Tuesday, April 10, 2012

We've Already Heard this Story

Sermon from April 8, 2012
(Easter Day – Year B)
John 20:1-18
St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Waco, Texas
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Believe it or not, I do still remember my first Easter as a priest.
I was the assistant rector at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church.
I was new and green and had bright ideas to try out on the lay people.

As a brand new priest, I was convinced that Sunday school for adults and children should not be cancelled on Easter Day.
So I proposed at St. Mary’s that we continue with Sunday school, even on Easter morning.
The program for Sunday school that I proposed was simple.
The adults who happened to show up for Sunday school on Easter would act out the Easter Gospel for the kids who happened to show up.

It actually was a pretty good idea.
On Easter morning, about 10 adults showed up for Sunday school in the parish hall.
And about 15 kids showed up for Sunday school in the children’s education room.

So I corralled the adults together and we practiced how we were going to perform the story of the Easter Gospel for the kids.
A woman volunteered to play the part of Mary Magdalene.
Another chose to play the part of Jesus.
And another chose to be John, to be Peter, etc.
We quickly grabbed a few props from the parish hall kitchen.
And after 10 minutes of practicing, we were ready for primetime.

We walked downstairs and entered the children’s Sunday school room.
I announced:
“Boys and girls, the adults have a special Easter gift for you.
We are going to perform an amazing story, just for you!”

We then dimmed the lights a bit for effect.
The woman playing the part of Mary Magdalene began to approach from stage left and the narrator began:
“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb...”

Then a boy in the back of the room yelled out:
“We’ve already heard this story before!”

We have already heard this story before.
For many of us, we have heard the same story, again and again, every Easter morning.
We have heard about the stone covering the tomb being rolled away.
We have heard about the various combinations of women who discover the empty tomb.
We have heard about how God raised Jesus from the dead.
We have heard about how we are not to cling to Jesus but we are to go and tell the good news to all his followers.
We’ve already heard the story before.

For some of us here today, maybe we only heard this story for the very first time when Jimmy read it from the center aisle just a moment ago.
However, I doubt that anyone in this church today has not already received the information that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.

We have heard the story before.
The question is what we are going to do with the resurrection story after we leave this church this morning.
The question is:
How are we going to live the story in our own lives: tomorrow and the next day and the next?

The resurrection story in the Gospel of John gives us a clue as to how we are to live the resurrection story in our daily lives.
After the risen Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene, after Jesus says her name, the first words out of the risen Jesus’ mouth are:
“Do not hold on to me…
But go to my brothers and tell them the good news.”

And so Mary Magdalene is the first very apostle, the very first evangelist.
Mary goes and tells the male disciples the good news, shouting:
“I have seen the Lord!”

For as many times as we in this church today have heard the story, there are thousands of people outside of these walls who do not fully know the story of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Unfortunately, there are others who have heard only a skewed or inaccurate version of the story.

Last week, I learned about the cancellation of the public Easter egg hunt for children in Colorado Springs.
The Easter egg hunt was also to be cancelled in Macon, Georgia, as well.
The reason why some communities are cancelling their Easter egg hunts is that parents of the children are so competitive that the parents actually storm onto the lawn, collecting the eggs for their children.
In some places, helicopter parents hover over their children, encouraging them to knock over other kids so that their children can gather the most eggs.

Obviously the good news of resurrection still needs to be proclaimed everywhere, including at Easter egg hunts.

The world is hungry for accurate good news, the good news that we were not made for competition, but we are made for community.
The world is hungry for good news, the good news that Jesus rose for us so that we can live a new life, a life not centered on ourselves, but centered on others.
The world is hungry for good news, the good news that Jesus is not about a strict code of regulations, but Jesus’ love is alive and actively at work in our world, today.
The risen Jesus’ first words to us are:
Do not cling to me.
But go.
Go outside these walls and be the good news by shouting:
“I have seen the Lord!”

You see, I don’t care how many times we have already heard the Easter story.
Yet I do care that we live the story, as Easter people.

So go and tell and live the story.
Go - and be good news, speaking out against a skewed gospel that presents Christianity as a judgmental competition.
Tell - and share with your family and friends how you have seen the Lord, in your life today.
Live - and approach each day as if it is your last - because if it is your last, you have the promise of resurrection.

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb.
“We’ve already heard this story before!”
I know you have.
So go into the world – and live the resurrection!


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