Easter 2015

If you listen carefully, you can hear a bit of awkward early Christian history. Did you sense the competition between the disciple whom Jesus loved and Peter?  At first the communities headed by Peter and the beloved disciple whom we usually refer to as John were not united, so there is a rivalry between these Christians played out in stories concerning their leaders.  Not a bitter, antagonistic rivalry, but brotherly, gotcha, elbow between the ribs kind of rivalry.

You can see it throughout the gospel of John. All Gospels tell the story to Peter’s denial, but there is a certain impatience in getting to it in John’s passion.  Peter goes to the beloved disciple for help throughout the narrative. Come to think of it, naming himself the disciple whom Jesus loved kinds of loads the dice.  And then comes the story of the resurrection.  They are told by Mary Magdalene that Jesus is risen from the dead and the both rush to the tomb. John arrives first.  I get it. If it were Bob’s gospel, I would have arrived first.  But ever polite, he allows Peter to enter first.  Peter does what Peter does.  He reacts.  The one who swore he would never deny him and then did when he felt the pressure; he who started to walk on the water and then noticed the wind and sank, can see the burial cloth and the fact there is no body and is confused.  The beloved disciple then comes in and he sees and believes.  There is a world of difference between just seeing and seeing and believing.

The Beloved disciple gets it.  He remembers the promise of the resurrection and the three days. He understands that Jesus lives and death has died.  He knows the destiny of the Lord and now he understands his as well.  We have been talking about peace for a year now.  Imagine the peace the beloved disciple knew as he saw and believed.  Would you like that peace?  Then follow in his way.

First, we must now that we are beloved.  We know how the love of our families have transformed us.  Or how the power of your friends and the gift of a worshipping community where love is celebrated gives us strength.  And above all, how the love of God who gives us his body and his blood and through this dance with death and life has saved us.  Now we know the cross casts a shadow because it has been lit by a sun of unimaginable love.  Even our darkest spaces and greatest fears have found their redemption in the gift of the cross and now they find their glory in the resurrection.  Love is a forever thing so there had to be a resurrection and an undefeatable hope instilled in each of us.  We must be beloved.  Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.

And secondly, we may be now free from fear, for surely there is enough light, enough love, and enough life in the resurrection to overcome all fears. Perfect love casts out all fear and the resurrection is the greatest sign of love for all humanity because all fear is rooted in death.

Don’t believe me.  Let’s say you are afraid of a test.  Why?  Because if you don’t get a good grade, you won’t do well in the class, if you don’t do well in the class you won’t rank that high in your class, if you don’t rank that high in your class, you won’t get into a good college, if you don’t get into a good college, you won’t get a good job, if you don’t get a good job, you won’t be able to support your family, if you cannot support your family, you will have to steal to support then, if you have to steal to support them,  then you will end up in jail, and if you end up in jail you will probably die there.

But once you know that the life and love of Jesus Christ has overpowered death for us, you do need to fear the ultimate destiny.  Yes, there are non-believers who live lives of great courage and believers who are timid, but it must make some kind of difference to know that we were created with glory in mind, with heaven as our goal, with love upholding us every breath of our lives.

I turned on the television when I awoke this morning and turned on the news.  That always seems like a bad decision these days.  And they were speaking of the horrible events at that university in Kenya.  What a frightful scene they paint.  I wonder with it being holy week, if they were aware of this love?  Were they aware as the terrorists asked which of them were Christians?  Were they trusting in the love of the Lord? Were they counting on the power of his resurrection? Did they know God was with them?  I pray that they did.  I know they raised their hand and said they were Christians indeed.

We will have many journeys in our lives but the all head toward a horizon of glory.  We will have many struggles in our lives, but they will all end in a hope that can never be taken away.  We will sing many songs in our lives, but they will have a refrain of Alleluia.

So we must let the world know that where hatred and fear have tightened their grip, they can still hear an Alleluia.  I said, we must let the world know that where hatred and fear have tightened their grip, they can still hear an Alleluia.  Alleluia!  They must know that where injustice rules and the sweet compassion of our risen Lord is needed, there still rings out an Alleluia.   Alleluia!  When despair invades a life and the darkness grows, there is a still a hope powerful enough to say Alleluia.    Alleluia!  And when the night must simply end, there is a people who welcome a new dawn with a chorus of Alleluia. Alleluia!

This is what a means to be see and believe.  To now we are beloved.  This is what it means to be an Easter people.