Easter 2013

Preached at Phinney Ridge Lutheran Church in Seattle, WA
on March 31, 2013

The Resurrection of Our Lord, Series C

If you’d be interested in going to Mars, then the Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lasdorp is your man. Bas is busy these days planning for a 2023 expedition that his non-profit organization in the Netherlands is organizing for six groups of four people each to make the historic voyage. Any physically and mentally healthy person over 18 can apply, regardless of nationality. A rudimentary knowledge of English is helpful, and applicants must also be willing to dedicate eight years of training to the 2023 mission, beginning in 2016. That’s also the year in which Mars One will begin to send rovers, equipment, and supplies to Mars ahead of its human inhabitants.

The mystery of my early retirement is finally resolved. I’ve always wanted to be an astronaut. I’m going to Mars! Just kidding.

There’s only one problem with this whole enterprise – one, tiny little detail to overcome if you’re considering throwing your hat in the ring as a would-be astronaut. This is a one-way trip into the future.

The prophet Isaiah reports the word of God speaking of such a trip into the future:
For I am about to create new heavens, and a new earth…
The former things shall not be remembered, or come to mind…

It’s hard to imagine leaving everything we know that is familiar behind. Pressing on to a new future, to something entirely different. It’s certainly been done –
Christopher Columbus, Ferdinand Magellan, Lewis and Clark, Rosa Parks, Alan Shepherd. Each of these individuals stepped out in faith and dared to go where no one had ever gone before, and the world has never been the same.

I am about to create new heavens, and a new earth, says the LORD
The former things shall not be remembered, or come to mind…

You can say what you want about the daring achievements of the great explorers, about the activism for justice of Rosa Parks. You can say what you want about the adventures of Lewis and Clark, or Alan Shephard. You can even link up with the Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lasdorp and pack your bags to head out to Mars. But if you’re really interested in exploring the new heavens and the new earth that God has in mind for us, then Jesus is the man for you.

Darker and more mysterious than the far reaches of the Red Planet, more courageous still than a seat on the front of the bus… Even more daring than the possibility of sailing off the edge of the flat earth… Jesus. Jesus Christ explored the strangest, most fascinating territory that the world has ever pondered. Jesus travelled as deep as one can go into our human flesh, into the depths of love for another. He went as deeply as one could ever go into our lives and experiences. He was born in poverty to an unwed mother. His early years were spent as an illegal alien. He lived on the street among people who could not afford medical care. He was bullied. He knew the ache of hunger and thirst, the loneliness of being abandoned by his friends. In the end, he died the death of a common criminal. And he did it all – the whole human journey – in search of the new heaven and the new earth that God had promised. His one-way journey into the future was fueled by nothing less than the passion of God for the Creation, and the determination of God to love us back into discovering the world as our Creator intended it to be: a world in the which nothing short of the love of God and love of neighbor would reign.

There’s only one problem with this whole enterprise – one, tiny little detail to overcome if you’re considering throwing your hat in the ring of following this man named Jesus. This is a one-way trip into the future.

For people who follow the Risen Christ, there is no turning back. When God links us to Jesus forever in the waters of baptism, God is making us one with the poverty and alienation of Jesus. God is linking us to the ache of the world’s hunger and thirst. God is fusing us in the love of Jesus that knows the pain of loneliness, the disappointment of abandonment. God is uniting us with the death of Jesus, as the vessel that will launch us into a future life of no return.

To be the people of God means nothing less than to join with Jesus into a one-way trip into the future. Each day. Every day. Leaving all that weighs us down behind. And trusting… Living… Acting… in our lives and for the lives of others as if there is nothing left to fear, because there is not one thing left to fear. The impoverishment, the pain, the sickness, the hunger and thirst, the bullying, the injustice… The bitter, lonely, final death that each of us will die. None of them, not one of them, is the end. Once upon a time, they were, but never again. Jesus has loved them out of this world, and though they may linger for a time, there is no point any longer in looking for the living among the dead. He is not here. He is risen. Remember how he told you? It is not an idle tale. It is the truth of the Gospel.

The noted twentieth century preacher Gordon Crosby put it this way: “Faith is trusting the flow and being carried beyond all existing boundaries. Faith is being excited about the final destination, even when the destination is mystery. When Jesus says, ‘Believe in God, believe also in me,’ he is saying, Get into the stream with us. It is a stream of pure grace and mercy. Go into its depths and find us there.”

I am about to create new heavens, and a new earth, says the LORD
The former things shall not be remembered, or come to mind…

The ancients called Easter The Eighth Day. God created the world in the first place in seven days. But on the Eighth Day, on Easter, Christ’s resurrection into a completely new future for all humanity, recreated the world into a new place. It is the eighth day today. The first day of a new creation. This is why baptismal fonts have eight sides. The birthing place – the womb, if you will – out of which each of us is born into a new creation. A new heaven. A new earth. And all new people. People linked hand in hand, arm in arm, voice to voice, to bring each day, every day, a new world, a new hope, a new chance to those who need it so very much. We can do this – freely, joyfully – because Jesus Christ, risen from the dead has loved us back to life and will breathe that breath of life into us each and every day. Together, and with him, we are sent into the world to share that life with the world that aches for this good news. It is a one-way trip. There is no turning back.

The Universe restored and whole will sing: Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.

If you’d be interested in a whole new creation, the creation beyond all existing boundaries… If you’d be interested in a whole new creation, traveling in a stream of pure grace and mercy, then Jesus, the risen Jesus, is the man for you.

T-minus 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…

In the name of the Father, and of the (+) Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.