Easter Passion Revealed Luke 24: 1-12

IMG_0999When we die; we’re dead or that’s what the women thought as they went to the tomb on Easter morn to mourn. They went expecting to find a cold hard cadaver, but upon arrival they were perplexed for the stone was rolled away and the tomb was empty. They were terrified as two men in dazzling white clothing reminded them that Jesus spoke of this day. They run to tell the disciples.; the disciples call their story an idle tale. Peter runs to take a look; it says he was amazed or dazed, I say; unsure what happened.

Many of us are like them when it comes to Easter, unsure what really happened. We go along with the customs; we like new ties and wearing hats, and the ham after church. So, we give the Easter message nod, and relegate it to simpler categories we more easily understand like: caterpillars turning to butterflies and grass turning green. Yet, those ideas leave us only with good thoughts; inspiring us to do what we can. In my humble opinion, people are tired of moral lessons that implore them to hold on and keep hoping. That version of the Easter message is religion-lite; domesticating the truth with a homey service of rising to our destinies. I pray the words I speak resist any reduction of the mystery of our faith.tired

The mystery of faith that declares Christ has died and Christ has risen implies Jesus really appeared after dying. When we look at the accounts many seem to feel those appearances were deceiving as the cliché goes; they weren’t quite sure what really happened. Yet, without his appearing, we would be scratching our heads about an empty tomb; thinking someone stole the body and his soul flew away. That would leave us with a religion of trying to be good enough so our soul can too fly away and be with Jesus. The appearances of Jesus declared what appears to be over isn’t over; things aren’t as they appear. The Risen One’s appearances aren’t deceiving; they are conceiving, new life; that’s an Easter message!

Embracing Easter involves setting aside some of our self-enlightened human logic. The essence of Easter includes some unknown. It’s not a riddle to be solved. It’s a mystery to be gawked at, like the morning sun. Easter invites us into the mystery of how Jesus who could do nothing for himself when they nailed him to a cross, could trust God knew what to do with a life offered in love. Let’s not recoil from declaring it’s anything less than mystery of how God brought Jesus back to life from the dead.

Known unknownAn experiment chose one hundred and sixty names randomly from the phone book. For one month, a group prayed for eighty of them, but not the other half. They asked God to open up the first eighty to spiritual things. After a month, they called all 160 and didn’t tell them about the experiment. They asked a variety of questions including, if there was anything in their lives they could pray for with them. Sixty-nine from the group of eighty that were prayed for said yes; sharing a concern. Only one of the eighty not prayed for responded positively. What is that? I don’t know, and neither does anyone else. That is precisely the point, it is a mystery.

Our metaphors can’t conceive the incomparable claim of Easter: Jesus was raised from the dead. Thus, our inconvenient rituals that express faith in resurrection power can get in the way of our Burger King style religion of having it our way. Self-made religion settles for less than what can be known. The unknown of Easter invites us to step to the rhythm of the mystery of faith that plays the tune of laying down our lives, so we might know God can raise up a life offered out of love for the ‘Other’ and others.Be-Real

There’s a 900-pound gorilla in our “I’ll do it myself culture”. It lives in the life’s living room, yet we’re reluctant to talk about it. It’s taboo to say our ego constructs; positions that identify us, powers we hold, and people we know, don’t contain what we need to make meaning out of our lives. So, we keep pretending, rarely speaking of our frustrations of trying to make life work out as we wish. It’s refreshing to meet a person who acknowledges it’s hard propping up ideas they hope are right, chasing success they rarely achieve, and seeking approval that never fully satisfies. If we could be real, and let the parts of our lives that don’t offer real life die, counting them as a loss, God could raise up a new life in ways we’ve not imagined.

Easter asks us to place our faith in this mystery, Christ freely gave his life for you and me; trusting God would raise him from the dead and make him Lord all life, including our own life and everyone else’s life, too. If Jesus is Lord of all, that makes his resurrection power available to all. There is no partiality in God’s love, one group or person being favored over another by our witness. Jesus is Lord over all persons and creation. If our resurrected King is in charge (and not us) then we can love what God loves, which is both the good and bad of the human condition and human history. We can partner with Christ in paying the price, so others may know this same love God found in Christ Jesus that makes real life possible.

