Sermon – Easter Sunday, March 27, 2016
Christ Lutheran Church – Manchester, PA
“Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip……” If you recognized those words they are the opening words from the theme song from a popular series many years ago called Gilligan’s Island. It was the fictional story of a group of people who were stranded on a desert island. It was fun to watch, and we wondered if they would ever be rescued, but it was just a story, a tale that someone was telling us.
Or maybe you recognize these lines, “A long time ago in a galaxy far away……” These words that enter the screen are the beginning of the Star Wars movies. Tales, or movies, about the fight between good and evil, and although they remind us of valuable truths, they too are only movies, modern tales.
Tales are just that. They are stories. Sometimes they contain the truth, but they aren’t the truth. Like fairy tales, they help us understand the truth a little better. And for example in the case of fish tales, these real stories start out true, but eventually spin out of control until they are unbelievable. We tend to think of tales as made up stories and we don’t take them seriously.
That’s exactly what happened to the women who came to the tomb that first Easter morning. Luke’s gospel says that when the women came to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ dead body, they found the stone that sealed the tomb already rolled away. They couldn’t believe it. What happened? Who rolled the stone away? Where was Jesus? But while they were trying to figure all this out two angels said to them, “”Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” When the angels reminded them of what Jesus had told them, it all made sense. Yes, it was true. But when they ran back to tell the disciples, they didn’t believe them. The disciples thought they were telling them an “idle tale.” They thought the women made it up.
After all, they saw Jesus die on the cross. Jesus was dead and dead things don’t come back to life. The soldiers pierced Jesus’ side just to make sure He was dead. So of course the other disciples thought the women were crazy. They all saw Jesus die right in front of them. These women just wanted Jesus to be alive – they all did – but Jesus was dead. They felt these women were just telling an “idle tale.”
And it was common for women at that time not to be believed. Women at that time were thought to be not much better than the animals. They certainly weren’t respected and not encouraged to speak their minds. Yet these women weren’t just with Jesus and the other disciples. They were disciples. Jesus felt differently about women. He welcomed all people to listen to Him, even the women and children. So if He respected them, if they travelled with the disciples, why didn’t they believe this story the women told them?
Because it was too unbelievable! If I came and told you right now that a person we all saw die three days ago, and buried, was now alive, you would think I was crazy! You would say I lost my mind! Dead people don’t come back from the dead! This is unbelievable! If we saw this story on the news tomorrow we would say something is wrong. It’s a hoax. Things like that just don’t happen! It’s an “idle tale.”
And idle tales are something many people are good at spreading. It’s called gossip and it happens everywhere, even in congregations. People misinterpret things; truths get twisted, stories get made up, and before you know it friends become enemies and reputations and lives are ruined. So what do you do when someone tells you something that unbelievable? Do you just believe whatever you hear without asking if this fits the character of the person. Do you ask the person directly? Do you even try and seek out the truth or do you just believe whatever you hear? If something seems too unbelievable it usually is.
So why do we believe it? How do we know it’s true? Peter asked himself the same question, so he checked it out for himself. He saw that the tomb was empty. But why did he believe the women? Maybe someone really did take Jesus’ body. The gospel of John tells us that Jesus actually appeared to Mary, but in Luke’s gospel, the women have only the angels to believe. And even that seems like a far-fetched tale. Were the women just making it up? What would they have to gain by making up a tale like this? Women back then weren’t respected and they certainly wouldn’t have been believed for telling an outrageous story like this. They had to know that the other disciples would think they were crazy, but how could they not tell it? This news wasn’t something they could keep to themselves. Jesus was alive and He told them prior to the crucifixion that He would rise again, but they didn’t understand that then. How could they? It seemed too far-fetched. But now they believed it. They believed it because Jesus’ words and Jesus’ actions were one in the same. His promises were true. They were true then and they are true now. We can believe him.
And for thousands of years after Jesus’ death and resurrection Jesus’ followers have been believing this story and telling it to anyone who would listen. To make a name for themselves? No, because this is an unbelievable story – too good to be true – and telling this story would cost many disciples their lives. If the early Christians wanted their religion to spread they wouldn’t have written down that women were the first to see the risen Jesus, because women weren’t taken seriously to begin with. Early Christians wouldn’t have suffered persecutions and death for an “idle tale” that wasn’t true. No one dies for a made up story. Eventually, they change their story so that they won’t be killed, unless…..
Unless it’s a story worth dying for – a story so incredibly fantastic and life changing that you want the whole world to know. A story so revolutionary that you can’t keep it under wraps. A story so earth shattering that you can’t think of anything in the same way again or do anything the way you did it before.
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Messiah is risen from the dead! He is risen indeed! What does this mean to you and me? It means that God has changed the way everything works. Death no longer has the final say. St. Paul says, because Christ lives , we too will live forever.
So what are you going to do about it now that you have heard this news? This isn’t just an “idle tale” people, this is the truth! And it means that nothing is the same. We may experience periods of darkness, but the light of Christ has overcome the darkness. It will not consume us. Death has been swallowed up by the light of the resurrected Christ! We have to run out into the world and tell everyone. By shouting on the side of the street? Well, you might get locked up for that, but we have other ways to spread this news.
Don’t just spread idle tales or gossip; spread the love of Jesus. Go to the person that has been annoying you and do something kind for them, show them love, pray for them and pray for God to change your own heart. Go to the person you have been carrying a grudge toward and forgive them. Call that person that has been avoiding you and tell them that God loves them and that you love them and you want them in your life. Run to the person that you feel your relationship is on faulty ground and tell them they are a gift from God and you want to set things right again. Find a person in your neighborhood, on your street, in your school, or where you work and do something loving for them. Find out what they need and help them. Listen to others. Show compassion where it is most needed. Bring this church out of these four walls and show others that the tomb is empty. Invite a friend to church next Sunday – seriously. This news is too good to keep to yourself. This is no “idle tale.” This is a matter of life and death. Christ is risen; He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen!