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Based on the Scripture reading:
Matthew 28:1-10

2005 March 27
Easter Sunday
Rev. Kenneth F. Baily, Senior Pastor

Elevate your Expectations

Yesterday morning, Holy Saturday, I was still a little foggy-headed from three hours in worship services on Good Friday. So I had a cup of coffee and I thought that I would clear my brain by doing a little research on the web to get ready for Easter. These days I buy all of my airline tickets on the web, many of my books, and of course a lot of my correspondence takes place there too.

How many of you have seen our church website on your computer? When we have new member gatherings, we find that over half of us visit there before they visit here.

Anyway, I thought I'd do a little Google search on Jesus and Easter to see what I could find. Did you know that there are 50 million sites with Jesus? There are a mere 29 million for Easter, but I guess that figures. But here are my favorite discoveries:

Guess who owns www.Easter.com? Yes, that's right, Hallmark. Type in Easter, and you're taken to a greeting card. Kind of old fashioned, but there you go. If you type in www.resurrection.com you know what you get? Nothing. It's an empty site. Either someone is very clever or very stupid, but he is not there, at resurrection.com. You could preach that.

If you type in Jesus dot com you go to the website of the Metropolitan Community Church, the largest denomination founded and committed to Christian ministry for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons in 22 countries. Since Jesus was always talking about both social exiles and new things, I suspect He'd like that.

Jesus dot org is a little more predictable. It is a Bible study, and a bland one, which is fine.

Now here is something that made me feel a little better about the world that normally so worries me. You know that the sites at dot gov are all part of the American Government, right? Well, at the moment Jesus dot gov, Christ dot gov and Easter dot gov are all unused sites. No information or disinformation. Score one for the separation of Church and state, but stay tuned.

You may think that I had too much free time yesterday, but I was acting on an ancient Christian passion. I just wanted to see whatever I could about Jesus. I wanted to see how is He doing, Back to tophow is He described, what is His condition? Like the women long ago.

Each of the Gospels describes why women went to the tomb on Easter a little bit differently. Mark and Luke say that they were going to treat Jesus' body with oils and spices, to honor his burial. But Matthew says they came to the tomb just to see it. They just wanted to see the sepulcher, I guess to make it real. Which I understand fully. It is very human to visit a shrine, a memorial, a cemetery, ground zero. We want to see for ourselves to help with the grief.

The trouble is, in our world we have so many tombs. We visit them constantly. Think back on just the last week alone. Buried by war. Buried without a feeding tube. Buried by interest rates. Disease in Africa. Divorce among friends. Depression in our family. Our world is filled with tombs.

When I read the Easter story in the Gospel, sometimes I wonder which character I most reflect. The disciples afraid at home? The women bold and at hand? The angel? The Savior? The truth is that the ones most prevalent in our society are the soldiers guarding the grave. Too many of us are standing by, protecting the tombs of culture. But they are not the Gospel's favorite characters.

The Gospel of Matthew, written for a Jewish audience, favors Jesus but loves God. The Gospel of Matthew says, come to the tomb, face the reality, see the poor, the lost, the overtaxed, the broken, and watch what God does. Take your biggest problem, your greatest fear, your overwhelming oppression and God will overcome it in the end. Go to where Jesus was imprisoned, and see that He is free.

Matthew does this with a flourish that we could easily overlook in a circumspect search. He says if we try to lock Jesus away, the earth will quake, the sky will explode, the messengers of God will appear like lightning and tear away the rocks of our well-built fortress faith. The very cosmos will change, says Matthew, to let Jesus' love go free. Christ and His egalitarian, inclusive justice cannot be stifled by Jerusalem, by Rome, by Athens, by Washington D.C. Jesus' resurrection, which is way more than the well-loved wonders of a glorious springtime, is the last act in religious drama and the essential call in political practice. Matthew says, God won't let despair get the last word, and God won't let superpower dot gov dominate. God is bigger than any of that.

Back to topIsaiah says it this way: God is Holy, Holy, Holy, and the earth is full of God's glory.

Revelation says it this way: God's hands are so huge that they can hold seven stars, and Her face is bigger than the sun, the largest light in our land.

Veggie Tales says it this way: God is bigger than the bogey man.

Matthew's message at Easter is, God is huge, and just what we need. God gets the last word and just in time.

When did we lower our expectations of God? When did our faith get so small? When did we start dumbing down the divine?

Maybe it's those funny preachers lying on the ground in Florida crying over court decisions and never shedding a tear over columns of soldiers lost in oil wars that make us doubt.

Maybe it's those pollsters passing as theologians suggesting that how we conceive is more important than how we care for the living poor that gave us pause.

Maybe it's all the closeted columnists suggesting that who we love and marry is more destructive than the theft of wealth from the world's poor and middle classes that turned our stomachs.

But Easter does not proclaim a dumb God nor posit a down one. Our God is risen and ready to draw our eyes away from the tombs that we guard to the promise we inherit. Our God is yearning to shake us and illuminate us away from any gathering of grave sites we might construct. Our God able to shift the plates upon which we build our doubt or our faith, and God grants us the firmest foundation of resurrection.

But we're still human. So were those first women. So they left their revelation of resurrection with mixed emotions. The Gospel says they left the tomb and the angel in fear and joy. Which might be good enough for us and honest to God. For there is still plenty in this world that frightens me. Yet I rejoice that fear does not get the last word. Fear is met by joy that is not just dependent upon what I protect but what God provides: Resurrection. Resurrection which is even more than the 50 million words about Jesus and nothing more than one empty site: He has risen. God has raised Him. And from Massachusetts to Florida to Africa and Iraq, God can raise us. Elevate your expectations.  Amen.

Copyright 2005 Kenneth F. Baily.  Used by permission.

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