The following is the text from my sermon for Easter Sunday. Of course, this is only the text and I didn’t follow it exactly, but I was fairly close. If you want to hear it, you’ll have to wait. I have to put about 10 sermons on our church website and this is one of them. Hope you find it encouraging…

It’s not normal. It doesn’t happen everyday. It doesn’t happen every century even. It’s slightly outrageous really…

Jesus was a strange man. He didn’t always make much sense. Sure, Israel was waiting for The One who would come and deliver them. They remembered the promises of their forefathers that the Messiah, or the anointed one, would come and rescue them. But Jesus was a little different than they expected. He wasn’t a normal King. In fact, he was quite bizarre. He befriended the losers and challenged the righteous. He sat down with thieves for dinner and spoke grace to the prostitutes.

His disciples, the ones he had called to follow him had to be a tad confused too. And they were, you could see it in their reactions and fumbling around as they tried to follow their leader. How do you make sense of a man who says “come, all of you who are weary and tired and I will give you rest” then later says, “You must deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.” Or, how do you reconcile the statement “I have come to give life abundantly” with “if you want to save your life you must lose it.”

It shouldn’t be a surprise then that when his death was not so normal. Who chooses to die? Who chooses torture, over being released. All he had to do was speak up. Pilate gave him the chance. But he didn’t take it. He knew what was coming. After all, he predicted it right? Yet he chose to walk the path to the cross and endure it. The harsh, painful, indescribable cross.

This guy was the Messiah? The one the disciples were supposed to follow? This guy was the Messiah, the one who was supposed to deliver Israel and bring peace?

Then comes Sunday. You thought you were confused before? After honoring the Sabbath, the women head to the tomb to care for the body…

“On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!”

What in the world? This is not what was supposed to happen? This is not what they were expecting. Seriously? He is not here? He has risen? Think about this one for a second. This is not normal. This makes no sense whatsoever. People don’t just rise from the dead. We shouldn’t be surprised then at the disciples reaction,

“When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.”

Nonsense. Now there is a better word for it. How about a few others: absurd, baloney, bananas, bull, craziness, foolishness, gibberish, hogwash, ludicrousness, madness, rubbish, silliness, stupidity. Yeah, that sounds a little bit more like it. Jesus rose from the dead? Nonsense.

Think about it for a second. The resurrection makes no sense. But it’s true. Jesus appears to his disciples. He’s was really there. It’s true. They saw his wounds. For centuries, historic Christianity has affirmed it. Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Listen to those words again. Jesus-Christ-Rose-From-The-Dead.

Perhaps, for too long those six words have meant too little. Perhaps, its possible for you to say those six words without even thinking much about it. My son asked me the other day why Jesus had to die. I gave him some amazing theological answer. The next thing he said was, “Let’s play cars.” His answer is not surprising. He’s three after all.

But what about us. We’re not three. Yet somehow, we hear the words “Jesus Christ Rose from the Dead” and then they don’t really sink in. It doesn’t get past the first layer of skin. We sit here on Easter Morning and we say “Jesus Christ Rose from the Dead.” And we’re saying, “I wonder what’s for lunch.” Or, “What do you think is a better show, “24” or “Lost.” Think about it friends. Stop for a moment. Look at these words.

Jesus. Christ. Rose. From. The. Dead.

Let them sink in.

Even if for some reason you doubt its truth or even if you are sure its not true, pretend they are true for a minute.

Jesus. Christ. Rose. From. The. Dead.

There are words, thoughts and phrases floating around your head right now. Shout them out. Share them. Real quick. What are you thinking?

Okay, you might say, “But Todd, this is the world of the Bible. This is not our world.” This stuff does not happen any more. My life has little wonder. My life is filled with routine, boredom, numbness, stress and distraction. My life is about working and paying bills and working some more so I can pay some more bills. My life is about endless piles of laundry and screaming children just won’t shut up. My life is about mountains of paper work, boring lonely cubicles and some my boss making me come in on Saturday to process TPS Reports.

