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Thursday, April 05 2018

   Easter Sunday     

John 18:1-20, I Corinthians 15:1-20

    It’s not often that April Fools' Day and Easter Sunday fall on the same day.  The last time Christians celebrated Easter on April 1st was in 1956, and it won’t happen again in this century until 2029 and 2040, and then not again until 2108 and 2170.  I tell ya, I can’t wait!  What’s amazing is that there is someone somewhere who has taken the time to calculate this!

    How many of you have tried to catch someone already this morning in an April Fools’ prank?  How many of you have fallen victim so far today to an April Fools’ Day prank?  [Turn to someone and say] By the way, did you know that your shoe’s untied?  

    Let me tell you about one famous prank from 1957.  The BBC broadcast a film on TV showing Swiss farmers picking freshly grown spaghetti from spaghetti trees in what they called the Swiss Spaghetti Harvest. The BBC was flooded with requests to purchase a spaghetti plant, forcing them to declare the film a hoax on the news the next day.  If you Google “Swiss Spaghetti Harvest,” you can watch it.  It’s about two and a half minutes long.

    Well, we’re here to celebrate the most important event in all of history – and that event is of course the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  You know that there are some who would say we are fools for believing that. You know that, don’t you?  Some would say we’re fools.

    And apparently – the early Christians were thought to be fools too.  I mean, how could anybody believe what they were saying?  They were making these wild, unbelievable claims that the man known as Jesus of Nazareth – who had been crucified – was now alive.  Risen from the dead!  I mean, come on!  Everybody knows dead people don’t come back to life.  What nonsense!  What fools!

    The Apostle Paul – in what I think is one of the best defenses for the resurrection – Paul in our reading today from I Corinthians chapter 15 takes on those who cannot accept the resurrection of Jesus from the dead because, as they say, dead people don’t come back to life.  Everybody knows dead people don’t come back to life.

    So Paul says, “You are absolutely right.  You’re right!  If there is no resurrection – in other words – if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised, and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been for nothing. We’ve wasted our time.  And everything we told you – what you yourselves believed – is based on a lie – and your faith has been for nothing.  If Christ has not been raised – then we are of all people most to be pitied.  We are fools to believe that Christ is risen, if it is true that dead people don’t come back to life.”

    So – are we fools too?  We’ve believed what the church has taught and proclaimed for 2,000 some years.  Are we fools too?  Has someone played the worst of the worst April Fools’ joke on us?  

    Or is there evidence – is our faith based on actual, historical evidence for the resurrection?  For years now – it seems like I can go back any number of Easters – and find in my Easter sermons where I have presented the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, and at the same time dismantled all of the efforts that attempt to explain away the resurrection of Jesus from the dead as a lie or a hoax.  Many of you have heard those arguments year after year.  For that reason – not wanting to repeat myself one more time – I’ve chose to do something else.  But I want you to know that it is important for me for you to know that the evidence remains overwhelming in favor of a literal, physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

    So rather than repeat in this sermon once again what I’ve been saying year after year about the evidence for the resurrection – I have printed for you on a half sheet of paper the most compelling pieces of evidence for the resurrection.  I did this for everybody – but especially if this is your first Easter here with us – and you’re hearing about the evidence for the first time.  Or maybe you’re not sure of this whole resurrection thing – you’re skeptical – or you just can’t believe that what I am saying is true.  I want you to look it over.  You’ll find it on that yellow slip of paper that has the flower memorials on the other side.  And if after reading that – not now of course – later – but if after reading that you would like to have a discussion – please call me.  I would be happy to have a conversation about this – the most important thing that ever happened – and the whole reason why there is an Easter to start with.
    So – are we fools for believing this stuff?  Is the joke on us?  Or did somebody else get caught in an April Fools’ joke?  Did Jesus have the last laugh?  

    Was Pontius Pilate – the Roman governor – the guy who sentenced Jesus to the cross – and who later washed his hands of the whole episode – was he fooled?  

    Maybe it was the high priests and religious leaders.  After all – they were the ones who wanted Jesus out of the way.  They’re the ones who convinced Pilate that Jesus was a threat and therefore he ought to be crucified.  Were they fooled?

    Or how about the disciples?  Were they the fools?  After all, they had given up everything – their jobs – their homes – their families – for three years to follow him.  And now this.  They all ran away and deserted him.  Were they the fools?  

    How about Peter?  Was Peter the fool?  Peter denied Jesus three times.  “I..I don’t know the man! (Please don’t do to me what it looks like you’re going to do to him!)”  And he’s the guy who swore he would never leave Jesus.  Was Peter the fool?   

    Or Mary Magdalene.  Was she the fool?  What did she expect to find when she went to the tomb early on that first Easter morning?  Yes – at first she was fooled when she thought he was the gardener.  Take a look at that stained glass window behind me!   I often wish there were a second panel with the look of surprise on her face when she turns around and recognizes Jesus.  And maybe even a third panel showing the look on her face as she tells Peter and John.  

    Or how about Thomas.  Remember Thomas?  He doubted the report from the other disciples after Jesus appeared to them very much alive.  Was Thomas the fool?

    Were they all fooled?  How about you and me?  Have we been fooled all these years?  The unbelieving world thinks we’re crazy.  

    No, the biggest April fool is not Pontius Pilate, not the religious leaders, not the disciples, not Peter, not Mary Magdalene, not Thomas.  And not you and me either!

    Let me suggest that the biggest April fool – the real losers – are none other than sin – death – and the devil.  You know, right at the beginning, Satan failed to tempt Jesus to sin.  So – at the end – Satan gave it his last, best shot.  And with the crucifixion – Satan thought he had won.  “There!  We’re done with Jesus!  His time is over.”

    But it wasn’t over.  Death could not hold him. The grave could not contain him.  And now it's Easter morning, and Jesus is risen!      
And thanks to the resurrection – we now know what God can do with dead bodies.  Death does not have the final word.  Jesus has the final word.  And that final word is resurrection.  Therefore – Because Jesus lives, we too shall live.  And that means our friends – our loved ones – who have passed on before us – they too shall live – with God in Christ forever and ever.

    And if nothing else – that should give us hope.  Hope to carry on now – as fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.  And hope to face the future with the certainty that someday – though we die – we too shall live.
    And that’s why today we proclaim that Jesus is alive!  And we have this moment to reaffirm once again that we too believe that Jesus is indeed risen from the dead.  We’d be fools to say otherwise.  

    With that said, I invite you to join with me in prayer.  “Lord Jesus, many people might not think it's the smartest thing in the world to follow you. In fact, some might think we’re crazy, and that you yourself were something of a lunatic. But we have just enough foolish faith to believe that you pulled it off, that you conquered death and brought life and light to this darkened world.  So we recommit our lives to you – to be your fools, to live for you, and to seek support in that company of fools we call the church.  In your holy name we pray.  Amen”

    “Christ is risen!”  [“He is risen indeed!”]
    “Christ is risen!”  [“He is risen indeed!”]
    “Christ is risen!”  [“He is risen indeed!”]
                                Hallelujah!  Amen    


Posted by: AT 12:27 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email

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Zion Lutheran Church
9535 Clarence Center Road

PO Box 235
Clarence Center, NY 14032
Phone: 716-741-2656

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