Seeing Resurrection

+ A sermon for the Resurrection of Our Lord, Easter Sunday (Year C) at Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Bellevue, WA on April 21, 2019 +

Text: Luke 24:1-12

Did you see it?
They thought it was impossible, but somehow they got a picture.
It took years of work, but I’d say it was worth it when two weeks ago scientists released the first ever image of a black hole.
For decades, black holes were a theory—these points in space so dense that nothing could escape their gravitational pull, not even light.
But now, thanks to the work of more than 200 scientists worldwide and nine advanced telescopes spread across the globe, we have this picture.

The first image of a black hole, from the galaxy Messier 87. Credit: Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration, via National Science Foundation

And it is…well, it’s blurry—it kind of looks like an orange donut in space, but we’ve finally seen one!
But as I looked at this momentous photo, I was struck by how we see the black hole.
Since light can’t escape these objects, in the blackness of space, they are, well, black—unseeable.
The only reason we can see the black hole is because of what is around it—the swirling disc of gas that is being pulled into the hole that lights up the image.
And in this disc of gas we see a blank center—the black hole—invisible to us but for this light.

Not long after this first image was released, another picture came out of one of the scientists who was instrumental in making this landmark discovery possible.

Dr. Katie Bouman

The jubilant face of Dr. Katie Bouman, who led the development of an algorithm that helped make this picture possible, quickly spread online showing her excitement in seeing all her work payoff in this remarkable accomplishment.
But just as quickly as the first image was praised, this second photo was soon derided by internet trolls who refused to believe that a woman could have made such a significant contribution to science.
And while Dr. Bouman pointed out that “no one algorithm or person made this image” possible that it required the work of an international scientific community, it cannot be denied that she played a massive role in this discovery.
Thanks to the work of Dr. Bouman and scientists around the globe, we have seen the unseeable.

This Holy Week I’ve been thinking a lot about what we can see—especially how we can see Jesus.
Last Sunday, I talked about seeing Jesus triumphantly enter Jerusalem as we see his new kingdom come to bear against the kingdoms of this world.
On Thursday, we explored how we can see Jesus in loving acts of service—both in serving and being served.
On Friday, we pondered Jesus’ crucifixion echoed in the brokenness that surrounds us and paradoxically seeing the cross as an exemplar of love and hope.
And now, this Easter morning, we look to see resurrection.

But did you notice that we don’t actually see the resurrection in today’s gospel?
On this day when we celebrate Jesus’ triumph over death and his rising to new life, we don’t actually see Jesus.
57467944_10219390293288426_6505779996261351424_nInstead we see that group of faithful women, Mary, Joanna, Mary, and the other women, the ones who watched as Jesus was executed and followed as he was laid in the tomb, we see them return to anoint his body and prepare it for burial but instead find the stone rolled away and what seem to be heavenly messengers telling them, “He is not here, but has risen!”
We see the women rush back to their friends and proclaim the resurrection to the apostles—that everything is changed, that life has triumphed over death, that love has defeated violence, and that nothing will ever be the same again.
We see them announce the inauguration of a new world where God’s vision reigns supreme.
And we see the apostles disregard the women and shrug off their announcement as impossible nonsense.
Now we don’t know why the apostles refuse to believe the women, whether it’s grief from the loss of their friend and teacher, the need to see it for themselves, or if it’s showing their own sexism, but we know that this news we celebrate today did not stop there.
Thanks to the work of these women and the community that they would inspire, we rejoice this day in the resurrection of our Lord.

Now maybe, like those first apostles, you are thinking this Easter tale is impossible nonsense—I get that.
Or maybe you want to rush to the tomb with Peter and see for yourselves—I know I do, I want to see the resurrection!
But I wonder if this resurrection, like a black hole, is unseeable.
Maybe we can only see resurrection by what happens around it.
Because unlike a black hole, which pulls in everything around it, I imagine the resurrection as a ceaseless fountain, exuding love and hope and life that permeates all who surround it; proclaiming a new creation and inviting us to be a part of it.
The resurrection is not just some historical event that we look back to, remembering once a year, it is a new reality that we celebrate each Sunday as we gather together and join in the feast of Christ’s victory, a new beginning that we experience every time we wake up in the morning and are greeted with the rising sun full of hope and possibilities, a new creation that we embrace as a way of living.

