Old linens left behind...
There are several quotes about a fourfold Franciscan blessing, whose fourth blessing reads, “May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you really can make a difference in this world, so that you are able, with God's grace, to do what others claim cannot be done.”
In many ways our celebration of Easter is centered in Jesus, who dared to believe He could make a difference in the world. When others thought it would not be possible, practical, or politically convenient, Jesus steeled himself into his mission.
As Jesus commended Himself into God's hands, He did what some folk still believe that at best it wasn’t worth it, or at worse, it couldn’t be done anyway.
Impractical? Naïve? Old tales? Crazy ideas? Yet here we are today to celebrate and give praise to the victory of Life and Hope over Death, Sin, and Despair.
Both the Gospel and our Second Lesson from St Paul's letter to our brothers and sisters in Colossae, help us to understand that the Resurrection is more than resetting the clock, or going back to the same old, same old. It is a new beginning.
In his Easter Letter, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby writes that when the Angel appears to the startled disciples, he asks them not to look back to the empty tomb, but to follow Jesus to Galilee. The point is that the Resurrection encourages us, "To hold up our eyes and focus on the future, God's future, where Jesus is leading us."
St. Paul, perhaps thinking on the same lines, advises his readers that since they have been brought back to life with Christ, they needed to reset their focus away from the old and familiar way of thinking, into the new model that Jesus taught his disciples to follow.
So, in other words, if the Resurrection is real, it is not only about what happened to Jesus over two thousand years ago – It is relevant to us, in the here and now.
In St. John's story of the Resurrection, when the disciples went look into the tomb, they found that in fact that the tomb was not empty. It was not the empty cave any longer. For lying on the floor there were the old linen wrappings. The signs of the old life had been left behind, for they were of no further use.
Likewise, the Resurrection urges us to leave behind those things that we know there will be of no use in the risen life of a Christian.
Now, I know it will not be easy. For in attaching ourselves to the things that we believe are of great value, we lose sight of the things that in fact are of eternal value.
What am I talking about? You know what I am talking about, don't you? Yes, you do! We all have some sort of “linens from the old life” that we still try to keep.
When Jesus arrived at Mary and Martha's home, after Lazarus' death, Mary was disappointed. And so, Jesus reminded her of the resurrection of the dead. “We shall rise again,” said Mary about such possibility - but it would be some time away in the future. It would come true one day, she believed, and we believe it too. And that's right.
But the promise of the resurrection for her as well as for us, is for the here and now. Like Lazarus, it is never too late to be risen to a new life. A new life not to go back to the same old, same old but a new life with different focus.
Like Jesus, we have been called to make a difference in this world following in faith and doing what Jesus taught us to do.
Impractical? Naïve? Foolish? Unwise or too late for the current state of affairs? Not worth it?
But as we celebrate the joy of resurrection, we should never forget that it is joy after death.
It was only through the painful separation from his friends and family, the fiery agony of the Cross, and even the darkness of the valley of death, that Jesus Christ rose triumphant. “The Son of Man has to suffer many things,” Jesus warned his disciples.
But Jesus knew that the way of the Cross was the only way to victory and – if that were to be possible – to come even closer to God, His eternal Father.
By going through his own experience of desolation and death and then through His Resurrection, Jesus teaches us that if we allow to be shaped by God's loving hands, we will be come out stronger, blessed, and empowered to carry on with our calling – to be witness to God's everlasting goodness and his promise to never leave us alone.
And because Jesus lives, we will also rise over the dark shadows of the present days, to do what others claim cannot be done and to grow even closer to the heart of God, our Father in Heaven.
Risen Savior: You went through the dark alleys of death and returned living and triumphant. As we walk through the unknows and challenges, and the twists and turns of life, send your Spirit to embrace us into your loving arms and bring us together with you to the glory of a new day of hope, peace, and joy. Amen.