PopeFrancis-washing-feet-young-people-The Roman pontiff, Pope Francis, continues to inspire. We’re thankful he’s a person who models Christ’s humility in powerful ways. Many of the things he has said and done are like Christ appearing after his resurrection. Last Maundy Thursday, he did as all other popes have done, washed the feet of others as a gesture of service. Though previous popes only washed the feet of Christians, Pope Francis went to a prison for young offenders and washed the feet of 12 persons, ages 14 to 21. Among them were, for the very first time, women and Muslims. When he stooped to wash the feet of a young Serbian Muslim girl who was a criminal, we see the risen Christ afoot in our world eating and cavorting and washing the feet of sinners.

We don’t have to be the pope or pastor make appearances of the Risen Christ that conceive new life. The Risen Christ counts on us to keep up appearances. The Risen Christ appears when we reach out to persons dug in hole of addictive behaviors, giving them a hand up from their grave. He appears in the touch offered, conceiving new life. The Risen Christ appears when we give a push to persons stuck in a predicament; feeling there’s no way out. He appears in the nudge, conceiving new life. The Risen Christ appears when we sit beside persons who have wandered far from who they are; and repeatedly tell them they’re a person of sacred worth. He appears in our words, conceiving new life. As we offer ourselves to persons in need of new life; Easter passion is revealed; showing again God knows what do with a life offered in the name of the ‘Other’ for the sake of others.Russian Priest

The Russian Orthodox Church employs the ancient liturgy of “Christ is risen, Christ is risen indeed“, like we do the “Amen” in a Protestant service. At the end of the 70-year reign of the communist in Russia, a state lecturer concluded an address: “There’s no God. Jesus Christ never existed; there is no such thing as a Holy Spirit. The Church is oppressive and out of date. The future belongs to the State, and the State is in the hands of the Party.” After he sat down a priest asked to say two words, three words in English. The lecturer not wanting to look off guard granted permission. The priest shouted that ancient piece of liturgy: “Christ is risen!” The people roared back: “He is risen indeed!” They’d been saying it for a thousand years, why stop because certain intellectuals and politicians claim God is dead.

Even in the midst of unrest in Russia on this Easter Sunday, we can be sure the words “Christ is risen” will be declared by an orthodox priest to the people of God gathered in the great cathedrals of the former Soviet Union. What do you think followers of Christ in Russia will echo back when that bearded priest says, “Christ is risen?” “Christ is risen indeed!” Let’s join their voices in Irving, TX on Easter this morning; declaring to live the mystery of our faith:

“Christ is risen!’

What say you?

Christ is risen indeed!

Happy Easter!

Happy-Easter-in-sand

On the Other Side of the Cross Mark 16: 1-8

PilotTwo hunters go moose hunting in Canada, and hire a pilot to fly them to a remote region.  He tells them at the drop off point, “I`ll be back in one week, and remember I can only carry one moose out of here.”  A week passes; the pilot returns and the hunters have two moose.  The pilot says, “Hey, I told you guys no more than one moose.” One of the hunters replies, “Look, the pilot told us the same thing last year and we gave him a big tip to take both moose out.”  The three of them argue for few minutes; the pilot gives in, and agrees to take both moose.

They load up the moose and fire up the plane.  The plane shudders and strains trying to take off.  It finally gets the wheels off the ground five feet, ten feet and then runs out of runway and smashes into a tree.  The two hunters dazed and confused make there way out of the wreckage.  One hunter looks at the other and says, “Where are we?”  The other looks around and replies, “About 200 yards further than we were last year!Women at tomb

After Jesus’ death, the women who went to the tomb must have felt they weren’t more than 200 yards further than when they first encountered Jesus; right back where they started; without much hope; worrying about who is going to do the impossible and roll the stone away.  The tragedy of his death is compounded when they arrive by the fact it appears his body has been stolen.  They had to wonder if the short gain was worth this pain.

