Sunday, April 24, 2011

Christ Is Risen, seek the things above!

Very early in the morning, some texts say before sunrise, on the first day of the week, certain women who had been followers of Jesus went to mourn at his tomb, and much to their surprise, the stone covering the cave was rolled away and the body of their beloved teacher was not there! Even as the news spread among the small band of disciples, skepticism and unbelief gripped the group. Some could not understand what had happened, others thought the women were being a little exaggerated with their claims and stories! A few insisted they would never believe, one even saying he had to physically put his fingers in the hands and side that had been pierced at the crucifixion! Yet to these very fist group of surprised and unbelieving disciples something amazing was happening that would change their lives and the world forever.

Out of an empty tomb, that of a preacher, rabble rouser in an obscure province of the Roman empire, came out Christ alive!!!! His disciples the first skeptics, were forever changed and the story of his resurrection has trough the ages come to our very ears….

Jesus made twelve appearances after his resurrection:

1. His first appearance was to Mary Magdalene, on that early Sunday morning. (Mark 16:9; John 20:10-18).
2. Jesus appeared to the women returning from the tomb. (Matthew 28:9-10).
3. Jesus appeared to two disciples on the road to Emmaus. (Luke 24:13-32; Mark 16:12-13).
4. He appeared to Peter in Jerusalem. (Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:5).
5. He appeared to his disciples and other followers,
6. A week later, Jesus again appeared to his disciples behind locked doors, and this time Thomas was present. (John 20:24-29).
7. Jesus appeared to seven of his disciples on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. (John 21:1-24).
8. Jesus was seen by 500 believers at one time. (1 Corinthians 15:6).
9. He appeared to James. (1 Corinthians 15:7).
10. He appeared to eleven disciples on a mountain in Galilee. (Matt. 28:18-20).
11. He walked with his disciples along the road to Bethany, on the Mount of Olives, (Luke 24:50-53).
12. He was seen by Paul on the road to Damascus. (Acts 9:3-6; 1 Corinthians 15:8).

Jesus, crucified, dead , now risen! What magnificent news, all is changed! Our reading from the book of Acts has a beautiful example of the message of good news preached by the earliest of Jesus disciples to a hostile world that had seen Christ crucified- Jesus anointed by God, Jesus healing the oppressed, Jesus betrayed and unjustly crucified, Jesus, risen by God, Jesus forgiver of sins!

Does it end there for us? In an intellectual or even a faith filled assent to the story we hear? Easter oh, that is nice! Or could it be that we too have been impacted by what occurred in Jerusalem long ago-? Have we been touched by the resurrection? have we encountered the Christ who lives? have we experienced the presence of the Spirit, Lord and giver of life?

Paul challenges us, reminding us that our very lives are touched by the resurrection of Christ, that we have somehow been made alive, we are risen with Christ, our lives, the very meaning of our lives is hidden with Christ, Christ has become our very source of life- and we can live, fully alive by the power f the resurrection!

If you be risen with Christ – seek the things above, look for things above!

We are people of the resurrection, with our feet firmly on planted on earth- even as our heart always seeks the heavenly! One of my early teachers in the faith frecuently cautioned us about people too heavenly minded to do any earthly good. I have found that not to always be so, my experience differs from that. It is with our heart, mind and eyes fixed on the things above that we truly live a fully human life and make the greatest difference here on earth.

* As we move about the earthly kingdoms, with the mix of goodness and grave flaws-we look above and call for God’s kingdom to come, on earth as it is in heaven!

* As rulers rise and fall- our eyes fixed on heaven and our heart and lips pray; Maranatha come Lord Jesus come! The Spirit and the bride say come!

* As we sojourn through life’s trials, challenges and difficulties- look above even as Abraham, Sarah, heroes of faith for the heavenly city whose architect is God.

As we come to religious feast- set our feet at a building used for religious purposes, we look for things above! We are reminded in the letter to the Hebrews, that as we draw near to God we come to mount Zion, we join myriads of angels that have come together to worship God, to the spirits of men made righteous! We are encouraged to; lift up your hearts- we "lift them up to the Lord" and with angels archangels company of heaven who forever sing, we join the heavenly chorus!

We look above, find love where there is hatred, comfort when sorrow strikes, faith when doubts come, strength when all strength seems to fail , provision and peace and goodness and mercy and hope and ….peace and life to be lived abundantly!

Look above to Jesus seated at the right hand of God- We see the example of the saints who faced adversity with their feet firmly on the ground but with their eyes on the risen Christ! Steven, surrounded by his enemies, pelted with stones, looked above and saw Christ seated at the right hand of God- Because of the power of the resurrection and his seeking heavenly things he was able to utter a prayer for his very tormentors; father forgive them! John prisoner in the Isle of Patmos looked beyond the walls of his cave, beyond earthly limitations and saw the angels and heavenly creatures worshiping around the throne of God!

Today we will be witnesses of baptism- a sacrament, visible signs of an invisible grace! We see mere water , but as we look above, we perceive forgiveness, grace new life! We come to the table, some see mere bread and wine, but as we look above by the power of the resurrection we see beyond, we see forgiveness, we see grace, we experience God, life is renewed, we see Christ!

Alleluia Christ is risen!