David A. Davis
April 21, 2019
Jump to audio
“Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who doesn’t know the things that have taken place there in these days?” One more question for Jesus. “Are you the only one in Jerusalem who doesn’t know what’s happened there the last few days? That’s what the two asked Jesus. They didn’t know it was Jesus. They couldn’t see that that it was Jesus. They were walking and talking, talking and walking. Talking about what had happened; how Jesus had been handed over, mocked, insulted, spat upon, flogged and killed. A man they didn’t, they couldn’t recognize, what to know what they were talking about. “They stood still, looking sad” They had a gloomy look on their face. They had a stunned, gloomy, downcast, sad look on their face. And they said to the man, “Seriously?” They said to Jesus, “Really?” They said to the Risen Jesus, “You have no idea?” “How can you not know what they did to him?” How could this stranger not know anything about what Luke names in the 23rd chapter as “this spectacle”? Yes, they were looking sad.
And it is still Easter Day! It’s the Day of Resurrection! This walk, talk, be sad moment. It’s still the first Easter Day. That day, the first day of the week, when the women came to the tomb with the spices. When they found the stone rolled away from the tomb and no body inside. Two men in dazzling clothes scare the bejeebers out of them and ask the women why they were looking for the living among the dead. “He is not here but has risen”. It was still that day. Mary Magdalen, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women went to tell all the rest. But the rest didn’t believe the women. They thought it was an idle tale. They thought they were making it up. Men immediately assuming women were making it up. Hmm. Wow. That happened on Easter too. It was still that day when the two men stood still, stunned, gloomy, and sad. Easter Day and they hadn’t heard.
Seven or eight years ago, after the last service that Easter Day, Noel found, up there in the loft, a trumpet. One of our guest trumpet players left the building to go about his day and left one of the trumpets sitting up there. Noel told me that he actually played a few different horns, like 23 different horns during the service. So the hands were full as he hit the road. There just happened to be one trumpet left behind. That year not only was the echo of the trumpet still in the room the rest of the day, the trumpet was still in the room. The trumpet blast and the trumpet were here, all here, still here when all of us went about the rest of Easter Day. The rest of Easter Day comes long after the trumpet blast. Those two followers of Jesus must have missed the trumpet blast that day. They hadn’t heard.
In Luke’s account of the first Easter day, not just the morning but the whole day, joy doesn’t come until the end of the day. Literally, the word “joy” doesn’t show up until Jesus himself stood among them. Luke writes, “While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering”, and the now Risen Jesus says to them, “Hey, do you have anything to eat around here?”. It is Matthew that describes the women leaving the empty tomb quickly “with fear and great joy.” There’s a whole lot of descriptors in Luke: the women were terrified they remembered, the men did not believe, Peter was amazed, the two on the road were sad, their eyes were opened, their hearts burned within. A lot going on. But joy, joy is a bit delayed in Luke. A lot going on in the hearts of the followers of Jesus; all day long. A lot going on after the trumpet blast.
During our worship service on Good Friday, the anthems, the solos, the cello, the trumpet, were all provided by our youth in high school and middle school. I found it all quite stunning, the anthem selections, the solo voices, the instruments. I was sitting in the front pew as we choose not to sit up here for Good Friday worship. What moved me most was the congregational singing of “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded”. Not surprisingly, on Good Friday the congregation is smaller. The choirs were singing from the loft. So the strongest voices, the strongest sound, what was carrying the congregation along in song was this powerful, beautiful, strong youthful tone and quality. From where I sat, those voices from the loft came as one and carried over the congregation as all of us were singing. It was like our Good Friday faith had a future!
What language shall I borrow to thank thee, dearest friend,
for this thy dying sorrow, thy pity without end?
O make me thine forever; and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never out live my love to thee.
Lord, let me never, never out live my love to thee; even when the joy of Easter is hard to find. Lord, let our Good Friday faith, our Easter morning faith, our Resurrection faith always have a future. Lord, let that Easter morning faith last all day. All day long, Lord. All day long.
When the Cathedral of Notre Dame burned on Monday so many tried to make it all the more upsetting, all the more moving because it was the Monday of Holy Week. I’m not sure the world we live in pays much attention to Holy Week. I’m pretty sure there is fire and destruction and devastation somewhere, someplace every Monday of Holy Week. Every Monday for that matter. And certainly every Easter Monday. Somewhere, someplace, someone whose life is turned upside down, whose world is rocked, whose knee deep in ashes and there is no trumpet blast to be heard. Someone whose resurrection faith is crying out for a future. Monday of Holy Week, Monday of Easter. Everyday for goodness sake; when the joy of Easter for the followers of Jesus, is hard to find.