Our world is so very good at gently helping us forget the amazing, awe-inspiring Messiah that we follow. Instead of eyes of staring in wide eyed wonder at our messiah, king and Lord. We sleepily stare forward with mouth-open numbness.

Our world is very good at gently helping us turn the power and mystery of the resurrection into a manageable and neatly packaged doctrine that does little for our daily lives.

But this is not what the resurrection is, is it? Is it a manageable doctrine that we can neatly package and use for our own ends? Or is it something more? Of course, I think it is something more or I wouldn’t be asking you this question…

Perhaps you’ve heard this before, but if you are like me and you find yourself too often nonchalantly viewing the resurrection, I can’t imagine it would hurt to hear it again. Listen to what the Apostle Paul says in the letter to the church in Rome,

“Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.”

Then, in the first letter to the Corinthian Church Paul writes,

For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a human being. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

Alive. Hmm, that doesn’t sound like the life I described earlier. You know that life that is filled with drab cubicles, piles of laundry, traffic jams and TPS reports….

Of course, I fully realize that all of our lives don’t feel that dead. Not all of our lives feel complacent. Not all of our life feels boring and distracting. There are moments in life where we are filled with awe and wonder.

For me, I walk into a Cathedral and I feel a great sense of awe. Or, I sit and look at my child as he sleeps. For some, it might be the out doors, a hiking trip that leads to an amazing view of a valley. One of the most life changing moments of my childhood was underneath the starry sky at camp one night.

So yeah, you are right. Not all of life is boring. Not all of life is complacent. But here is my question, where is God in those other times? Is He only there when we’re on top of a mountain overlooking a beautiful valley? Is He only there when we are sitting in the a room on a quiet night staring at the wonder of this little person that we call our child? Is he only there when we are in this place of “worship” and we “feel his presence.”

Is not this God (you know the God who conquered death, rose from the dead and somehow mysteriously, but really does give us life here and now and for the life to come) …is not this God also the God of the mundane? Is he not also the God of the laundry pile and the God of the screaming child and the God of the drab cubicle and the God of the TPS reports?

In the First letter to the Corinthian church Paul again writes the following after an entire chapter where he stresses the absolute importance of the resurrection,

“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear friends, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor is not in vain.”

Now, before you think too much about this passage, know that Paul was not writing this to a bunch of full-time pastors. He wasn’t writing this to be read at the Annual National Pastor’s Conference of Corinth. This wasn’t written to the group of students at the local seminary. He was writing this to a rag tag group of people who had jobs, had trades, had families. He was writing this to people with “normal lives.” Fisherman, give yourself fully to the work of the Lord. Mother, give yourself fully to the work of the Lord. Blacksmith, give yourself fully to the work of the Lord. Might he say to you something similar, whatever your job is.

When we are talking about the “normal” parts of our daily lives and routine. Is there not a fine line between giving ourselves fully to the work of the Lord and giving ourselves fully to the work of, well…something else?

We live in a world where, except for the newspaper, there is no great war in our faces everyday. We live in a world where most of us can be fairly sure there will be food on the table for dinner. We live in a world where our lives are not threatened on a daily basis. We live in a world where, while it’s not necessarily cool to be a Christian, its not going to get you killed, probably. Honestly, we live in a world that kindly and gently allows us to not give ourselves fully to the work of the Lord (and we will barely feel the results or even realize it). Without even realizing it, we no longer daily live staring in wide-eyed wonder at the risen Christ who has given us life. (Except of course, for on the special occasions on top of the mountain).

Again, I want to argue that God is not only a God of the mountaintop, God is also the God of the “plains.” Take a look at the times that Jesus broke into people’s worlds in the Bible. The woman at The Well was fetching water. He calls the disciples while they are at work (fishing). He cries for justice at the temple store. He walks on water as the disciples were crossing the lake. He inaugurates the communion over a meal. He rides into Jerusalem on a donkey. He appears to two disciples after his death while they are on their commute. You get the idea. He challenged people’s lives and changed their lives as they were going about with their daily lives.

