Easter Sunday 2013 – Sunrise Service
March 31, 2013
Luke 24: 1-12
Reverend Jan Wiley
Note: A sermon, which is presented orally, does not always follow the rules for written language – at least for me!
After the completion of Disney World, someone remarked, “Isn’t it too bad that Walt Disney didn’t live to see this!” Mike Vance, creative director of Disney Studios replied, “He did see it — that’s why it’s here.”
(Ministry Advantage, July/August 1994, 3).
Everything that we hold or use, everything that we wear or drive or sit in or listen to – in fact, everything that is a creation of human ingenuity started out as a dream. Someone dreamed it before it became reality. Only when someone moves an idea from a dream to reality can the rest of us truly experience it.
Think of the things that men and women invented. Men dreamed up typewriters, stainless steel, toothpaste, the jet engine, and air conditioning.
Women invented some things we might expect like the dishwasher and the ironing board. But they created all kinds of other things – like the circular saw, the fire escape, the street-sweeper, the windshield wiper and the refrigerator.
Did you know that kids invented popsicles, ear muffs and the trampoline?
One of the youngest inventors was just two. Her parents had sectioned off an area in their house so she couldn’t open the cabinet doors. The toddler used suction cups and an extension and opened the cabinets anyway. Her parents thought it was a great idea – to use for people in wheelchairs with limited movement – so the kid had a patent by age four.
People have so much ingenuity, so many dreams and yet we still live life ruled far too often by our skepticism, our fears, sometimes even by our nightmares. Our first reaction when something is unexpected or odd is to be wary, to question.
So the first witnesses that Easter morning almost missed God’s amazing dream that became reality. They missed that initial moment of recognizing the resurrection of Jesus.
You heard the story. The women came early in the morning. They were grief-stricken. They came to anoint the body for burial. They were still living out the nightmare of Good Friday and the cross. So when they arrived at the tomb and found the stone rolled away and didn’t find a body, the scripture says they were ‘perplexed.’ Then when two men appeared in dazzling clothes, like angels, the women were described as ‘terrified.’ The two men reminded them that Jesus weeks earlier had said that he would be handed over to sinners, be crucified, and on the third day rise again.
It was then that it seems the women remembered. It was when the women connected the dream of Jesus rising to the reality before them that it became Easter. So then the women went and told all this to the apostles, his closest companions. And how did the disciples respond? They said the women were telling an “idle tale,” a nice way of saying they were lying. Peter, wondering, went to the tomb to see for himself and then he went home ‘amazed.’
It is surprising that for all the Alleluias we sing on Easter Sunday, Luke’s gospel has no alleluia moment described in the resurrection story. No celebration. It is as if the disciples have to live into the truth of Easter, each in their own way, in their own time.
And I like that. I like that there is not one formula for how to come to belief. Some come to belief fairly quickly as it seems the women did. Some, like Peter, go to see for themselves, not quite trusting the words of others. It takes reading a bit more of Luke’s story that we see that on Easter afternoon Jesus appeared on the road to Emmaus with two of the disciples, and then appeared again in the evening to the other disciples. And in the Gospel of John, the disciple Thomas didn’t believe until he could touch the very body of Jesus.
Because for all the dreams that human beings might have, the resurrection was not one that even Jesus’ followers expected. It was God’s dream.
For God’s love was so deep and so wide and so embracing, that no matter the mistakes that we had made, the hurts that we had caused, the nightmares that we had allowed to enter into the world, even the cross upon which we nailed his Son, God still had a dream of love, of forgiveness, of redemption.
It was because God dreamed the redemption of the world that Easter is here. Because the Good Friday nightmare was transformed into the reality of the Easter, God has unlocked dreams for how we can live with one another. The resurrection means that we can:
dream of plenty in the midst of poverty
dream of compassion in the coolness of apathy
dream of justice in the turmoil of inequity
dream of wholeness in the chaos of disconnectedness
dream of love in the madness of hate.
The dream of Easter isn’t all about happiness. Though we celebrate the new life of Easter with children with the Easter bunny and candy-filled eggs, Easter is not about a guarantee of a sweet, simple, chocolate-filled life.
But it is about a joy that is deep and a love that is strong and that calls us to new life, not only for ourselves, but for others.
And this dream of Easter, if truly lived out, well it can unlock hearts and upset people. Hasn’t it been fascinating to watch Pope Francis? Within days, hours even, of being elected Pope, he is confounding some of the hierarchy of the church. Because Pope Francis has a dream. He wants to rediscover and unlock the compassion and love of God and share it directly with the people.
So he rides in an open car. He is not living in the regal apartment used by previous Popes. And on Holy Thursday, what we call Maundy Thursday, Pope Francis did not celebrate communion and foot-washing in the ornate setting of St. John Lateran’s Basilica, as was the tradition. Instead, he went to a juvenile detention facility and washed the feet of 12 young inmates, including two girls, one an Italian Catholic and one a Serbian Muslim.
One of the articles I read about it had a subtitle which read: “There he goes, upsetting the apple cart again.” It’s because Pope Francis has a dream. Because Easter, new life in Christ, is about unlocking the things that separate us and claiming the power of God’s love and grace. It is likely that Pope Francis will not make the most dramatic changes dreamed of by many liberal Catholics such as the ordination of women. But then again, who knows? What might be unlocked and set free in ministry of Pope Francis?
What needs to be unlocked in you? What needs to be set free? Because Easter is the key. Easter is the power to claim new life, to try something different, to experiment, not just with trying to be happy, but with going for that deeper joy. It is claiming what will make you whole. And to work on behalf of the wholeness of others.
Remember all those inventions I mentioned. They couldn’t be created until someone dreamed them first. Are you ready to let the power of Easter unlock your dream and live into it?
Your dream may be an achievement, it may be a behavior, it may be an attitude. The power of God’s Easter love is the key to unlock that dream. To live into the power of new life. Of resurrection. Of hope.
So here is the key. Each one of you will receive a key with a tag attached. And on that key tag, I want you to write a word or phrase to describe your dream or what you need God to unlock this Easter. And you are going to take this key with you this morning as a visible reminder of your dream. You can add it to your keychain, you can hang it on a hook at home, you can bury it in your sock drawer. You can write your dream straight out or write it in code if you don’t want someone else to see it! It’s between you and God.
Take this moment. What will you let God unlock in you this Easter? How will you live into new life? It’s time to dream.