Any of us feel we’re about 200 yards further than we were last year?  We might have made some small gains and we’re thankful for those steps forward.  Some of us can speak of real resurrecting changes since last year.  My pastoral sense says a lot of us wish we could know greater change than being 200 yards further down the road.

The clerk at Men’s Wearhouse confirmed my hunch.  She learned I was a pastor, and asked, “What is the sermon about?”  I asked if she ever felt she wasn’t much further down the road than last year.  She said, “Yes, and I wish it could be different.”  I told her it could, and encouraged her to be kind to herself and don’t let go of a Loving Lord who is working in her, even now.  I wished her Happy Easter!

Our longings causes us to gravitate to this day of caterpillars turning to butterflies, grass turning green, eggs cracking open with little chicks.  These symbols are fine as long they’re reflections of the greater reality.  We must be careful with these metaphors and not allow them to reduce or trivialize the message; causing us to settle for less.  It’s too easy to think good thoughts and to try harder while reciting certain maxims.  While, our platitudes may keep us safe, they can’t fill the longings of our heart.

Easter SymbolsYou didn’t dress in your Easter best to hear an Easter history lesson that enlightens, yet doesn’t invite you to consider a category defying message that declares earth shattering change is possible.  You’re tired of looking for the living among the dead based on someone else’s Easter expectations.  Deep down you pray that Easter Day will confirm your hopes real trans-formative change is possible in your life and in this world.  Me too!

A minor character in the Easter story undergoes that kind of great change; the man sitting where Jesus lay in the tomb.  The text says he was dressed in white, but it doesn’t tell he’s an angel, though Mark makes him sound like an angel.  Mark also places a man in the garden the night of Jesus’ arrests.  In Mark 14:52, we’re told a man, wearing nothing but a linen garment was following Jesus as Jesus is seized, he fled naked, leaving his garment.  Now, in Mark 16 a man sits in Jesus’ empty tomb fully clothed saying, “Do not be afraid!”  Does Mark use this literary figure to make the point; Jesus is on the loose; transforming people in dramatic ways, like this man? Man at tomb

The leading roles in the Easter story are played by the women.  Their transformations aren’t as considerable as the man in the tomb.  But, at least they experience the news of resurrection; for their love of Jesus opens up a possibility that the other fear-ridden disciples missed because they stayed behind closed doors.  The women demonstrate what it is like to let go of fear, so they might be free to find out if Jesus is alive and offering life changing power.  They aren’t exactly sure what happened even after seeing the empty tomb with their own eyes; but, they are in position to consider what an empty tomb means to them and the other followers.

They tell the others.  The way the news is received reminds us that each person needs to have their own experience with resurrection to see beyond the land of the ever dying into the land of the ever living.  Each of us must be open to the Easter message; exercising a faith that behaves like Jesus is raised.  Resurrection news can only change the lives of those who choose to be in relationship with the Risen Savior.

Disciples after Jesus DeathI realize this is starting to sound like one of those Easter messages that suggests anyone who has experienced great Easter change is better off than those whose faith remain uncertain.  Let us be honest with each other and ourselves; none of us are any different than those disciples huddled in fear in that upper room, knowing they had abandoned Jesus after spending three years with him.  Death levels the ground and causes all of us to shudder.  It is likely we would have remained behind too when the women left, if we were not AWOL already.

Jesus told his disciples he would rise from the dead before dying.  So, we might think Jesus would chastise them now.  A careful reading of all four Gospels reveals Jesus doesn’t berate, blame, or call for retribution on these of little faith.  Patiently (Thomas) and forgivingly (Peter) he invites them to let go of their shame; works with them right where they are.  Later, he breathes forgiveness on the whole bunch; acting in the same manner he did toward his executioners.  Jesus will not let his disciples carry baggage from the past; because his resurrection sets them with the message that new life is possible for them and us, 200 yards at a time.

