Acts.10: 34-43; Psalm 118:1-2,14-24; 1 Cor.15:1-11; Mark. 16:1-8
When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, Ã¢â‚¬ËœWho will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, Ã¢â‚¬ËœDo not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.*
Hands-on ProofÃ¢â‚¬Â¦Christos Anesti
Christ is Risen! Alleluia!
This conversation was recorded by Citibank customer services.
A lady died this past January. Citibank billed her for February and March for their annual service charges on her credit card and then added late fees and interest on the monthly charge. Her balance went from zero to around $60. A family member called to inform Citibank of her death. The bankÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s response was:
"The account was never closed and the late fees and charges still apply.
Family Member: "Maybe you should turn it over to collections."
Citibank: "Since it is two months past due, it already has been."
Family Member: So, what will they do when they find out she is dead?"
Citibank: "Either report her account to the frauds division or report her to the credit bureau, maybe both!"
Family Member: "Do you think God will be mad at her?"
Citibank: "Excuse me?"
Family Member: "Did you just get what I was telling you - the part about her being dead?"
Citibank: "Sir, you`ll have to speak to my supervisor."
Supervisor gets on the phone:
Family Member: "I`m calling to tell you, she died in January."
Citibank: "The account was never closed and the late fees and charges still apply."
Family Member: "You mean you want to collect from her estate?"
Citibank: (Stammer) "Are you her lawyer?"
Family Member: "No, I`m her great nephew." (Lawyer info given)
Citibank: "Could you fax us a certificate of death?"
The nephew complied and the dialogue continued.
Citibank: "Our system just isn`t setup for death. I don`t know what more I can do to help."
Family Member: "Well, if you figure it out, great! If not, you could just keep billing her. I don`t think she will care."
Citibank: "Well, the late fees and charges do still apply."
Family Member: "Would you like her new billing address?"
Citibank: "That might help."
Family Member: "Odessa Memorial Cemetery, Highway 129, Plot Number 69."
Citibank: "Sir, that`s a cemetery!"
Family Member: "Well what do you do with dead people on your planet?
We know what we do with our dead people. We bury them in the ground or deposit their ashes in a columbarium. The Gospels tell us ChristÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s address on Easter Day was an empty tomb. Visitors were told by GodÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s messenger: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here.Ã¢â‚¬Â
In a way, the women and the disciples were like the bank employees whose rules told them they should still charge interest and late fees. They couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t accept the unexpected. Then and now, it takes a great leap of faith to become Easter people.
There are still plenty of skeptics. Jews, Muslims, Communists, agnostics, atheists and others reject Christian faith as irrational, superstitious and absurd. They say resurrection is not new, that people in ancient Mesopotamia believed in the afterlife. Their goddess, Ishtar, threatened the gatekeeper of the Underworld: Ã¢â‚¬Å“I will raise up the dead so that the dead will outnumber the livingÃ¢â‚¬Â. Contrary to our view, she makes this sound like a calamity, not something to look forward to. The ancient Greek outlook was also tragic. In Hades, Achilles says he would rather be a landless peasant on earth than king of the underworld. And after HomerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s time, hope for bliss in the Elysian fields was held out, but only for heroes. For monotheistic Hebrews, resurrection was not universally accepted. Some believed it was for the righteous alone, while the Sadducees rejected it outright.
For us, resurrection is evidence of the saving power of God, as true to us as the rising and setting of the sun. We know it took something earthshaking to transform despairing disciples into leaders of the early church. Thomas stopped doubting. Peter became a fearless preacher at Pentecost. Paul the fanatical persecutor became the greatest missionary of the Gospel after his life-shattering experience with the risen Christ in Damascus. Each had a personal encounter with the resurrected Jesus which transformed them into the greatest witnesses for the truth of the resurrection. They believed it whole heartedly and the risen Christ had their total allegiance. They were willing to lay down their lives. In fact many did, as the ultimate proof of their complete confidence in the truth of their message.
As former Archbishop Ramsey said: Ã¢â‚¬Å“It must not be forgotten that the teaching and ministry of Jesus did not provide the disciples with a GospelÃ¢â‚¬Â¦they were led from puzzle to paradox until the Resurrection gave them a key.Ã¢â‚¬Â After more than 700 hours of study, Josh McDowell, an American apologist, wrote, Ã¢â‚¬Å“I have come to the conclusion that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is either one of the most wicked, vicious, heartless hoaxes ever foisted on the minds of human beings--or it is the most remarkable fact of history.
At each Eucharist we repeat CHRIST HAS DIED. CHRIST IS RISEN. CHRIST WILL COME AGAIN. Like the first disciples, we are responsible to bear witness to his resurrection, to continue what we call the Ã¢â‚¬Å“apostolic tradition.Ã¢â‚¬Â But no one can witness by performing outward acts and attitudes alone. Just as the Easter fire can be lit only from the Paschal candle, so a convincing witness to the resurrection can be generated only from contact with the Risen Christ himself. I hope and pray our celebration may be more than just a beautiful Easter storyÃ¢â‚¬Â¦that each of us may believe God raised Christ from the dead and confess him as our Lord out loud.
Why do I believe in resurrection? I believe because somebody like Peter or Paul told me about it. But I ultimately believe because I have seen the Risen Christ in my brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. I have experienced it myself. It is why I can stand here this morning and shout:
Alleluia! CHRIST IS RISEN.
People: The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!