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Isaiah 51:9-11; Psalm 118:14-17, 22-24; Colossians 3:1-4; Luke 24:1-12
On the 5 of August, 2010, 33 Chilean miners near the town of Capiapo were trapped when the mine collapsed. They were in the dark, only their lights and what they had down there with them. They were 2300 feet underground, and around 3 miles from the mine entrance. They were well and thoroughly trapped. What must they have felt? Uncertainty? Despair? I can imagine there was one thing they desired to see above all else: Light. Because the light poking through from outside would mean air, rescue, restoration, life. That kind of uncertainty and even despair is what the followers of Jesus felt on Friday. All their hopes, all their dreams for the future, the very fate of them as people who loved and worshiped God were dashed, like so many of our dreams, broken like bottles on the rocks. He was to be their Messiah, the Christ, who God had said would save humanity and establish a new world. And where was that hope now? Buried in a tomb.
Most of the disciples had fled, running to avoid the same fate. Even those closest to Jesus during his ministry were hiding away. But these women, like so many women before them and so many afterwards, had a bravery greater than anyone else. Despite the guards placed on the tomb and the fact that their own religious leaders had called for Jesus’ execution, they went to honor him by anointing his body with rich spices. And so they, courageous and unwilling to do anything but anoint the body of their friend, their teacher, their Messiah, come to the tomb…and are honored as the ones who are to be the apostles to the apostles, the first to witness and the first to proclaim the resurrection. They were in darkness, deep and crushing, and then they saw the light.
They see, and they then go forth to let it be known. This is the core of our faith. Everything hinges upon the resurrection. If Jesus had just been a man who died, his sacrifice would have meant no more than any other martyr. Ultimately it would not have mattered, confirmed by Paul in 1 Cor. 15:14. But it was not just the death of anyone, it was He, the Christ. And in being raised from the dead, Jesus Christ was vindicated as Lord of the creation, and the renewal of all things had begun, beginning with him. In his resurrection is our resurrection, and in our resurrection, the renewal of the whole world.
Acts 10 summarizes the gospel. We, like the Chilean miners, are in darkness. And who among us can dare say the world is not dark? We ourselves all participate in it. We all sin, and before you impute your own meaning to what sin is, let me propose that it is a kind of collective madness, all of us doing the things we know we shouldn’t but somehow unable to do otherwise. Who among us has not broken trust, stolen, hated other people made in God’s image, refused to forgive, or hurt others with our selfishness? But in Christ, through faith, you are set free from your sins by God’s forgiveness, free to live lives of light, and hope, and peace, to the glory of God.
The death of Jesus Christ broke the power of sin by the only perfect act of self-sacrifice that has or could ever be made. And the resurrection then takes us, broken people and puts us back together again. The resurrection shows that through death, through darkness, through madness, by the power of God in Jesus Christ there is life, light, and sanity. The resurrection is, truly, The Victory of God, and the restoration of not only humanity but all created things to our creator.
As children of the resurrection, we must learn to live in a way that trusts in the unexpected, that believes God will do the unbelievable. Mostly, we do not. We live as if our darkest sins cannot be beaten, as if the worst evils will never be punished, as if our most broken relationships can never be healed. But in the resurrection, we see that these things are possible, that out of death God can and will bring life. Will that always occur? Not while we live in this long Saturday, this time between the times, before Jesus’s return. We still have choice, and we still let evil beat us down. But God will not be defeated. He is renewing this world. Colossians says, “if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is…your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.” By faith we receive Christ and he us, united together, so that his death is our death, but his life, our life. That is what Alphonse is receiving today: union with Christ, the filling of the Holy Spirit, life and light, by baptism into the risen Lord Jesus Christ, we hope and pray to live the resurrection life his whole life. Every person is invited to make this resurrection life their own, as Peter says, “God shows no partiality,” for God desires all to serve and will accept all who come in faith.
The Church’s message, the gospel message, is received and passed on by an encounter with Jesus. As Peter says in his sermon in Acts 10, the life and work of Jesus is what the Church is to proclaim, that not by power and might and violence is the world renewed, but by humility, self-sacrifice, and hope.
The Lord is risen. The powers of evil, defeated. Oh, they still hold sway, and we still feel their bite today; but they fight a losing war, where they can only win skirmishes and never defeat the encroaching forces of Light and Life, empowered by God’s own Holy Spirit. And in this time when the battles still rage, we are to come, and to encounter Jesus ourselves, clutching his feet and receiving from him new life. In so doing, we are not to be afraid, for death has no power over you; come and receive Jesus, and see that he gives you life, in his scriptures, his sacraments, his Spirit; and then go back out and tell the world: Christ is risen! He gives us life! He is restoring the world!
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