The risen Jesus is the definitive revelation of the heart of God; showing us love prevails over hate; forgiveness rules life, not blame; humble service is the way of world, not lording over those we cause to feel they are unworthy; and nonviolence is the way to confront hate, blame, power, and violent crosses.  The Risen Christ wants to release us from that same old tunes of the false self and invite us into a relationship and an open-ended future that develops our true self, not from the top down; but from the inside out. Thomas

The good reason we feel we’re only 200 yards further down the narrow road with Jesus is because inward transformation doesn’t happen easily.  Living to the rhythm of the empty tomb; dying little deaths so we may know little resurrection; continues to ask us to lay down our life; while remaining hope filled God knows what do with a life offered freely for the sake of others.  This is an act of passion that requires us to be open to a sense of mystery that defies full understanding, just like when you say I love you.  If we’ll remain before the mystery in wonder long enough, gradually the beauty of its truth unfolds and is revealed, 200 yards at a time.

The Easter story is more than an account of the miraculous ‘returning’ of Jesus’ body, we’re not here for a history lesson.  Neither is the raising of Jesus a showy miracle, we not here for a magic show.  Jesus’ resurrection assures us transformation is possible.

PotterTransformation happens as we live life one moment at a time, and little by little small changes build on other changes, day by day shaping our future.  We trust all those changes are dramatically transforming us for tomorrow.  As the true self grows, we realize all the ways the risen Christ has loved us, picked us up when we fell short, and freed us to mine the immortal diamond of our soul, which God stamped with divine DNA.  Jesus’ empty tomb is the reference point where our 200 yard resurrections are taking us.  For now, Christ is already alive; changing us, one resurrection at a time.

Mark’s gospel concludes without concluding.  You expect to hear how the women left dancing and everything changed.  We get a ragged non-ending as they run away in terror and amazement, talking to no one.  It’s as if there are three ellipsis dots at verse 8-more to come.  There is more to come, each one of us can supply our own ending; telling each other how far down the road we are this year because of Christ’s resurrection.  We are writing the rest of the story two hundred yards at a time.

Christ is Risen, what say you?

He is risen indeed!

Happy Easter!

Resurrection

New Identity John 20:1-18

This is a story of mistaken identity.  Last Friday, I took my mom to have her chemo port removed.  It was a significant day that culminated her battle with cancer; which she has valiantly fought since 2005.  I shared the news of this day with many family and friends via a social media platform called Facebook, maybe you have heard of it?  Here is what I wrote; “For those of you who have been following this long five-year journey with my fight with cancer; today is a monumental moment as the last vestiges of the battle are removed-so long chemo port, you been useful, but no longer needed according to the recent clean scans.  Thank God!

I realized omitted a word, when an outpouring of support poured in from people who thought I had suffered a very private battle with cancer.  I later posted, “I am extremely sorry for the confusion of my earlier post, details have not ever been my strength.  I left out a key word ‘my mom’s fight with cancer’ Sorry for confusion”  I had Facebook egg all over my face!  I sometimes have troubles with who is who.

The essence of Easter is God knows exactly who is who.  This series asks: Who am I?.  It has been leading up to this day of celebration that declares our mistaken identities are cleared up in the light of Resurrection.  Paul declares, “Your life is hidden with Christ.  When Christ is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.”  John’s Easter story is about a mistaken identity that gets cleared up in the light of Jesus being raised.

Mary Magdalene goes to where Jesus’ body was laid on the first Easter.  Shutters are closed and light hasn’t dawned.  She must have a lump in her throat and heart full of sorrow.  The space which separated her from Jesus was infinite.  She was comforted; sitting by herself near his earthly form.  She could treat his lifeless body with spices; providing the care that wasn’t possible as they hurriedly placed him in the tomb before sundown commenced the Sabbath.  On this morning, she didn’t worry what others might say of her love, she is there to recall good feelings that didn’t hurt.

