"The Festival of Festivals!"

Date Sunday April 21, 2019
Service The Resurrection of Our Lord
Text Luke 24:1-12
Author
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Sermon 4-21-19

Pastor Jean M. Hansen

 

     Welcome to the Festival of the Resurrection of Jesus, when we proclaim, “He is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!” You may not have heard the word “festival” used in reference to Easter. Yet, this is THE festival, the most important one of five major ones in the church (depending on who’s counting).

     I’ll admit, I have that world “festival” on the brain because two weeks ago I visited San Antonio, Texas for a marriage affirmation service. The whole city was buzzing with preparation for “Festival”, which is April 18-28. I asked a number of people what it is all about; the responses pretty much narrowed down to “a massive party.” But, finally, a shop keeper was able to tell me the history. It all began in the late 1800’s as a parade to honor the memory of the heroes of the Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto (Flowers). It’s waxed and waned over the years, but is now 10 days of parades, concerts and events – celebrations galore – that brings millions of tourism dollars to the city. Also, most of the events are fund raisers for community services, so at least it’s a party with a purpose. It’s FESTIVAL!

     By the way, I asked if anything about the festival changes when it falls, as is the case this year, during Holy Week and the festival of festivals, Easter. The interesting response was that people dislike it when that occurs; Good Friday limits people’s alcohol consumption. And, I imagine, the obligation of attending worship on Saturday and Sunday gets in the way of the festival fun.

     I guess that’s not surprising, but wouldn’t it be great if the Festival of Easter was such a joyous celebration that it would be the other festival that was a bother? I suppose it’s not because, to be frank, Easter can be perplexing.

     The women who went to the tomb, at least five of them in the Gospel of Luke account, were perplexed when they came to prepare Jesus’ body for its final entombment and found the stone rolled away and the body missing. Their perplexity transformed to terror when two angels suddenly appeared and asked a perplexing question, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” And then answered it with, “He is not here, here is risen!”

     The men who were hiding behind locked doors were perplexed when the women returned and reported an empty tomb, heavenly messengers and a risen Lord. It seemed to be foolishness to them, an idle tale, and they did not believe a word of it.

     Peter was perplexed when he went the check out the situation and found a tomb that was empty except for the linen burial cloths, lying there as if they had been tossed aside.

     And, even though this story is not new news to many of us, we also are perplexed, especially if we have come face to face with the final reality of the death of a loved one, that Jesus would be laid in a tomb DEAD and walk out of it ALIVE three days later. There’s no doubt that it’s perplexing.

     BUT, for Mary Magdalene, who preached that fantastic first Easter sermon recorded in the Gospel of John, “I have seen the Lord!”, the first person reality of it overrode all that is perplexing. That can be true for us too.

     We can announce, “I have seen the Lord!” in our perplexing world by offering love in the midst of hate and identifying the decency and goodness that exists in spite of all that is vile and vicious.

     Commentator Karoline Lewis writes about the dead places in our world that fuel corruption, deception, racism, sexism, suspicion, rejection, judgement and fear. But, she says, God continues to roll the stones away, and “when the stale air of decay meets God’s breath that creates new life, and the possibility of hope and peace, death truly IS NO MORE.” (1)

     Or, as L. Cuttino Alexander notes, Easter reminds us of what happens when our everyday lives meet head-on with the mystery of God. The rules bend, and our expectations are shattered…. We are then reminded that there is reason for hope and something bigger than ourselves. (2)

     Indeed, by being resurrection people, embodying that which is life-giving, grace-filled and merciful, people may see us and say, “Wait a minute. Did I just see the Lord?”

     Hold that question in your minds while I tell you about a recent visit to a long-term care facility (a nursing home). Such visits are a regular part of my ministry, and my expectations of them are, well, reasonable. (Some would say limited.) This past week I made a visit to a memory care unit where many residents are non-verbal, confused and even unresponsive. Some would view it as a setting without hope.

     As I visited our church’s members in a common area, I was introduced to other residents by our member’s spouse, which shows that they were viewed as people, not annoyances. In that brief slice of my day, I was blessed with these words: “I love you.” “I like you.” “You look so nice.” “I want to meet you.” And, then, there was Kathleen, who appeared not to be in the present reality. I was surprised when she asked my name. And then, after time had passed, she said, “Would you bless me?”

     The connection she had made took my breath away. Of course, I blessed her. As I did, as I looked around at the people there, I could have said, “Wait a minute. Did I just see the Lord?”

     So, welcome to the Festival of the Resurrection of Jesus, which is a daily reality. But today’s the big celebration, the Festivals of Festivals, so I brought a bit of the San Antonio Festival back with me.

     They are called Cascarones and are ubiquitous in that city. They are used to celebrate, a symbol of merriment, that at one particular dance (ball) are used to select dance partners by breaking the egg over the head of the person with whom one wishes to dance.

     But they also are a faith symbol; eggs represent new life and Jesus coming forth from the tomb, just as a chick opens the shell and comes out alive. These eggs are filled with confetti, which represents the many graces of God, and wen they are broken over someone’s head, they are showered with God’s blessings.

     SO…let’s do what we can to make this Easter the Festivals of Festivals and to remind ourselves that we are resurrection people every day of the year.

     (Invite three children and three adults to come forward; they do not have to be related, but can be. Each adult gets an egg. Reminder … you are not breaking it ON the child’s head, just over it. Now…as we proclaim the good news, just as we did at the beginning of the service, shower blessings upon this child!)

     He is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! AMEN

 

  1. “True Resurrection” by Karoline Lewis, March 20, 2016, Craft of Preaching: Dear Working Preacher, www.workingpreacher.org
  2.   Sundays and Seasons Preaching, Year C 2019, 2018 Augsburg Fortress, Cuttino Alexander, Pg. 141