Monday, April 1, 2013

Real Life - An Easter Sermon

Why are looking for the living among the dead?
Luke 24:5

Several years ago, when my oldest son was about three years old, he came to and said, “Dad, is the Easter Bunny coming today?” Now, Easter was still a few weeks away, so I said, "No, son, the Easter Bunny is not coming today. My son said, “Well, Dad, when the Easter Bunny does come, will he bring candy?” I responded, “I think so, that’s usually what the Easter Bunny does.” Still not completely satisfied, my son asked, “Dad, will the Easter Bunny bring some toys?” Not wanting to over commit the Easter Bunny, I said, “Well, we’ll just have to wait and see.”
Now, at this point I'm feeling the need to shift the focus away from the Easter Bunny and toward something more theological. So, I asked my son, “Do know why we celebrate Easter?”  I said, “Easter is the day that Jesus rose from the … (I paused and waited for a profound theological answer from my son). Then I repeated myself and said, “Easter is the day that Jesus rose from … and before I could finish, my son smiled, and with all the confidence in the world, he said “AN EGG!”
After getting over my initial feelings of utter defeat, I reflected on my son’s answer and I began to think that there was a nugget of theological truth in his response. The egg has actually been a symbol of new life for thousands of years. Early Christians adopted it as a symbol of the resurrection, a symbol of Christ breaking forth from the tomb.
In fact, in the Greek Orthodox church, there a traditional game that is played on Easter, in which the players crack eggs against each other’s foreheads  and proclaim “Christ is Risen.” Fortunately, we’re not going to do that here this morning.
But we are familiar with many other Easter traditions that are centered around the image of the egg. Many of us grew up with the traditions of dying Easter eggs a few days before Easters and then on Easter morning those colored eggs would hidden all around the house and it was our job to find those hidden eggs.
However, over the past few years, I noticed a trend at least with my own children. What I noticed is that the real egg is diminishing in popularity. No matter how beautifully colored the real egg might be, no matter many stickers or glitter or decorations there might be, what most kids really want is one of these (pull plastic egg from pocket).
The plastic egg! Most kids want one of these, because they know that when they crack this egg open, inside they will find candy inside, or a small toy, or perhaps even money! They know that when they open this plastic egg, there will be something enticing inside.
Yet, isn’t it interesting that in a very subtle way, we have replaced the real thing with a cheap plastic imitation. We have replaced that which is uniquely a symbol of life with something that is manufactured by the millions in some distant factory. We have replaced that which has the potential to bring forth new life with a piece of plastic that is empty and void. In fact, the plastic egg doesn’t produce anything. We only get something out of this plastic egg if we first put something inside. It is intrinsically empty and void.
In some interesting ways, this shift from the real egg to the plastic egg parallels the ways in which we have traded in the abundant life of resurrection for a cheap imitation offered to us by the culture around us.
Think about this for a moment. People are longing for life. People are longing for truth. People are longing for meaning, and purpose, and passion in their lives. And yet, much of what we are offered by our culture is simply a cheap imitation an imitation that we ultimately discover is empty and void.
Take, for example, reality TV. Now, ironically, much of reality TV is about as disconnected from reality as you can get. Consequently, what is communicated is not reality, but an artificial image, an imitation of reality. These various imitations of reality convey a specific message. The message that is communicated is that the quality of our lives is determined by the way we look, the clothes that we wear, the kind of car that we drive. We are given the message that the value of our lives is determined by how productive we are, how talente we are, or how much money we have in the bank.
In other words, reality TV gives us a defined image of what life is supposed to be. And this image is reinforced by the 24 hour news cycle, advertising, and even social media. And when we fall short of this image, we often succumb to patterns of addiction that only bring about further brokenness and alienation in our lives. And we discover deep within ourselves that we settle for a cheap imitation of life that is empty and void.
Ultimately, we have to ask ourselves the question, “Why do we settle for the imitation?” Ultimately, we have to ask ourselves the question, “Why do we settle for that which is empty and void?” Ultimately, we have to face the same question that the angels asked the women at the tomb, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” 
When the women arrived at the tomb on that first Easter morning, they came fully expecting to find the corpse of Jesus. They came fully expecting to use the spices that they had brought to anoint the body of Jesus. They came to the tomb fully expecting to encounter death itself.
What they discovered was not death, but life.
They discovered not despair, but hope.
They discovered not weakness, but power.   
And the life they discovered was not a cheap imitation. It was not empty or void. The life they discovered was abundant life, resurrection life. The life they discovered was real life. And so the angel says to the women. “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here. He is risen!
Yet you and I spend a lot of time and energy and money looking for life where there is no life. We spend a lot of time and energy and money chasing after the imitation that is ultimately found to empty and void.
But this morning we have come to encounter a new reality, a new creation, a new and abundant life. Just as the women on that first Easter morning left the empty tomb transformed, and renewed, and set that same way the power of the resurrection is present here this morning to transfrom us, renew us, and set us free. The power of the resurrection is present here this morning to bring new life.
And so this morning…We gather to celebrate that Jesus is alive! We gather to celebrate that the grave has been conquered! We gather to celebrate the gift of life that truly is life! But in the midst of that celebration, we must be willing to let go of that which is not life. We must be willing to let go of the imitation of life that is empty and void, in order to receive the gift of abundant life offered to us through the resurrection of Jesus. Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

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