Mary’s heart raced when she saw the stone rolled away and his body gone.  She interprets this surreal scene using the framework of the past; assuming a mistake-someone moved his body or it was stolen.  She leaves to tell Peter and John.  They run to see, and they see enough to make them wonder as they wander back.  Mary stays, which tells us something.  She had not only go to mourn for Jesus; but also to mourn for herself-wondering if who she had become because of Jesus had a future.  Mary stays!

In her tears, she looks back into the tomb and sees two angels, which the text inexplicably does not indicate Peter and John saw.  The strange beings ask her why she is weeping.  She horribilizes the scene, she can’t imagine anything but a same old sad story. Jesus is lurking in the shadows of dawn.  She thinks he is the gardener.  When she hears his voice say, “Mary” she recognizes him, in the way we do when Jesus calls our names in sermons, songs, nature, nurture, woe, or weal.  Mary understood or did she?

Mary says “Rabbouni!”, and then throws her arms around him holding him tight, as if to say, I’m never going to let you go.  Jesus replied, “Don’t hold me“, though the text does not say she was holding him.  Perhaps, he didn’t mean physical embrace.  He may be speaking of the reality that human love cannot love enough so to prevent a person from leaving us, which we know too well.  Jesus is instructing her to let go of the way they were.  Jesus can’t stay with Mary.  He had others to beckon to let go of the past, so they might follow him into a world he is making new.   Others were mourning; needing hope only his resurrection power makes possible  The Spirit of the living God walks among us; offering an intimate relationship that brings daily strength and a visible joy.  Can I get a witness?

Scholars debate whether Mary was trapped in a promiscuous lifestyle.  There is no debate that Mary lived a very unstable existence.  We know Jesus cast seven demons from of her.  We cannot say what seven demons meant in her day.  We can say this is woman who many questioned the content of character in her day and in our day, you read the Da Vinci Code.

There is no debate Mary Magdalene, who many cast shadow on, was first to see Jesus after he was raised.  Mary, who others whispered about is commissioned to tell the others, “I have seen the Lord!”  Mary, who some looked at with disdain is the last at the cross and the first at the tomb.  Mary, a person marked by suspicion stays when other disciples flee.  This is God’s way of correcting her mistaken identity.  Whatever Mary thought of herself, and whatever anyone else thought of her, in the eyes of Jesus, Mary was a case of mistaken identity was corrected by her spiritual relationship with Jesus; imparting on her a new identity.

No matter how welcome a change, it’s hard to let go.  We want our lives to be predictable; the older we get the more predictable we want.  Yet, this can cause us to feel stuck doing the same old thing as we bury ourselves in a tomb of safety and comfort.  Our culture can kidnap us; fooling us into thinking our past defines our future.  Our old identities, branded on us by our own action are others by expectation dig us into graves called routine.

I fantasize of dispensing a Jesus pill, so to free people from a past that holds them down.  I know that would be counterproductive; causing people to think they only need a little dose of Jesus.  Don’t fall into a trap of making the Easter message a “self-help” book.  That kind of cultural thinking distorts the faith.  We can’t realize our new identity by simply appreciating Jesus.  Resurrection power is real and can make a new identities possible.  We are to trust in a sway that can correct the mistaken identities that beset us.  Everything can be different if we allow our new identities to find meaningful expression into our future, so that our imagined limitations transcend human constraint; all because of the power of the risen Christ.

This happens quietly most of the time.  The Biblical Arts Center painting by Ron DiCianni is 12’ high by 40’ wide; portraying Jesus bursting from the tomb in dazzling white, flanked by two angels, Moses and Elijah, other biblical figures, a dove, rainbow, and religious symbols everywhere.  I appreciate the artist intent to capture the big moment.  But, with all due respect, that’s not the report of the biblical text.  Jesus is resurrected in the same way he lived; his dead body was transformed humbly, quietly, and out of sight.  We may wish it was more obvious, Jesus comes out of the tomb the same way he left the garden to go into the grave; a humble willing servant of his Father. 

