Why are you looking for the living among the dead?


Easter Sunday 2006

I am going to do what most preachers would not do on this day. I want to give you every reason not to believe what we have just heard and what we are celebrating this year.

We have scientific reasons. How many of you have ever seen a dead person come back to life? How many of you have ever seen a dead person come back to life and be resurrected, never to die again? And this gospel of Mark, it seems to be an ambiguous account anyway. One commentator says this, ‘The resurrection, as Mark presents it, is not formally verifiable according to scientific rules of evidence. Mark offers no evidence that the young man’s message is true, except that he reiterates precisely what Jesus said would happen.’ No scientific evidence. No good empirical evidence. But that is not the best reason not to believe.

What about the different ways the four evangelists describe Easter morning? Are there one angels or two? How many women were there? Which women actually were there? What were there names? The gospel writers don’t agree, how can we? But that is still not the best reason not to believe.

Do you want to know what the best reason not to believe this story? If we do believe it, then we are forced to deal with this prophet from Nazareth named Jesus on his own terms, not ours. If Christ is risen, he has something to say about how we live our lives. If Christ is risen, then indeed he is the Son of God!

There are reasons not to believe. But usually those reasons have to do with our desire not to be inconvenienced. And my friends, a risen Christ is inconvenient to all of us!!

Mark actually wrote his gospel with people like us in mind. The disciples don’t get it and the women are afraid to even tell anyone about the empty tomb that they have seen. I believe that Mark wanted to show us the first Episcopalians! ‘They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.’

Mark offers a challenge and that is the genius of his account. As one writer has said, ‘Mark’s ending shows that the historical, “Was it real?” ignores the more crucial question, “Is it real?” Something other than a pious dropping by the tomb once every Easter and looking in to see that it is empty is required to spark faith.’

The resurrection asks us to do two things. One, to believe the claims of Jesus and two, to proclaim the message. An irony of Mark’s gospel is that throughout Jesus tells those he has healed not to tell anyone about it, and of course they tell everyone. Here at the empty tomb, the angel tells the women to tell, and they go away afraid, silent. The challenge is for us, the disciples here and now to tell it out. To proclaim it on the rooftops.

But there’s one more thing. Mark mentions what the angels said to the women.
Why do you look for the living among the dead?

Perhaps you’re here today because it is what you do on Easter. Perhaps you’re here today because some dragged you. Perhaps you will leave this morning as unaffected by it all as when you sat down.

You have been looking for the living among the dead. You’ve tried the high life or the low life, however you want to put it, and you have found it lacking. Or you’ve got the two.5 kids and the SUV but life just ain’t cutting it. You’ve got cash, or you can’t wait to get some, but it just doesn’t seem to be enough.

You are looking for the living among the dead. You want this thing to be true because sometimes you feel dead inside. Whether you’re hooked on Jack Daniels or Ben and Jerry’s or Ben Franklin’s you’re tired, darn tired, of looking for the living among the dead.

If Christ is risen, than he is more than a carpenter. He is the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, God of God, light of light true God from true God.

He lives, not only to pull you out of the grave clothes of death, but to take you out the grave clothes you’re living in now. The Easter celebration is wonderful, but if he doesn’t breathe life into you, if his life death and resurrection have nothing to do with you and me each and every day, we’re just playing around.

There are reasons not to believe. But usually those reasons have to do with our desire not to be inconvenienced. And my friends, a risen Christ is inconvenient to all of us!!

Why do you look for the living among the dead? Christ is risen. Invite him into your life today. The doors of the Kingdom of Heaven are open for you. Amen.

4 thoughts on “Why are you looking for the living among the dead?

  1. Invite Him into your life today is too vague and airy for most folk, isn’t it? How, exactly, does one do this? Say the sinners prayer? Fall on our knees and repent? This needs an action step! And looking for the living among the dead needs a little hooking up, too. Connect some of these dots in future sermons, Neo. We need a light shining in the darkness with a definite path to get to it.

  2. You’re good at this. It’s called a reverse in selling. Customer: “How much does it cost?” Salesman: “How much do you think it should cost?”

    Let’s take the living among the dead deal. Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life.” is a good starting place. What he meant by that is that all this stuff you surround yourself with leads to despair and failure, not happiness and victory. Look at the piles of ruined, despairing lives of the famous who bought the ruse and went after wealth or fame. So, how do we avoid the facade and see the truth it hides? We create a fellowship of those who know better and who can remind us when we follow the wrong path. Small groups of committed believers should be part of everyone’s church experience, and I think it actually is. Those with strong faith seek and value the company of other Christians. Dictum? At our church, we strive to create fellowship for all members.

    The invitation is to deeper relationship with Christ through deeper knowledge of him. But the knowledge cannot be only passive pew knowledge. It should be more full and interactive.

    We’re doing all this, of course. I just thought of those C&E Christians for whom our message might need expansion into steps to take this year so that they aren’t listening to the same message next year without any change in their life.

    You asked.

  3. to give credit to fatherneo here, it is hard to flesh out those statements because there are so many other ways that “inviting him into our lives” can be defined. It means different things to different christians. does that mean that we cannot have our own way of defining it? no, nor does it mean that we have to be pluralistic and accept every one else’s opinion on the matter. But maybe instead of trying to define it for a congregation that is probably programed to think everything their pastor says is correct, and then try to achieve that goal using a method that really doesn’t work for them, it should be left open to allow people to question how “Christ in our lives” looks for them. Personally, I haven’t seen a large amount of fruit come out of “small group” accountability.

    Maybe it is impossible to define the concept anyways. We don’t know everything. Inviting him into our lives is a mystery of the faith. Instead of trying to define it, maybe we should just embrace the mystery and let God reveal to us what he wants us to know. Not everything has an explanation.

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