A sermon for Easter Sunday

The sun is just up on the first day of the week, and two women are going out to visit the place where their friend Jesus was buried a few days earlier.

These women were among the faithful little group who stayed and watched him die, while others scattered in fear. They saw him buried. They waited through the long, sad sabbath that followed, and now they’re going back alone to visit the place where they laid his body.

Then all of a sudden the ground where they walk is shaken by an earthquake. We know this story too well to be surprised. But can you imagine?

Next an angel appears from heaven, rolls back the huge stone that sealed the tomb, and sits down on it. The light that shines from him is blinding. The men assigned by the Romans to guard the tomb are literally paralyzed with fear.

But the angel tells them not to be afraid, and sends them off to spread the news that Jesus has been raised. He’s alive, and he’ll meet them all back in Galilee.

I used to wonder about that. Why did they have to go back to Galilee? Why couldn’t he meet them there in Jerusalem?

But Galilee was home. It’s the place where they first met Jesus, where they ate and laughed and prayed with him, and listened to him teach.

It’s where he began reaching out to people who were poor, and sick and hungry. Healing them, and feeding them, and telling them that their lives mattered. He showed them all a new way to live. He gave them hope.

And then he died, and they must have thought that hope had died with him there on that

So maybe at that point they thought going back to Galilee was going to mean going back to the way things were, before that terrible day at Calvary. That Jesus was going to keep teaching and healing and feeding. But that wasn’t exactly how it would be.

It turns out they were going to carry on with the ministries Jesus showed them, but now they were going to be the ones doing the teaching and feeding. There was a lot they would have to figure out as they went along.

And all these many years later, we’re still trying to figure it out. We’re the ones who have to carry on what Jesus taught, and there are still parts of it we don’t really get.

We tend to think of Resurrection as something that happened in the past, and something we hope for in the future—but not as something that’s happening for us right here and right now.

Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.

We say those words every time we celebrate the Eucharist. But do we really get that that middle part isn’t just about Easter Sunday?

Christ is risen. And we are risen with him. When we talk about redemption, what we mean is that Easter is our invitation to die to all of the human brokenness that drags us down. And rise to new life, renewed in the image of our Creator.

We are Easter people, and we’re meant to be living the Resurrection now.

The reading from the New Testament letter we heard this morning is the beginning of a passage that describes what Resurrection life is supposed to look like. If you read on in the third chapter of Colossians, it talks about compassion, and kindness. Humility, patience, and love. About forgiveness, and living in the peace of Christ.

When I tried to reflect on that kind of Resurrection living during the last few weeks of Lent, I found myself going back to a quirky poem by a Kentucky farmer named Wendell Berry, who’s also one of our most beloved American poets.

The famous last line of one of his poems[1] is these two words:

“Practice resurrection.”

It’s become a bit of a cliché to quote from this poem in an Easter sermon, and so you might have heard it before, and if so I apologize for that. But there’s nothing I know that more simply and directly sums up the way we Christians are supposed to live: We’re supposed to be practicing resurrection.

Every single day of our lives should be about practicing resurrection.

We’re meant to stand out, to be different. To be a little crazy in the eyes of the rest of the world.

As Berry says in the poem:

… every day, do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. …
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.

So this is the challenge:

Can we let go of all the pain and loss we’ve experienced, and continue to have faith and hope that the best is still ahead for us?

Can we forgive all that needs to be forgiven in this world?

Can we learn to love people who don’t deserve it? Not just our theoretical enemies in the world, but those real people who have done us wrong?

Can we learn to live as if money doesn’t matter, but love really, really does?

Can we believe that whatever God has in mind for this little church in Bristol is in God’s hands, that God will take care of it if we just go on being church in the best way we possibly can? Because “we don’t practice resurrection by our own strength, but have the Holy Spirit’s power among us as a community.”[2]

As followers of Jesus Christ, we’re constantly being asked to rise above, to be better than we ever thought we could be.

The writer Eugene Peterson—the man behind the popular Message translation of the Bible—wrote another book called Living the Resurrection,[3] and this is what he says about how we do that:

We do it by baptizing men, women, and children in the name of the Trinity, nurturing them into a resurrection life. We do it by eating the life of Jesus in the bread and wine of the Eucharist. We do it by visiting prisoners, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger, healing the sick, working for justice, loving our enemies, raising our children, doing our everyday work to the glory of God.

This is what it means to be church. To live the Resurrection. So let’s get on with it.


[1] Wendell Berry. “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front” from The Country of Marriage.

[2] Claiborne Shane et al. Common Prayer : A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. Zondervan 2010.

[3] Eugene H. Peterson. Living the Resurrection: The Risen Christ in Everyday Life. 50.