We usually realize resurrection power in an unassuming way.  Something quietly dies, which was preventing our new identity from springing forth.  Slowly but surely, we engage with the risen Christ.  Little by little our imaginations are ignited; growing more confident the living Christ walks with us each day.  We hear more clearly the still small voice of the Risen Lord calling us to put on our new identity.  This is not a mind game-God knows exactly who we are and who we are meant to be in this life and the next.

An imperfect church tenderly cooperates with God; correcting mistaken identities.  She does so by loving others as Christ loves us.  Persons realize their life is hidden in Christ.  They allow Christ to be more revealed in them, new identities shine forth.  This is not a mind game-God knows exactly who we are and who we are meant to be in this life and the next.

I invite you to begin your journey to a new identity; speaking boldly the traditional Easter greeting.  When the leader announces from the chancel, Christ is risen, the people declare in one voice, Christ is risen indeed.  Join me; responding with the same humble self-assurance you will carry from this place to live into your new identity.  This is not a mind game-God knows exactly who we are and who we are meant to be in this life and the next.

Christ is risen!

He is Risen Indeed.

Then live like it my friends.  This is not a mind game-God knows who we are and who we are meant to be in this life and the next, Happy Easter!

Your Sunday Name

When I hear someone yell, “SIR!” my attention is not roused; they’re calling an older man.  Then I hear again: “SIR!”  To my surprise, he comes toward ME with my keys.  “Hey, sir, you left these,” he says.  I wonder when did I become “sir?”  I see myself as a “hey”; but not “sir”.  When did I say bye to my carefree days of being a “young stud.”  I don’t want to accept I have entered the “hey sir-hood” of my life.  My name has changed.  A name change speaks of a new stage marked by a new identity because of a change in our lives.  No matter how welcomed the change, it’s hard to let go of the old name that describes a previous reality.

Mary Magdalene was still holding onto Friday names of sorrow, despair, and death when she returned to the Jesus’ tomb to spread spices on the deceased body.  Mary knew the space separating her from Jesus was infinite; yet sitting a near Jesus’ familiar earthly form was comforting.  She came there to relive “good old memories” that didn’t hurt or “good old feelings” experienced with him.  Yet, she was stuck in that old reality.

The stone was rolled away and the body was gone when Mary arrived.  She interpreted this surreal scene using the old reality.  She assumed it was a mistake; someone moved the body; or it wasn’t a mistake and his body stolen.  Never mind Jesus clearly said he would be raised after three days.  Never mind the angels sitting in the tomb clued her that something marvelous had occurred.  Even Jesus could not break Mary out of that old reality. she thought he was the gardener.  Finally, she got it when Jesus said her name.  He said, “Mary,” and she understood.  Or did she?

The first thing she said was “Rabbouni!”; means “teacher.”  Jesus said in reply, “Do not hold on to me.”  It’s peculiar since there is no evidence Mary was holding him.  Perhaps Jesus wasn’t speaking of physical embrace.  Perhaps he was referring to her calling him, teacher; his Friday name.  Maybe he was saying let go of the way we were.  “Teacher” meant limited, fallible, and vulnerable.  Sunday had dawned; new life was possible.  Old categories no longer fit because Jesus Sunday name was “Risen Lord”.  The event of Jesus’ resurrection fundamentally transformed those limited, fallible, and vulnerable Friday names. 

I have trouble sleeping on the night before a big day; a lot stewing in my subconscious.  That often equals weird dreams.  Some dreams are so real we check to see if there is evidence they happened.  Dreams can become realities if we allow our limited Friday names to be changed to a Sunday name by a resurrection power that transcends it all and is real and available when any or everything needs to change.

Is this your story?  You knew Jesus; respected for his teachings; yet you had your arguments with the church.  There came a day when you realized something was missing.  So, you enrolled in a class, attended a Walk, participated in a spiritual activity and encountered the power in knowing the risen Christ.  You were transformed from being an agreement with a set of beliefs to being in a living relationship that brings daily strength, power, and joy that is visible in all you do.  Everything, including your name changed when you met the Christ of Easter.  Do you know that person?

