April 16, 2017

Easter

Easter Day - Year A

A Sermon Preached by The Rev Ian M Delinger

 

Alleluia!! the Lord is risen!!
He is risen indeed!! Alleluia!!

 

It is Easter, the actual most holy day of the year! We gather to celebrate The Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, whose rising from the dead has conquered death and sin so that we might have eternal life. Amazing! There isn’t much more that I can say about this! It is self-evident!

 

But I can’t get away with not preaching two weeks in a row, so I had better stand here and say something.

 

Is the power of The Resurrection really self-evident? We never fully get it...it’s too deep to comprehend. Science can’t explain it, and rightly so.

 

Ian Hutchinson, Nuclear Engineer and Physicist at MIT, delivered an Easter Day message for the prestigious Veritas Forum last year. He said this about the role of science in The Resurrection:

 

Science cannot and does not disprove The Resurrection. Natural science describes the normal reproducible working of the world of nature … “the normal course of events.” Miracles like The Resurrection are inherently abnormal. It does not take modern science to tell us that humans don’t rise from the dead. ... [T]he fact that The Resurrection was impossible in the normal course of events was as obvious in the first century as it is for us. Indeed that is why it was seen as a great demonstration of God’s power. … Science functions by reproducible experiments and observations. Miracles are, by definition, abnormal and non-reproducible, so they cannot be proved by science’s methods.

 

The Resurrection is, by definition, non-reproducible. No wonder no one else has managed to rise from the dead! That Jesus – He was always pretty clever! Even magic is reproducible, the Houdinis and David Blaines of this world can teach others their trade. Jesus did not impart His particular talent of Resurrection to His Disciples…and I must add…neither did He impart His skill for turning water into wine, which many a person jokes about me being able to do!

 

Professor Hutchinson concludes:

 

Today’s widespread materialist view that events contrary to the laws of science just can’t happen is a metaphysical doctrine, not a scientific fact. What’s more, the doctrine that the laws of nature are “inviolable” is not necessary for science to function. Science offers natural explanations of natural events. It has no power or need to assert that only natural events happen.

 

The Resurrection was
not natural.

 

That’s why the *witnesses* to The Resurrection were the foundation of the Jesus Movement. Witnesses are “ones who bear testimony” or “establish the identity”.

 

Matt J. Rosano, Professor of Psychology, Southeastern Louisiana University, wrote for the Huffington Post in 2011, asking the question: “Does Resurrection Contradict Science?” He drew extensively from a book by Pope Benedict XVI, “Jesus of Nazareth Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem to the Resurrection”, from which these first sentences come:

 

“Anyone approaching The Resurrection accounts in the belief that he knows what rising from the dead means will inevitably misunderstand those accounts and will then dismiss them as meaningless” (p. 243).

 

Here, Pope Benedict draws on humanity’s desire to have the natural world revolve around humanity rather than around God…that we obviously know more than god.

 

“Now it must be acknowledged that if in Jesus’ Resurrection we were dealing simply with the miracle of a resuscitated corpse, it would ultimately be of no concern to us” (p. 243).

 

What Pope Benedict may or may not have known was that 2011 was about the height of the Zombie craze in films, television, video games and social groups. Resuscitated corpses were a concern for some, but eventually they die a second death.

 

“Jesus had not returned to a normal human life in this world like Lazarus and the others whom Jesus raised from the dead. He has entered upon a different life, a new life — he has entered the vast breadth of God himself...” (p. 244).

 

So, for Pope Benedict, like Professor Hutchinson, The Resurrection was something new, something radically new, something non-repeatable and not natural. Indeed, The Resurrection was DIVINE! And just like when Jesus says that He didn’t come to abolish, but rather, He came to fulfill, Pope Benedict affirms:

 

“What already exists is not called into question. Rather we are told that there is a further dimension, beyond what was previously known. Does that contradict science? Can there really only ever be what there has always been? Can there not be something unexpected, something unimaginable, something new? If there really is a God, is he not able to create a new dimension of human existence, a new dimension of reality altogether?” (p. 246-7)

 

The Resurrection was
radically new.

 

The Incarnation was also radically new. Both more immense than science. Why? Because God transcends the natural world – just like love. The Presiding Bishop continually tells people: If it’s not about love, it’s not about God!! So, the Resurrection *had* to be about love. And that demonstration of love *had* to be bigger than the natural world, or it wouldn’t have the impact and significance that it did and does. Since we are *still* talking about the Resurrection all these years later, we must be feeling some of that love.

 

I reckon that you “get” the Resurrection if you have felt true love in your life. That true love can be from anyone: A parent, a sibling, a spouse, a friend...whoever has given you unconditional love. There are those of us who start with love and get to the Resurrection...that may have happened automatically, as a child, a teenager or an adult. Or it may have been an “ah ha” moment.

 

I reckon that some start with the Resurrection...y’know...as an event…pondering how it does or does not fit into the laws of nature...and then they discover the love. That’s not to say that they don’t know love. It’s more like literary analysis: The text is first taken at its face value, then through critical analysis, the true meaning of the text is eventually discovered. And what a lovely discovery: God’s immeasurable love!!

 

Today, each Sunday, each day,
we have the opportunity to
know the love of God.

 

While The Incarnation and The Resurrection are sometimes too complicated to grasp because they are beyond the grasp of the natural world, Jesus Christ has given us the Sacraments to know Him in an earthly, material way: Baptism and Holy Communion are the outward and visible signs of the inward and spiritual grace that comes from the immeasurable love of God.

 

So, The Resurrection is not natural. If The Resurrection were a normal, everyday occurrence, there would be no reason to gather every week to celebrate it. Today and every day, in our Baptism and in our Eucharist, in our earthly life together, we are called, challenged, and delighted to:

 

“Set our minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for we have died, and our life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life is revealed, then we also will be revealed with him in glory.”

 

Alleluia!! The Lord is risen!!
He is risen indeed!! Alleluia!!

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