Easter Sunrise – 2016 LSB #’s 457, 478, 465
Text – Luke 24:8
And they remembered His words.
The Empty Tomb: A Place of Remembering
It’s easy to get overwhelmed at Easter with the dark room, the lone Christ candle teasing the darkness, the lilies, the praise, the celebration of Christ’s victory. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, but when you listen to Luke tell the Easter story, he focuses your attention on one thing – Remembering!
Think of it. The 1st Easter was a whirl of activity & emotion. Women come to the tomb with spices & find that it’s open. The body of Jesus is gone. They come across men who dress like lightning, & when these men talk, they know what these women are doing: “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”
They know what has happened: “He is not here, but has risen!” & they even know what has been done & said in their past: “Remember how He told you, while He was still with you in Galilee that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified & on the 3rd day rise.” (Luke 24:5–6 ESV)
These men know these women even though the women have never seen them before. In the midst of all of this commotion, what does Luke focus our attention upon? When he puts it all together, Luke calls our attention to one simple act: “They remembered His words.” (v. 8) That’s what Luke wants us to know this morning as you & I celebrate Easter.
On that 1st Easter morning, when Jesus rose from the dead, in the midst of the wonder, the fear & the worship, His people simply & faithfully did one single thing: “They remembered His words.” God on Easter morning sent angels to the tomb to help His people remember, & this morning through His Word Yahweh helps us also to remember! God has made the empty tomb a place of remembering for us this morning in order that we might truly rejoice in what Christ does for us on Easter. But, what kind of remembering is this? You see, memory does many things. Have you noticed how a person, friend or foe, can come into your life & with a few simple words change everything?
They say, “I remember when you used to. . .” or “Do you remember when. . .” It’s in that remembering that things begin to change. That’s the power of memory, but how do things change? This morning, I’d like to consider two ways in which remembering changes our lives.
On the one hand, remembering can take us away from our present & lead us to a world that is past. We commonly encounter this at funerals. Members of the family gather by the casket & someone walks up & simply begins to remember. “I remember when people would come over, he’d love to tell his fishing stories.”
“Yeah,” says another, “and he never talked about the one that got away. Nope. He always caught the big ones.” “Got bigger each year.” “In the end, they got so big you couldn’t take pictures.” And soon, you see these people taken away from the present to another place, a place where shoulders relax, weary faces brighten, & you can hear laughter. . . even at a funeral.
Such is the power of remembering. It can take you away from the present. On the other hand, there’s another kind of remembering that does not take you away but brings you more fully into the present. You see this type of remembering all the time with grandparents. The day they hold their 1st grandchild; you bring your daughter & place her in your mother’s arms.
At first, grandma is nervous. It’s been so long since she held a baby. She holds the child awkwardly. Afraid she will hurt the little one. But after a moment, she remembers what this was like. She cradles the child’s head, rocks her, whispers silly things to her. She leans down & kisses her forehead & then looks up & begins to talk about what it was like when you were young. This time, memory is not taking your mother away from the present. It’s bringing her more fully into it. Through memory, she’s able to delight in the joy of holding her granddaughter in her arms.
Two types of remembering, then: one that takes you away from the present, & one that brings you more fully into it. The question for you this morning is what kind of remembering happens at Easter? What happens when God comes among us today &, through His Word, helps us remember? Does He take us away from our present or bring us more fully into it?
For these women, remembering the words of their Lord brings them more fully into the present. With the words of Jesus, they begin to understand the strange new world that surrounds them, with empty graves & men who dress like lightning. These things begin to make sense: Jesus had talked about a heavenly kingdom.
The world is God’s, & God’s kingdom has come. What about the pain of the crucifixion? Was this all a mistake? No, Jesus had told them: His betrayal & death were part of God’s will. God so desired to save all people that He gave His only Son to bear the punishment for their sin.
And now, punishment is gone. Divine vengeance is over, & the open grave gives a glimpse of heavenly joy. Angels talk to humans. Humans speak to one another, sharing a message that saves every man, woman & child. “God loves you. In love, He gave His life for you. Now He lives & reigns – eternally your God.”
Suddenly, life for these women has become worth living, & they run from the tomb to live fully in His grace. Remembering, you see, can bring us more fully into the present. But our world will tell you differently. Our culture shakes its head at us Christians. When we remember Easter, our culture says we’ve entered the realm of the imagination & lost touch with the present.
