Sunday, April 21, 2019

Good News!

Acts 10: 34-43; Luke 24:1-12

Sally was working inside the house while her husband Sam mowed the lawn. A neighbor noticed that the mower had stopped. She then realized that Sam was on the ground and went to check on him, and discovered he was having a heart attack. She ran into her own house and called 911. Then she ran across the street and talked to Sally.

The neighbor also called their pastor and Sally and Sam’s children. Soon, the kitchen was full of people, neighbors, family, close friends. While waiting for news from the hospital, the pastor gathered everyone together and prayed. And she made pot after pot of coffee.

Finally, the call came from the hospital. Sam had died in the ambulance, and all efforts to revive him were unsuccessful. More prayers were offered, as the family and friends struggled to comprehend this new reality.

A few days later, the pastor led the funeral service. She talked about how Sam loved his family, loved wearing suspenders, and loved a good joke. Sam loved doing yard work not just at home, but also at church. She then talked about how death is not the last word for Sam, or for any of us.

The folks gathered in that kitchen waiting for news, the folks gathered in the church hoping for good news, the folks gathered at the cemetery were all doing the same thing the women were doing 2000 years ago. They were waiting, grieving, and at the same time hoping and praying for some good news.

The pastor brought to that assembly the same message the men in dazzling clothes gave to the women. “He is not here. He is risen.” We have hope, we believe, that because Jesus died and was raised, we too will see life beyond death, beyond the grave. We don’t always believe it, though.

Even the women who were very close to Jesus, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and other women, even they didn’t believe at first. The text says, “They were perplexed.” They were puzzled, they didn’t get it. They didn’t remember all of Jesus words. Several times it is recorded that he told them, “I will suffer and die and be raised on the third day.” It didn’t seem possible, so it was easy to forget that last part.

The men in dazzling clothes had to remind them. “Think back to when you were still in Galilee. Remember how he said he would be arrested and tortured and then raised? Now, does it make sense? He has indeed been raised from the dead.”  

And then they did remember and hurried back to tell the men. And, how did the men react? They thought what the women said was nonsense! An idle tale! But Peter hoped enough to run to the tomb and check it out.

Peter saw the empty linen cloths and was amazed. He realized that the women told the truth. Soon, Peter, who puts his foot in his mouth as often as I do, was soon preaching sermons on the meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

[image: Peter and Cornelius]

The sermon Peter gave in today’s reading from Acts highlights holds three messages. First, let’s pay attention to where Peter is. He is at the home of Cornelius, a Roman Centurion. We don’t know just when this happens, but it is likely within the first few years after Jesus’ death and resurrection.

In this sermon, Peter says: Jesus welcomes all, heals with the Spirit’s power, and forgives sins. This is the message we need to hear today and every day. This is the message to which we say, Alleluia!

Often, church people don’t laugh out loud. Sometimes they chuckle. Sometimes, if they are from a Scandinavian background, they ‘smile as loud as they can’. Now, to be fair, some of you have laughed out loud when I have been here before. So, you are a little less Scandinavian than other places I have been.

But, today, Easter Sunday, is not a day for smiling as loud as you can. Today is a day for shouting Alleluia as joyously as you can.

Today is a day for shouting alleluia as loudly as Tiger Woods shouted after his victory at the Masters’ Golf Tournament last Sunday.

Today is a day to remember that, at first, people didn’t believe what the women said. But the women told the story anyway, probably again and again, until Peter ran to see for himself.

Today is a day to remember we are commanded by Jesus to tell others the good news of Jesus’ resurrection and what it means for us.

Today is a day to give this encouraging news to people who don’t believe the good news is for them, or for people who struggle to find faith, or for people who are grieving, as Sally was.

The good news is that death is not God’s last word, Jesus is! Alleluia!