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3.29.2016

Practicing Letting God . . .


An Easter Sermon
March 27, 2016



A stirring tale, a familiar tale, an epic tale, even a fairy tale.  Any of these adjectives would seem more fitting a response to the news that Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and the other women come running back to share with the apostles --- Jesus is risen!!!!  But instead we get this --- “these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them" (Luke 24:11).  Wow! Talk about taking the wind out of somebody’s sails. 
And yet, can you blame the disciples?  After all that has happened, even if what the women had to say were true, what difference could it possibly make now?  After all, they had their chance to take over Jerusalem – isn’t that what the triumphant procession was all about – the palm branches, the cloaks strewn about the ground, the loud shouts of Hosanna!  That was supposed to be the take-over of the Roman Empire!  Or so at least some of the disciples had thought.  The opportunity came and went.  At the Mount of Olives, when the chief priests, the officers of the temple police and the elders come for Jesus, Peter takes out his sword and strikes and instead of seizing the opportunity to wage war, Jesus shouts out “No more of this!” and even heals the man Peter has wounded.  So, when the women return from the empty tomb with their news, can you really blame the apostles?  It’s not necessarily that they don’t believe the women – though, Peter does go running back to see for himself (Luke 24:12).  It’s that the message the women is pointless, it’s too late.  We had our chance. It’s over now.  Even if Jesus is risen, it is but an idle tale. 
Earlier this week, our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry shared his Easter message and in it he talked about fairy tales. He said, “I actually love fairy tales . . . there [is] something good about them, a way of confronting what [is] tough in life with genuine hope.”[1] And sometimes I wonder if you and I, when we hear the Easter story – when we hear the women come back from the tomb and tell us what they’ve seen and what they’ve heard – I wonder if we hear it as some sort of fairy tale - a nice message of hope for a challenging time?  But what I really fear is that not only do we hear it as a fairy tale but that we, like the apostles in Luke’s gospel, consider it to be an idle tale – a story that has no real point in the here and the now.  A story that can make no difference in our lives. 
So this morning, I want to invite you to suspend any disbelief, to let go of any lingering doubts and just imagine what it might mean for your life if the story were true.  What would it mean for your life if the tomb were empty and Jesus was raised from the dead?  What fears could you let go of?  What false idols could you release?  What could you dare to share with others? 
Many of us meditated throughout the days of Lent and Holy Week using reflections in Scott Stoner’s book, Living Well through Lent: Letting Go with All Your Heart, Soul, Strength, and Mind.  As its title suggests, the reflections were all about unburdening, letting go – of our comfort zones,[2] letting go – of all the shoulds that weigh us down[3] and deprive us of living out of grace and love,[4] letting go – of control,[5] letting go – of the “tyranny of perfectionism,”[6] letting go – of worries that “strangle our emotional, spiritual, relational, and physical wellness.”[7] 
This practice of letting go was all about today!  Because Jesus is Risen!  And because of that Truth, we can let go of our fears, our brokenness, our anxieties, our whatever-it-is-that-holds-us-back – we can let it all go.  Because, my brothers and sisters in Christ, this is not an idle tale.  Today is when “we celebrate and affirm that resurrection is real” and that death and hurt and brokenness do not now and never will have the final word.[8] 
Today is when we declare that God’s Love triumphs!  And here’s something to consider.  Letting go – takes practice – lots of practice, every day.  That may come as no surprise – after all, I bet each of us can think of something we’ve spent time worrying about or trying to control in just the past 24 hours! But here’s the bit that may come as a surprise – letting resurrection love into our lives – letting the Truth of God’s triumphant love into our lives - takes practice too.  That is why throughout the Season of Easter we being our worship by giving thanks to God for the water of baptism “that sustains life” and gives us “the gift of new life in Jesus Christ.” And we pray that God will “Shower us with God’s Spirit, and renew our lives with God’s forgiveness, grace, and love.”[9] 
The Truth of the Resurrection takes practice – a daily practice of renouncing and letting go of all that weighs us down and a daily practice of letting God enter our lives to renew us through the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers; to renew us as we persevere in resisting evil; to renew us as we proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ; to renew us as we seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves; to renew us as we strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.
The Truth of the Resurrection is that God’s love wins!  Let go as you let the waters of your baptism refresh you once again, renew you yet again.  Accept the Good News. Practice the Good News!  And proclaim the Good News - - - Love wins! God's love wins! Alleluia!


[1] Michael Curry, “Easter 2016 Message,” March 23, 2016 available online
[2] Scott Stoner, “Letting Go of Our Comfort Zones,” Living Well through Lent 2016 – Letting Go with All Your Heart, Soul, Strength, and Mind, (Milwaukee, WI: Living Compass, 2016), February 12, 2016, 15.
[3] Stoner, “Letting Go of Shoulds,” February 22, 2016, 29.
[4] Stoner, “Letting Go with All Your Strength,” February 25, 2016, 32.
[5] Stoner, “Letting Go of Control,” February 29, 2016, 39.
[6] Stoner, “Letting Go of Perfectionism,” March 7, 2016, 49.
[7] Stoner, “Letting Go of Worry,” March 14, 2016, 59.
[8] Stoner, “Letting Come,” March 27, 2016, 77.
[9] “Thanksgiving for Baptism,” Evangelical Lutheran Worship, (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2006), 97.