Icon of the Myrrh Bearers

And while we may not be able to physically see the resurrection, we can see it through the light that surrounds it, through the movement inspired by the news relayed by those faithful women two millennia ago and the global community it created.
We can see resurrection through the witness of countless people across time and space who have modeled their lives after Jesus’ example of new life, who have allowed Christ’s love to motivate their way of being.
Like the women that first Easter, we may not see Jesus in the flesh this morning, but we can see Christ and his resurrection by what surrounds it, by the hope and life and love that flows unceasingly from it.

In a few minutes we will baptize two new brothers into Christ’s death and resurrection.
And as the water drips off their head, we will hand Anh and Jacob a candle, lit from this Paschal candle—a symbol of resurrection—and will say “Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Let your light so shine that through your life, the world can see Christ’s resurrection in you.
Then we, along with Ben, will affirm our own baptisms, our role in this resurrection, our part in its realization.
And we will ask that God will help and guide us as we join with all the baptized in common mission: “to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed, to serve all people, following the example of Jesus, and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth.” To proclaim resurrection in everything we do.
To share God’s love and hope and life with all of creation so we do not need a picture of what happened that first Easter morning, but can see Christ’s resurrection through all who are a part of it.
So through our lives and actions, the world can see what would otherwise be unseeable.

My friends, we know how important it is that this resurrection can be seen.
We know the parts of our world that cry out for this new life.
We know the brokenness that surrounds us in our neighborhoods, in our city, in our country, and across the globe.
We know how our lives, our families, our souls, desperately need the good news that we celebrate this morning.
We know where we are still waiting for resurrection to take root: in the shell of Notre Dame and the ashes of three historically Black churches in Louisiana.
In the homes of Flint, Michigan and Puerto Rico.
In families waiting for the diagnosis, afraid of what they might hear.
In those commending their loved one to hospice care.
In the makeshift camps under I-5 and the detention centers on our southern border.
There are so many places all around us, so many places within us, that need to see this resurrection.
And this morning, we can hear the cry for resurrection from the streets of Sri Lanka as terrorists targeted churches celebrating this Easter Day.
As one theologian wrote, “A world that continues to crucify makes it hard to preach resurrection.”

women_tomb_resurrection_fbBut on this morning of all mornings, we know that God is still at work.
This morning we know that death does not have the final word.
We can see resurrection, not just 2000 years ago, but here in this place, in this font, in this community as we who have been joined into Christ’s new life go into the world to make this resurrection known, to make the unseeable visible in our lives.
Maybe it won’t be completed today, and it probably won’t be tomorrow, but we can see resurrection at work, see Christ’s new creation springing forth from that empty tomb, see God’s love vanquishing death.

So where do we see Jesus on this Easter Sunday?
Where do we see resurrection this morning?
Here in this place. Here in this congregation.
We see Jesus in the love that we share and that we enact in so many ways in the world.
We see Jesus through making quilts, feeding the hungry, housing those without shelter, and caring for creation.
We see resurrection in the new and exciting things God is doing among us in this place as we look into our future together.
We see it in the springing up of new life after a long winter.
We see it in the smiling face of a newborn baby.
We see it through advocacy and caring for the same people Jesus served, those who are marginalized, outcast, or feel unloved.
We see it in the hope we have and share with our neighborhood and city and world as we audaciously live into a new reality, trusting that God’s new kingdom of love triumphs over the systems of hate; and that death cannot defeat Christ’s new life.

We see it is we boldly proclaim: Alleluia! Christ is risen!
Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!

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