Sunday, March 27, 2016
Can you go back home?
Preached on 3/27/16 – Easter Sunday Scripture Lessons: Isaiah 25: 6-9 and John 20: 1-18, NT pages 114-115 Sermon Title: Can you go back home? Have you ever felt like you just aren’t ready to go back home yet? Sometimes you want to go home, you need to go home, but other times you just can’t go back home. You just aren’t ready to go back home yet. I can think about instances in the Bible when going back home was hard, like with the Prodigal Son, who for shame didn’t want to go back home, but that’s not what I’m thinking about. What I’m thinking about is when you can’t go back home because something has changed, like when Abraham is called by God to the Promised Land and so he can’t go back to the land of Ur because he’s had a vision of a land flowing with milk and honey, a land where his descendants will outnumber the stars in the sky, and so he can’t go back home. I’m thinking about how there are times when your team loses, and they lose by a lot, and you can’t get out of that stadium quick enough, but then there are other times when your team wins, and it’s a big win, and then you leave the stadium but aren’t ready to go back home so you take the celebration out to the streets. Have you ever felt like that? Like you just aren’t ready to go back home yet? Like when she said, “I do.” Maybe you couldn’t wait to go home because you wanted to tell your mother or maybe you weren’t ready to go back home yet because you wanted to climb to the top of a mountain and howl at the moon. Or the first time you got the keys to the car. Do you remember that? I had a friend growing up named Dave Elliot and he was so proud of his used truck that he could now legally drive that he drove and drove going nowhere in particular on the day he got his license so that he had burned an entire tank of fuel just because he wasn’t ready to go back home yet. Think about it – sometimes you can’t wait to get home so you can hide under the blankets or eat a pint of ice cream in your P.J.’s – that’s one thing. But other times, you just aren’t ready to go back home yet because something has happened. Something has changed. Did you notice that when the two disciples – Simon Peter and the other disciple who reached the tomb first, when they bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself, we read in verse 10 that “Then the disciples returned to their homes.” It says that after seeing the empty tomb that the other disciple who reached the tomb first “saw and believed” but what could he have believed if he saw that empty tomb and just went right back home? To go right back home – is that the response the Risen Lord desires? Now, part of me can’t wait to get back home because Sara made a ham, but here’s the thing that we all need to remember – this is Easter – and something is different. We can’t just go back home, but some of us do. This past week we had noontime community worship services. Pastor Dennis Lawson of St. Paul AME preached from this pulpit on Tuesday and he talked about giving up something for Lent, and he asked if our Lenten discipline of giving up something for the 40 days of Lent is truly worshipful if after going without chocolate or cream or sugar for 40 days we pick it right back up on Easter morning. Is it right to return to normal today? To just go back home? Something has happened – and we don’t understand it completely if we can hear this good news and then get right back to life as usual. The Gospel of John explains it this way in verse 9: “For as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes. But Mary – Mary stood weeping outside the tomb... “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” said a voice from a man she assumed was a gardener, but then Jesus said to her, “Mary!” And “Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord.” Now which is it for you? Will you leave here today to go out into the world, knowing in your heart that you have seen the Lord who has risen from the grave to conquer sin and death, or will you just go on back home? Will you leave here today to get back in that car, pull out into the road and resume the stressful commute that makes your shoulders ache with tension – or will you be mindful of the gift of this day? Will you go back home, rush to get the food ready, eat as fast as you can with the mother-in-law that you resent and the cousins who chew with their mouths open – or, will you look around at the dinner table and see the brothers and sisters who the Lord looked upon and called beloved? Will you stay in the shadow of anger and resentment or will you rise to praise the Lord? Will you keep holding on to frustration or will you open your eyes to blessings? Will you look into the tomb and see death and destruction, hopelessness and heartache and long to crawl back under the covers – or will you join the choirs of angels who sing “He is risen! He is Risen indeed!”? There he was right before Mary. At first she thought he was the gardener; did you notice that? Some Bible scholars believe that this case of mistaken identity is to remind us of a garden from long ago – the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve were given the opportunity to live in joyful obedience but chose instead to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God punished them as they fell and exiled them from the Garden, but the author of the Gospel of John bids us to return there because we don’t need to leave this tomb to go back to punishment, exile, or even life as usual. Instead, the Lord calls us from this place to someplace altogether new, altogether beautiful, altogether different. Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” and because of him and what he has done, you will go there too. Hear again these words from the prophet Isaiah: “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. And he will destroy on his mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever. Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth.” You see, you can’t just return home, because Christ has made you a citizen of the kingdom of Heaven. You can’t return to sin, because Christ has freed you by his grace. You can’t return to the past, because Christ has opened the door to the future. Instead of just going back home, let us be glad and rejoice in our salvation. Amen.