The church equips people; providing tools needed for serving the world.  We offer classes, model ministry, and point to examples.  I fantasize about passing out a pill of theology or of waving a wand of biblical lessons so people can experience fully Jesus’ resurrection power.  However, if I led you to believe all is well if you are acquainted with the teachings of the Jesus; I would be do harm-misrepresenting the faith by reducing Jesus to his Friday name, ‘Rabbouni’.  The essential idea of the Christian faith is on that first Easter, Jesus the teacher, underwent a name change.  Jesus’ Sunday name became “Risen Lord” so our Friday lives might experience his Sunday resurrection power and our names may be changed.

The Stockholm Syndrome is when captives identifies with captors.  It’s the reason Patty Hearst assisted in robbing banks; Elizabeth Smart denied she was the missing and claimed to be a daughter of her captors.  Captives identify with their captors assuming they are less likely to be harmed if they fade into the background or mouth their ideology.  Citizens of liberated nations prefer previous despots rather than new-found freedom.  We want life to be predictable, and the older we get, the more predictable we want.  The spiritual version of the Stockholm Syndrome occurs when we can choose to remain in the tomb of an old predictable and safe life, rather than step toward new life because it seems unknown and risky.

Thanks be to our God who comes to us in surprising ways to disrupt when we are stuck in our same old ways.  God’s love never fails to call us from the tombs of our own making.  Our response to a God who surprises us with a persistent call is not to adopt or relearn teachings from a good teacher to get us to the next place in life.  Easter requires a vivid spiritual imagination to be in relationship with the risen Christ.  People with an Easter imagination walk with the living Risen Christ into all parts of their lives knowing in Christ they can experience the power to break loose from any grave entombing them in their old reality.  Resurrection changes everything; our name and our identity as we are reborn and remade.

This sermon was inspired by Methodist missionary, E. Stanley Jones, who told of a man who changed his middle name to “After.”  After experiencing Christ, he reasoned, everything was different; so he added this reality to his name.  After we encounter the risen Lord we move past our Friday names to something infinitely better as we are changed in the process.  We get Sunday names that describe a new power in our lives that defines us as a whole new person AFTER encountering the Risen Christ.

An operator whose job was to assist airline passengers in making calls began her day quite routinely.  At 9:45 a.m., she received a call from a passenger on United 93.  The passenger told her the plane had been hijacked.  He asked her to call his wife.  He said, “Promise you’ll do that for me and let her know how much I love her and the boys.”  Then he asked her to pray with him.  The operator was asked to recite the Lord’s Prayer with him.  After he was sure she would talk with his family, he told her they were going to try to stop the hijackers.  The phone dropped and she did not hear any more from the passenger.  In a matter of minutes, that woman’s name changed.  She went from “operator” to “minister.”  Her Friday name was “work as usual”; her Sunday name was “God’s instrument.”

Call Jesus by his Friday name, “Teacher”, and you can get by because he was a good person with good advice.  Call him by his Sunday name Risen Lord, and you will be changed.  Your Friday name may be “Business As Usual”, but your Sunday name can become “God’s Instrument”.  Your Friday name may “Sadness”, but your Sunday name can become “Joy”.  Your Friday name may “Prejudice”, but your Sunday name can become “Openness”.  Your Friday name may be “Weakness”, but your Sunday name can become “Strength in the Lord”.  Your Friday name may be “Despair”, but your Sunday name can become “Hope”.  Your Friday name may be “Fear”, but your Sunday name can become “Peace”.  Your Friday name may be “Death”, but your Sunday name can become “Resurrection”.  Friday is over.  Don’t hold on.  Let it go.  This is Sunday you have a Sunday name because Jesus Christ is Risen Indeed!

Christ the Lord is risen today!  He is Risen Indeed.

Happy Easter