I want to argue that, if we want to be able to give ourselves fully to the work of the Lord in a world that discourages wonder and encourages distraction, we need to be careful and attentive to continually remind ourselves that God is here, present and active. We need to be continually reminded of our story, continually reminded that we are his, that we are alive, that we are, in some strange way, active members of God’s work in this world.

But how do we do that? I think most of us want to do this well. I think most of us have great intentions. I think most of us, when we are on those mountain tops think to ourselves that this time it’s going to be different. But it just doesn’t happen. It just doesn’t work. Distraction comes. Life happens. Life, in fact, gets in the way.

So here is the point, there has to be a way for us to fight against the numbness and complacency of our culture. And like I said, despite our best intentions most of us have really, really struggled with this.

Without getting too complicated, I think there are a few ways (among many others) that Christians have done this throughout the history of the church. These things serve as a compass. Not so much by giving us the exact instructions on what we should do. But, when we become distracted and they help reorient us and remind us what this journey is all about and where we are going. These three ways are: Scripture/Prayer. Sabbath. Community. Thankfulness.

We were talking through this issue in my small group last week and the question of “why do we read scripture” came up. Why do we do it? I image most of us have gotten past the “because God said so” answers of the past. I also think, as David shared a few weeks ago, that we need to get past the idea that scripture will somehow work like magic. I mean, if we just read it in the morning, the rest of our day will be so much better as if its this happy pill you can take in the morning. Why do we read scripture? We read it because doing so reorients us back into our story. Doing so helps us see fresh the work that God is doing in us and in the world and allows us to enter into that story. It not only shares with us our past, but gives us hope for the future. It calls us forward to real life.

Next comes the topic of Sabbath. This may seem like a strange one to most of us. We’re not really “Sabbath” people. In fact, as I was thinking this out I almost avoided this issue because it seemed to say “this is the holy day and the rest of the days are the not so holy days.” But, that is not the meaning of Sabbath. Sabbath is meant to remind us that God is working and active in then normal. It’s a chance to stop. Sit. Listen, and be reminded of the Story we are a part of. Eugene Peterson writes,

“The capacity to see God working in our workplace, which he is most certainly doing, and to respond in astonished wonder, requires some detachment from the workplace. How do we cultivate that detachment? Keep the Sabbath… Sabbath is not primarily about us or how it benefits us. It is about God and how God forms us. It is not, in the first place, about what we do or do not do…Sabbath does, however, mean stopping and being quiet long enough to see, open-eyed with wonder, resurrection wonder.”

Finally we come to community. For me, this is perhaps the most powerful re-orienting practice that I find both the hardest and most neglected. Think about the last time you sat in a sermon, sat and read your bible or just felt God’s call on your life. And despite this call, you did nothing about it. How helpful would it be to have a friend you sat down with on a regular basis who knew the things that God was calling you to. Someone who you can say, “This is what I am thinking, don’t let me off the hook.” Someone who, when your sitting there ignoring the call of God in your life and gently and lovingly call you out of our distraction and numbness. The disciples had this. It has always been vital to the life of Christians.


So, as we gather on easter Sunday, I pray that you hear again the freshly the words that we proclaim. “Jesus has risen from the dead.” Though, I pray too that you can cultivate compass points in your life where you do not become numb to these amazing and awe inspiring words and you can be gently reminded of the fact that we are first disciples of Jesus Christ, who has made us alive and has called us to be his witnesses and we are second employees and fathers and husbands and children.

Okay, so last night I was sitting here thinking. That’s all you’ve got Todd? That’s all you can offer? That’s kinda boring. Scripture. Sabbath. Community. Thankfulness. Wow man, great, you’ve changed my life forever. I’m a new man. But then I realized that is the problem. We live in a world that, because of our affluence and lack of real needs, we keep on searching for the bigger rush, the bigger “experience.” We look for the “new thing.” But, while those things are good. That’s not how God necessarily works. At least, its not the only way he works.

With Paul let us say together again…

“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear friends, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor is not in vain.”