels good to be moving beyond the pandemic. Of course, such language about “moving beyond” betrays our acceptance of death’s logic. Sure, nearly one million Americans have been killed by this virus over the past two years, but it’s time to move on? In a recent article in The Atlantic, Ed Yong writes of how our desire to move on minimizes the grief of those who have lost loved ones. Yes, he writes, dying of COVID is becoming rarer even for those infected, but when your loved one “is part of the numerator, it doesn’t matter how large the denominator is.” We do our best to keep death at a distance. But when it comes near, it’s seeming finality stops us short. And we know, deep in our bones, how the math problem will finally resolve, numerator and denominator matching up in a one-to-one ratio. Like John Donne before us, we know for whom the bell tolls.
  4. As of Friday afternoon, Jesus was dead. This sad reality was all the disciples needed to know. Jesus is risen? Had Shakespeare penned the gospels, perhaps he would have put words from the Scottish play in the mouths of the men, hearing from the women nothing more than a tale “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” It’s an idle tale; this word used by Luke also means nonsense, and it’s the only time it shows up in the entire New Testament. Even by biblical standards, resurrection is just too tall a tale for anyone to believe.
  5. To which we can only say, thank God resurrection precedes belief. For the farcical fact of the matter is that Christ is risen. As Peter, the denier and early disbeliever would later put it, “They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear.” Yes, we keep our ledgers in this sinful, broken world, squaring our books, every life leading to death. Whether in war-torn Ukraine or in COVID ICUs, on our city streets or in the countless, anonymous ways it stalks us, death comes. But while death may be a fact of life, it is also, Paul reminds us, the enemy of God. And God will not stand opposed for long. While it may be nonsense, foolishness, to think that God would take on our lot in this life, would suffer with us, would die for us, nevertheless is it so. Yes, it’s foolish, but we find ourselves confronted this morning by a God who isn’t that interested in making sense. At least not by our standards. Death overreached on that Good Friday when it claimed the life of the Son of God. The Romans tallied him up as another statistic, one more life ground up in the machinery of Empire. But God, delighting in the humble obedience of Christ, refuses to let death have the last word. He does not remain here amid the stench of the tomb. The stone rolls away as the once-rejected stone is set as the foundation of God’s new creation. A creation beyond our sense or reason, to be sure. A Kingdom in which sins are forgiven instead of avenged; a world in which those in any need have their needs abundantly met; a world in which we shall follow Jesus through death into the verdant fields of eternal life.
  6. The last enemy to be defeated is death. Death continues its feeble fight But, the victory is certain. Jesus doesn’t move on from death. He goes through it and defeats it. Every death now leads to life. The first fruits are already harvested. The table of grace now heavy laden as Jesus presents himself to our senses as we feast upon the very goodness of God. Jesus who was crucified has been raised. For his sake, you are raised to new life today. For his sake, you will be resurrected from the dead. This Jesus, this One, has been raised for each one of you, for each one of you is precious. Not a statistic among billions, but a beloved child bearing the image of our God. Jesus is risen and you shall arise. Who would believe such an idle tale? Well, we do, and on it we hang our hope. For the risen Christ shows himself to us today. In Word and song. In body and blood. In this community gathered together in joy. Here. For you. Let us not look for the living among the dead. He is not there. He is here. With us. Alive. For each of us, with each of us, a Word that forever abides. From beginning to end to an endless new beginning, the joke was on death all along. I’m not sure it will ever make sense, so let us simply wonder as we praise our God. Christ is alive and this is the Lord’s doing. It is marvelous in our eyes. Amen.

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

And now may that peace that passes all understanding keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, this day and forever. Amen.


Torsten T. Lyle, resident critic.

From → Lent/Easter, Sermons

One Comment
  1. Martin William Baumgaertner permalink

    Spirit-placed in the Virgin’s dear womb
    Resurrected from his Garden tomb
    Always near
    Seek him here
    We shall find him in this very room

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