(based on Luke 24:1-11)
The passage I just read from the Gospel of Luke is one version of the Easter story from the Bible. After Jesus died, his body was taken to a borrowed grave with none of the proper ceremonies or services we want our loved ones to have. So after the Sabbath was observed, a group of grieving women went to the place where they expected to find Jesus’ body, because they wanted to pay their respects. Perhaps, if you were here yesterday, you understand the urge.
What they discovered, however, was that the body was not where it was supposed to be. Instead, they encountered two angels who greeted the women with the odd question, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” The angels tell them to go back and tell Jesus’ other friends and followers that Jesus is no longer dead, but is living again. The women do as they are asked, but their story is dismissed by the others as an “idle tale.”
Who could blame them? Jesus’ friends were in shock. They hadn’t fully absorbed the idea that Jesus was dead yet—everything had happened so quickly. I’m guessing many of you can relate to their state of mind. Bob was just here with you! He’d just attended a family wedding, just gone for a ride on the pontoon boat with you! You just talked to him the other day, heard him laughing down the hall. And suddenly he is gone. If someone were to come to you now—say, a woman who says she is sent by God—in the midst of your grief and shock to tell you that Bob is not dead, but is, in fact, alive again, I bet it wouldn’t be hard for you to dismiss that suggestion as “an idle tale.”
Resurrection is not a logical idea. The thought that Jesus mysteriously came to life again after his brutal death is beyond our capacity to understand on a rational level. And then to extend the idea that not only Jesus, but all of God’s people, are being given new life as well … it’s hard to take in.
But I truly do not believe that Bob is in that casket anymore. It seems improbable that he is lying down in green pastures beside still waters the way the Psalmist pictured heaven, but maybe he’s gliding around on heavenly ice or steering a boat over some heavenly waves? Can you believe that Bob is not in that body anymore, but is somehow beginning a new kind of life that is unknown to us, but is somehow beautiful and rich and deep and true?
Even more difficult for you to believe might be the idea that you, too, will come to life again. So many of you are still reeling from the shock of losing a son, a brother, a husband, a father, a friend, a teammate, a grandpa, a coach. Perhaps you are angry or sad or numb. You may not even know how you are feeling. All of those feelings are part of grieving the loss of a great love. The idea that there will ever be a time when you feel alive again, whole again, hopeful again, might be beyond your capacity to imagine right now. Some people might even dismiss the possibility as an idle tale.
Some people. But not you.
YOU are people who believe in miracles! YOU are people who know that sometimes what seems impossible really DOES happen, against all odds. YOU know that sometimes a rough and tumble little kid can stand up on two thin strips of metal and—with patience and encouragement and incredible hard work—learn move with grace and power. YOU know that sometimes you can put a stick in their hand and a helmet on their heads and a dream in their hearts and send them out onto an ice rink with some other kids—and magic can happen. YOU know, deep in your bones, that sometimes incredible pain can be followed by unimaginable joy.
Bobby believed in miracles. And not just the obvious one, the miraculous 1980 Olympic hockey team that gave hope and inspiration to our whole nation. Bob believed in more subtle miracles too—the pride in a child’s face when he learns how to do something new; the wonder of second chances; the unimaginable gift of belonging to a family where love and forgiveness are freely expressed and shared. He knew the miracle of holding a newborn baby in his arms. What could be more amazing? In the face of such wonder, why shouldn’t there be resurrection from the dead?
The Good News is that miracles happen whether or not we believe in them. They are not dependent on our faith. The Good News is that when Jesus was victorious over hatred and death and hopelessness, he made it possible for us to rise above those enemies too. When Bob was only 2 months old, a pastor marked his forehead with the sign of the cross and said, “Robert, Child of God, you have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever.” The Good News is that, though we can’t understand how, we can rest in the assurance of that promise. We can trust that Bob has become part of that victorious team of saints who have passed over darkness and death and emerged on the other side, where God welcomed him with open arms.
It’s also Good News that the angels in Luke’s Gospel don’t appear only to well-adjusted people who demonstrate strong faith and courage. They show up to fearful people who are overwhelmed, and in varying stages of confusion and doubt. The miracle of new life is possible not because of our faith but because it is God’s nature to bring life and hope to all—on this side of the grave, as well as on the other. Miracles happen all the time, whether or not we acknowledge them.
Even now, in this room, God is planting little tiny seeds of hope and possibility among us. God, who was with Bob every single moment of his miraculous life is also with you in every miraculous moment of yours. God will not leave you alone in your pain, but will keep on sending you teammates, family, co-workers, and friends who will journey alongside you through ups and downs, wins and losses, light and dark. It might sound like an idle tale, but I think you know the answer to the question: “Do you believe in miracles?”
~Pastor Susan Schneider
September 13, 2014