(Spoiler Alert: This is Easter Sunday’s sermon in advance)
“It’s Easter: Perhaps We Should Give a Damn”
Easter Sunday 2022
1st Corinthians 15: 1 – 7; 12 – 22
Rev. Rodger P. Sellers
It might seem an odd way to begin an Easter message – with a short video clip from a movie that ostensibly has NOTHING to do with Easter, or anything religious for that matter – but if you bear with me for a couple of minutes, I think you might see the connection.
It’s a video clip from the Amazon Prime Movie titled “Late Night,” starring Emma Thompson, Mindy Kaling, John Lithgow and Amy Ryan. Emma Thompson is a ground breaking late-night talk show host who has lost the edge, let her ego get the best of her, abused her staff and guests for longer than is wise, and with a new head of the network, is about to lose her coveted seat. Despite trying to “reinvent” herself, things continue to spiral out of control, until what looks to be the last night she’ll ever be in front of the cameras. And THAT is when she finally decides to be honest. And that’s when resurrection happens. This truly is a clip about resurrection, renewal, restoration. But I hope you pay attention to the very last words you will hear. They answer the “what’s next” question that Paul is talking about in our Easter morning passage today.
When Katherine Newberry utters what has long been her tag line – one that may have just then finally dawned on her as to its real meaning – “Dear God, I hoped I’ve earned the privilege of your time…” She expected that she had not. That she would be saying that for the very last time. That everything she had held dear for close to 30 years was over and done with.
In other words? She was living and experiencing everything that the past 60 hours has for almost 2,000 years represented for the Christian Church. Resurrection happens AFTER all hope has been lost – after everything appears to have crumbled, after 3 days where our world remembers that God actually WAS dead like Time Magazine asked on April 8th, 1966.
While there’s certainly joy in the reality we celebrate today, we really should remember that for those who experienced it that first Easter, the more prevalent emotions were fear, confusion, even more despair and sadness than the previous Friday had held as the sky grew dark and Jesus hung on the cross.
Katherine Newberry listened to her network CEO tell her that – beyond all hope – her show and career actually were going to experience resurrection, and did you notice the look of dumbfounded shock on her face? That’s probably a more appropriate response to Easter than superficial joy and happiness. Today’s reality perhaps should lead us to a deeper joy; one that maybe just leaves us speech less and dumbfounded at knowing that something beyond any belief we could muster has indeed happened.
And Paul is pretty matter of fact in how he speaks of it to us in 1st Corinthians chapter 15. There’s really no shouting “Hosanna!” or “Christ is Risen Indeed” going on here. It’s a pretty cut and dried, fairly dispassionate thought – Those of you who remember the old TV Show “Dragnet”? Paul is doing a pretty good Sergeant Joe Friday, here… “Just the facts, ma’am.” And in so doing, I really think he’s hitting Amy Ryan’s last sentence in that film clip head on.
It’s not difficult really.
Either he rose from the dead or not. HOWEVER, WHATEVER, though whatever process, manner, or beyond the realm of physics, biology or chemistry through which it happened… Either Jesus accomplished what he claimed he would do… or he didn’t.
And consequently, either we believe it… or we don’t. I’m not arguing what so many people spend so much time on here. Was it an actual, physical, re-animation of a corpse? Or was the resurrection wrapped up in the mystery that both Jesus and Paul spoke of in their words of physical bodies that die and spiritual bodies that live eternally? That’s a rabbit hole I’m not willing to waste time diving down… because there’s no way to answer the question this side of heaven, and frankly? I don’t really care. Regardless of the nitty / gritty details of how / what / where / why, and all that jazz… it either happened or it didn’t… and I either believe it or I don’t.
The REAL question: like at the end of that film clip as well as posed by Paul’s rather dry Easter discourse here in this passage… is What’s Next?
Once we answer – for ourselves, which every one of us must do individually and for which no one can usurp that right and privilege – these two questions… Did it or didn’t it? And Do I believe it or don’t? What comes next?
And THAT – that point, and not before – is where Amy Ryan’s final sentence and my sermon title come into play. I’m not just trying for shock value to either grab your attention or have you so upset at vulgarity right here in the middle of worship that you tune everything I’m saying out… It’s an honest thought.
It’s Easter: And we are HERE. That automatically assumes – and rightfully so I think – that there is a good chance that we DO believe it happened and that it matters to us. We perhaps we should be left with the admonition to give a damn about it.
And please know that I’m aware that to a great extent I am “preaching to the choir here.” Your presence in worship this Easter morning bears testimony that you DO… care, have passion for, embrace, live into, bear witness to, actually do give a rip about.
But the reality is we are far outnumbered folks. By those who don’t, or maybe do but can’t be bothered, or can’t quite figure out what commitment actually means, can’t manage to get out of their own way, or are just too busy, too indifferent, too self-centered or whatever to actually realize what the stakes are in this unspoken but all-important question.
What would it look like? If THE Church – I’m not talking about just us – I’m talking about the entire church, the body of Christ worldwide in the year of our Lord Two Thousand and Twenty Two – actually gave a damn about Easter? About recognizing that the past 60 hours have been so important for 2,000 years that most understand that normal life not only does, but SHOULD stop as we intentionally carve out time to meditate upon the Pascal vigil and what it means for our faith? What would it look like if we stopped our squabbling and fighting over such petty nonsense that seems to fill up 90% of the theological discourse all around us anymore? What would it look like if the Words “Christ has Risen” were more an admonition to us to live like that matters instead of an invitation to come to the gravy train and get whatever our wildest desires lead us to ask for?
What would it look like if we stopped and thought about living our lives in such a way that the question would be self-evident to all who looked at us? If our words, behavior, attitudes, and actions answered the question for us? That in looking at us doing our best to follow Jesus in everything we do and are, people could easily see the answer. “They obvious DO give a damn; because it’s evident in their lives for the whole world to see.”
What would that look like?
I’m not totally sure. But I know this…
I sure would like to see it. I would really – REALLY like to be a part of something like that. I wouldn’t care less if it was only a small minority of folks – as opposed to those who ostensibly call on the church – when they need it, or when it’s convenient, or when they have screwed up so badly that there’s no place else to go.
I don’t know – but I think a church like that? It might actually change the world.
And the key? Is right here and right now. It’s Easter: Perhaps we should give a damn.
1st Corinthians 15 1 – 7 (The Resurrection of Christ):
1 Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance[a]: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas,[b] and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
1st Corinthians 15 12 – 22 (The Resurrection of the Dead):
12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. 20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.