Year C Easter Day John 20
Why I Believe in the Resurrection
John 20:1-18

You probably do not remember the name Nikolai Ivanovich Bukharin. During his day he was as powerful a man as there was on earth. A Russian Communist leader he took part in the Bolshevik Revolution 1917, was editor of the Soviet newspaper Pravda (which by the way means truth), and was a full member of the Politburo. His works on economics and political science are still read today. There is a story told about a journey he took from Moscow to Kiev in 1930 to address a huge assembly on the subject of atheism. Addressing the crowd he aimed his heavy artillery at Christianity hurling insult, argument, and proof against it.

An hour later he was finished. He looked out at what seemed to be the smoldering ashes of men's faith. "Are there any questions?" Bukharin demanded. Deafening silence filled the auditorium but then one man approached the platform and mounted the lectern standing near the communist leader. He surveyed the crowd first to the left then to the right. Finally he shouted the ancient greeting known well in the Russian Orthodox Church: "CHRIST IS RISEN!" En masse the crowd arose as one man and the response came crashing like the sound of thunder: "HE IS RISEN INDEED!"

I say to you this morning: CHRIST IS RISEN! (congregational response should be: HE IS RISEN INDEED!). I am convinced! I have faith that Christ was dead and he was buried. That I believe. But, this too I accept as true: He rose from the dead and will come again in glory.

This is Easter. And to stand here on this day in this pulpit and proclaim this word. . . I cannot begin to tell you how this defines all that I am.

But, you will say to me, how do you know that the resurrection is real? How do you know that it is really valid?

  1. I believe in resurrection because somebody told me about it.
  2. I believe in the resurrection because it has stood the test of time.
  3. I believe in the resurrection, because I have experienced it.

We Serve a Risen [and Rising] Savior
Luke 24:1-12

This year the International Air Guitar Championships were held in Denmark. Contestants "played" before huge crowds, screaming devoted fans, and enjoyed World Wide Web exposure. The Air Guitar games are dedicated to world peace. According to the ideology of the Air Guitar Championships, wars would end and all bad things in the world would disappear if all the people in the world played air guitar.

[At this point, you might consider arranging for one of your kids to come to the front and show the congregation what it means to "play" air guitar. Or you might show one of the many videos on YouTube of people playing air guitar.]

Here's what I love about "playing" air guitar.

You can't hit a wrong note.
You can't sound bad.
You can't even sound better.
You don't even need a guitar to play air guitar.

The best thing about playing air guitar is that you can look good without ever practicing a single note.

The bad thing about playing a real guitar is that you have to practice very hard in order to sound good. Is there any more annoying but accurate platitude that every parent preaches than this one: "practice makes perfect."

Practice isn't much fun. If you are an athlete, practice is logging laps, running "lines," stretches, crunches, weights. If you are a musician, practice is endless scales, chord repetitions, memorization, learning new ways to listen, to hear, to breathe, to feel. But without practice you can never get better, you can never get it right, you can not even get it going.

A few years ago Susan Page wrote a book called "How to Get Published and Make a Lot of Money!" She was fresh off another best-seller, "If I'm so Wonderful Why Am I Still Single?" The author outlined in 20 easy-to-follow steps the road to riches. Step 4, for example, was "Start Working on a Fabulous Title." Step 9 was "Enlist the Services of a Fabulous Literary Agent." Step 17 - "Celebrate your Publication Date" . . . Another step is to choose the photo you want of yourself on the back flap.

But #12 is the key: "Write Your Book."

Before practice makes perfect, practice makes perfect possible.

On Easter Sunday we celebrate the most perfect event in the history of the world - the perfect enactment of divine love, the greatest expression of life ever gifted to the world — the resurrection of Jesus, Christ.

Today, "death is dead." These words are spoken by Lazarus in a play written by Eugene O'Neill called "Lazarus Laughed." Lazarus is facing Caligula, the Roman emperor. But instead of begging for mercy, Lazarus laughs. And the chorus shouts, "Laugh! Laugh! Fear is no more! Death is dead!"

Did you hear it? "Death is dead." Whatever is killing you right now, whatever grave clothes have trapped and wrapped themselves around you like a python, whatever straightjackets you find yourself in, you can escape. You can walk into the light and experience the miracle of life. "Death is dead." And because "death is dead," there is a new world of new possibilities for all of humanity.

But there are two parts to the Jesus resurrection story, just as there were two parts to the earlier resurrection story of Jesus' best friend Lazarus. There is God's wondrous act of raising Jesus Christ from the bonds of death. But there is also a human contribution to the resurrection event... presents Leonard Sweet