“A Savior rising from the dead? A world filled with sin & the devil & angels & demons?
That’s a world with puritan morality & strange views of creation, with answers to questions people no longer ask,” they say. “Too much of this & you will not be able to function in this enlightened & modern world. You won’t be able to enjoy the good life. You won’t get ahead in business if you try that ‘love your neighbor’ kind of stuff.” That is the world’s reaction.
But this morning, we’ve learned that God’s ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts. When He causes us to remember the resurrection, He does not take us away from this world & lock us up in some religious belief system that has no relevance to the present. No, God sets us free to experience life already today in His kingdom with far deeper meaning.
Today, the Church remembers the death & resurrection of Jesus because they make life in this world richer & full of meaning. Sins in our past make us fearful about going on. Anger at the boss has fractured your working relationship. Gossip about co-workers has made friends your enemies. Ending an unwanted pregnancy began a life of horrible regret.
A broken marriage, a broken childhood, a broken relationship with God – these things come to mind, & we’re uncertain how to move on. It seems as if our past has destroyed our future, but God comes today & speaks to us: “Remember My Son, Jesus. He gave His life for you. Your sins are forgiven. He has risen & reigns & is now the author of life.
Through Him, you are a child of My kingdom. In Christ, you are a member of My family. With Him, your life is now part of My work in history.” When God makes His love known in Jesus, we are freed from our sins & live in God’s kingdom. Christ has risen. He has defeated death. He has overcome sin. He is the author of life – now & forever.
And when the God who is love is the author of your life, every day deepens in purpose & meaning. Some people think that in order to have a vibrant Christianity, the Church needs to make God relevant. For them, Yahweh is some distant power, a deity who is far away, buried in ancient-sounding names in ancient-looking manuscripts. They claim the Church needs to bring this God into the 21st century, so He’s on the correct side of history. For them, the Church should identify the needs of the people & then look through the Scriptures to see what they can find about God that fits those needs.
If the world has people who need more self-esteem, the Church should look through the Bible & find a Jesus who can give us principles for personal development. If people need a prayer life, the church should produce a Jesus with a five-step method for prayer. Jesus becomes an ever-changing figure, the latest god to hit the market, offering people what they want.
Somehow that makes God relevant. I wonder about such people, because I think they’ve misunderstood the ways of our heavenly Father. Yahweh does not need to make Himself relevant. He’s God, after all. He rules everything. What God does, however, is make people relevant to Him. God’s gracious work makes your life relevant to Him & to His kingdom.
We see God doing that in the Gospel reading for today. Luke wrote, “Returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven & to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene & Joanna & Mary the mother of James & the other women with them who told these things to the apostles.” (vv. 9–11)
Did you notice that Luke stops in the middle of the story to give us the names of these women? He stops to give us their names because these women have suddenly become something. They have become witnesses to the working of God. They went to the tomb as mourners. They come back as witnesses. They have names & life experience & a story to tell.
When God graciously intervenes & brings people into His kingdom, He makes their lives relevant. People are relevant not because of anything in them or anything done by them but simply because they belong to God & they live in God’s world & God has a strange way of pouring out all that He has for the sake of reaching out to His world. Daily business is more than business: it is a vocation. That difficult conversation you have with your daughter is an occasion for graceful speech. The fragile moments of our lives are filled with a meaning beyond our making & a love beyond our strength.
Our lives are in the hands of God, & there, in His hands, we become part of the way God is at work in the world. His kingdom has an impact on the world through us. For you & me, as for these women, life becomes more meaningful because Christ has risen & sends us forth to live in His world by His grace.
Today, Luke proclaims the resurrection & asks us to remember. Remember the death & resurrection of Jesus Christ. In Him, you are forgiven. By Him, you have new life. With Him, your living is part of His unfolding kingdom. Yes, it is easy to get overwhelmed at Easter. That’s because this love of God . . . is overwhelming. Amen.
Now let the heavens be joyful, let earth its song begin, let all the world keep triumph & all that is therein. Let all things, seen & unseen, their notes of gladness blend; for Christ the Lord has risen, our joy that has no end! All praise to God the Father, all praise to God the Son, all praise to God the Spirit, eternal Three in One! Let all the ransomed number fall down before the throne & honor, power & glory ascribe to God alone! Amen.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet