April 8, 2012: EASTER DAY – 10:55 am

Posted on : Apr 5th, 2012 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

When it comes to talking about spiritual experiences, I find people are terribly hesitant to share their own experiences, either out of fear that they won’t be believed or that they will be thought to be crazy.  Often when I am talking with someone about their spiritual experience, they’ll begin by saying, “You’re never going to believe this, but…”  I used to take such statements personally.  Why wouldn’t I believe you?  I’m your pastor!  If anyone is going to believe you, it should be your pastor!  But along this journey through life I learned this isn’t about me.  This is about the way we view spirituality in “the post-modern era.”  We’ve become so rationally minded in our world view that there is little space (or tolerance) for the spiritual.  That’s too bad because there are many experiences in our lives that are mystical or spiritual. They’re not rational in the sense of predictable or provable, but they are very real and very meaningful.

It’s also just plain hard to explain something that you personally experienced to someone who wasn’t there.  Have you ever tried to explain one of the most moving experiences of your life to someone who wasn’t there to experience it with you?  It never works.  Words can’t begin to explain the beauty, the majesty, the experience of love, the joy of the spirit – and oftentimes the more words you use the less meaningful they become.

That is exactly the situation we find ourselves in as we try to “explain” the resurrection.  How do you explain receiving the gift of “new life?”  How do you explain the experience you have in “meeting” or “connecting with the presence of someone who has died.”  How do you explain what you experienced in a “near death” experience?  People have these experiences all the time.  It’s not the experience that is in doubt.  It’s how to “rationally” explain them that is so difficult.

In the Bible we have a lot of explanations of the many and different experiences people have with “the Risen Christ” after Jesus’ death.  It’s not the experiences that are in doubt; it’s how to tell others about them.

It should not be surprising that there is no single, authentic, story of the Resurrection.  Each of the four gospels:  Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, tells the story differently; and then the Disciples and Apostles add their experiences in the epistles (Letters to the early Church).  The reason none of the stories is the same is because each person is trying to describe their own experience or encounter with the Risen Christ.  It’s an experience beyond words, beyond explanation, but it is nonetheless a real experience.

One of my favorite examples of this is the encounter Mary Magdalene has at the Tomb in John’s gospel.  We’re told Mary stood weeping (crying her eyes out) outside the tomb and as she looked in, she saw two angels sitting where the body of Jesus was supposed to be.  And the angels said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”  She then senses someone standing by her and he says to her the same thing: “Woman, why are you weeping?  Whom do you seek?”  At first Mary assumes this “someone” to be the gardener, but then Jesus calls her by her name and she immediately “knows” it is Jesus.

How many times in our lives have we thought we have reached the dead-end?  How many times have we thought “This is it. There’s no way up or out.”?  But then, by the grace of God, the impossible becomes possible.  Resurrection is about God raising us up into new life, even when we are dead sure that couldn’t happen.  It is that spiritual experience in our lives “When the Impossible is Possible.”

Easter Blessings, Dan

~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

John 20: 1-18

The risen Christ appears to Mary Magdalene.

Now, on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.  So she ran, and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “they have taken the body of Jesus out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”  Peter then came out with the other disciple, and they went toward the tomb.  They both ran, but the other disciple outran Peter, reached the tomb first, and stooping to look in, saw the linen cloths lying there, but did not go in.  Then Simon Peter came, following after, and went into the tomb; Peter saw the linen cloths lying there, and the napkin, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself.  Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and saw and believed; for as yet they did not know the scripture, that Jesus must rise from the dead. Then the disciples went back to their homes.

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet.  They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”  She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Jesus, and I do not know where they have laid him.”  Saying this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know it was Jesus.  Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?”  Supposing Jesus to be the gardener, she answered, “Sir, if you have carried Jesus away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”  Jesus said to her, “Mary.”  She turned and responded in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).  Jesus said to her, “Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to God; but go to my friends and say to them, I am ascending to God my Father and Mother and your Father and Mother, my God and your God.”  Mary Magdalene went and said to the disciples, “I have seen the Sovereign!” and she told them that Jesus had said these things to her.

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