It would have been hard to miss all the pictures of a church in ashes this week. One of them I saw was hands down, more compelling, more meaningful to me, more lasting than all the rest: all the ashes, the charred timbers, the remains of a house of worship. It was picture of what was the sanctuary of the Greater Union Baptist Church in Opelousas, Louisiana. It was one of three historic African American churches in Louisiana’s St. Landry’s parish that were burned to the ground this month. Each congregation more than 100 years old. Burned not by an electrical problem but by an evil act of hatred, bigotry, racism, white supremacy, and terror. An act that is unfortunately an all too familiar refrain in our nation’s grievous history on race. After all the attention on a church fire this week, the congregation of Greater Baptist Church gathered for a picture in front of the charred remains. A picture the photo journalist titled “We’re Still Here.”
The thirty members of the congregation are standing shoulder to shoulder. People of all ages. Looking straight into the camera. In the middle, right in front, there are two young children. One them, a young girl, is holding a white bouquet of flowers. The writer who includes the photo in her article describes the congregation standing together as a body, unbroken, undamaged, revealing a force of love in a time marred by hate. She points to the children and blooming flowers in the photo as symbol of growth and the promise of tomorrow. “In spite of [all the] inattention” she writes, “the thirty parishioners of Greater Union Baptist Church are living out a story we can easily recognize in [the] photo. They are here, and–resolute and unbroken as a church family–they will remain here.” In other words, theirs is a resurrection faith with a future.
I don’t know about you, but as a follower of Jesus, I crave an Easter joy that lasts all day. An Easter acclamation that comes long after the trumpet blasts. A resurrection affirmation that still happens way down the road. Like those 30 members of Greater Union Baptist church, I know I can’t, we can’t live into, we can’t experience, we can’t proclaim that kind of Easter joy all alone. You can’t do that by yourself. That when the Easter brass have gone home, and the flowers are all whisked away, and there’s nothing left to do here but the sweeping, that sometime later today, sometime down the road, even on one of those Mondays from hell, there’s someone near you whose going to say, whose going to shout, whose going to whisper, “Christ is Risen!”
It can’t always come with a trumpet blast. It shouldn’t always come as an all dressed up, victorious, triumphant, fanfare. The resurrection promise of God is so much more than a shout. Sometimes it’s the wordless vigil of companionship with a friend, now widow, you’ve known for 45 years. The dinner every couple of weeks you squeeze into your hectic life to make sure you spend with your college roommate whose marriage crumbled away. The startling words of faith and comfort that come to your ears from the one who is so sick there in the hospital when you visit. Living the resurrection promise without words. Christ is Risen. Sometimes the joy comes later in the day. That kind of forgiveness that always surprise the human condition and defies human understanding. The sort of unearthly peace that just sort of oozes out of the pores of one who has every reason to be anxious. The expression of hopefulness voiced when most others thing that all the hope is gone. Proclaiming Easter in just a whisper. Christ is Risen.
Sometimes the joy has to come further on down the road. Visiting the sick. Comforting the brokenhearted. Serving the poor. Feeding the hungry. Teaching the children. Visiting the prisoner. Embracing the stranger. Giving a party for the lost who have been found. Caring for the one standing still and looking sad. Carrying the Easter word to an oblivious world with persistence Christ is Risen.
When our kids were just babes in arms, a long, long time ago, someone gave our family the gift of a blown kiss “saved for later”. I don’t remember if it came from my wife Cathy’s family or mine. Whether it was from a grandparent or an aunt or a saint of the church. I just can’t remember and I’m pretty sure we didn’t just make it up ourselves. But you can picture it, imagine it. A child in arms, a toddler, just learning to wave and high five and blow kisses and catch blown kisses. This is how it goes, [blow the kiss- catch the kiss], “save it for later”.
That’s how I feel about all this Easter morning joy. You have to save some for later. For later in the day, for further down the road. Easter joy. God’s life-saving, death stomping, salvation bringing promise. Save it for later. A resurrection faith that has a future. So that on the roughest of days, the longest of nights, the loneliest of roads, the farthest of countries, the deepest of valleys, you will then, right then and always know the kiss of Christ’s love for you. For Christ is Risen.
It is my Easter prayer for each of you.
That the Lord will let you never, never out live your love for God.
That the Lord will let you never, never forget God’s love for you.
And when you go to bed tonight, it will still be Easter. So with your head on the pillow, when there is no one else to talk to but God, just say it in the tiniest of whispers, “Christ is Risen”.
Save it for later.