Sunday, March 27, 2016

Let's Get Real - a sermon for Easter Sunrise

Luke 24:1-5, 11

“He is Risen”.  So?  “The tomb is empty.”  And?  “Well, this proves The Lord has overcome death”.  How? 

And this, I think, is the difficulty we as the Body of Christ face: this Good News does not seem to travel well outside the Sunday gathering.  We pastors study it, teach it, and preach it.  All too often, however, we AND the congregations we serve leave it where we found it.

It is almost like a private, “inside” story reserved strictly for those already in the know.  For some odd reason – or perhaps for many reasons – this news of a Risen Messiah has not come to mean much except for those who claim to already believe … and maybe hardly even then.

Think about this, for instance.  When was the last time you had a discussion about The Lord with anyone outside of the Sunday school or Bible study setting, beyond what is theoretical?  I mean genuine heartfelt discussions about how the Gospel informs and the Resurrection impacts your life.  Not in the past tense, but in the present.  Can’t remember?  Neither can I. 

So we must not overlook the possibility that this News, remarkable though it is, has become stale, redundant.  It’s the same ol’ same ol’.  Year after year we hear the same stories, we read the same Scripture passages, we look forward to this gathering every year, but something is still missing.  There is an undeniable element that seems to escape us year after uneventful year as well as throughout the year. 

Could it be that as much as we claim to believe it, maybe it just isn’t real to us?

This would explain why so many of us are running on empty.  This would explain why there is no real excitement.  This would explain why we spend more time hating on and talking about one another than reaching out to strangers.  This would help to explain why so many move from church to church in search of something they cannot quite identify until they finally give up and leave the Church altogether – because they never found what they were looking for in the One Place where evidence should be in abundance?

No wonder seekers do not feel welcome enough or even curious enough to come see what the fuss is about – because there is no fuss though there seems to be no shortage of fussin’.  Many of us feel unwelcome to make an unorthodox observation - for fear that others may pounce at the chance to set us straight, often very publiclyby telling us just how wrong we are, making us feel foolish, stupid, and unwelcome to think out loud as we try to work things out in our minds and in our hearts. 

Some may say, “Well, if we had a different pastor, things would be different, let me tell you!”  Or “Well, if more would participate in this or that, things would be different, let me tell you!”   Which, of course, we know isn’t true because what we are already doing and have been doing for so long is what we will likely be doing tomorrow and the next day …

Someone once said the reason things get so ugly in the Church is because there are so many willing and eager to criticize what is but will not envision or participate in what could be.  And the reason this is so is because the very News that should inform the Church’s every action, every decision, every step, every breath is not only “old” news … it’s not even news.

Think about it.  We will talk about sports and politics, work and school, children and family, and just about every little thing under the sun in our casual conversations, but to talk about what happened at Mt. Sinai, or the deeper meaning of the Sermon on the Mount, or to discuss any sermon for that matter (beyond criticizing the preacher) … well, that’s being all “religious”.  And while we may not mind being known as “Christian” (that identity being more of a cultural thing), we do not wish to be perceived as Jesus Freaks!  Something more reminiscent of the 60’s and all those long-haired, peace-loving pot smokers.

Why can’t we have conversations around the dinner table and the pot luck tables and our living rooms about The Lord and the Gospel instead of the inane conversations about a new rifle, a new truck, a new fishing rod, or a new putter?  Could it be that we have been so overwhelmed by life and death and taxes, that just as surely as Jesus assured His Church He would be with us for all time, we simply have not noticed that He truly is … with us … for all time … still?

I pray for an awakening.  I yearn, I ache for an “He’s in the next room” experience.  I fear, however, that we’ve become so wrapped up in being Christians, we have forgotten our deepest need to be genuine disciples.  For, you see, it is in earnest discipleship by which we discover how the Gospel must inform our actions.  It is in earnest discipleship by which we have any chance to discover why it matters that Christ our Lord was indeed raised from Death and now sits at the Right Hand of our Holy Father.  For that matter, we may even finally discover exactly what THAT means beyond what is theoretical!

We talk about what is real to us, and we think about those things that are truly important to us.  We allow the preachers and Sunday school teachers to “talk” to us on Sunday morning about Jesus and stuff, but then we go on from there as if nothing happened … because nothing happened. 

And yet … the Eternal Kingdom is the only “real” thing we have.  This is the undeniable element that is often missing.  The Kingdom of Heaven is the only thing in our lives that cannot be taken, cannot rust, and cannot be destroyed.  The Kingdom of Heaven is the only thing we have that will not have to be repaired or replaced or upgraded in the course of our lives.  Everything else is an illusion, a temporal state of being that will absolutely, unequivocally come to an end.  One day the “vanity” we devoted a lifetime in pursuit of will not even be a distant memory. 

The only way the Glory of the Kingdom – the fullness of which is revealed in the Resurrection – will be real to us is when we get real about the Kingdom which is already at hand.  It is ours for the taking only because it is so freely offered.  “Come”, our Holy Father beckons us, "Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost” (Isaiah 55:1). 

For I have already covered the tab, says The Lord.  Your debt is no more.  Oh, and by the way, in case you HAVE forgotten, I love you.  Amen.

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