Sermon 4-5-2015, Easter Sunday
‘The Power of a Resurrected Life’
Pastor Ruthie Tippin, Indianapolis First Friends Meeting
What a blessing it is to be with you this morning! It’s such a joy to see so many families here. It’s just wonderful to see so many families together on this Easter Sunday morning. I know many of you, like Jon and I, have family spread far and wide. Matt and Rebecca are in Seattle this morning and Seth and Bethany, with our little Emma and Ben are in Sheridan, Wyoming this morning. So if you are one of those who have families that are far and wide, I ask you to consider this your family today. This is your family. This is my family, this is your family.
I have such great news for us all today. Christ is risen! The stock market is up, gas prices are down, interest rates are low, more people are falling in love than out of love, the sun is shining and Jesus didn’t die in that tomb. Christ is risen.
Our meeting is a blessed place to worship and we welcome family and friends here not just on Easter Sunday, but every week. New people come to experience our life of faith and old friends return to connect and rejoice that our faith community still gathers with Quaker faith and purpose. Our nursery is so full that we’ve had to open a second room for all the kids. Our middle and high school kids are just four months from their trip to Philadelphia, and please pray for Beth and me and all the adults that are going with them! It’s a celebration of the completion of their year of affirmation as Friends youth. We have at least as many interest and activity groups as we do committees, and Jesus didn’t die in that tomb. Thank God. Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
Many, many young boys in Galilee had been named Jesus. But only one was called Emmanuel - God with us. There have been many men, and we learned last week that there were at least five - who claimed to be the Messiah during Jesus’s lifetime - The Christ, the Anointed One….there still are. But there was only one whose death was witnessed, whose resurrection was proven with the signs of his wounds, the appearance of his physical body, and the sound of his voice. (Remember when he called to his disciples to come and eat breakfast with him on the seashore?) The nurture of his presence, and the blessing of his peace… that is the Son of God, whom we celebrate and honor today. Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
How could this be? How could this be? We can understand the stock market….at least, some of you can! We know what it means to fall in love. We know that more families at First Friends means more children, and more children mean more babies, and babies need more nursery space. We can understand all of those things, but how could this man, this Jesus, once living and now dead, become alive again? Through the power of God, in the form of God’s spirit. Living and active, reviving him, indwelling him, renewing him to life again for us and for all the world. This same spirit that raised Christ from the dead, gives us this same life.
“If the spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his spirit, that dwells in you.”
We come, this Easter morning to tombs. To places of death. To school campuses, turned into killing fields. To mass graves, to broken hearts. Where do we find life raised up? Not in law and not in liturgy. There is no state, no country, no tribe that gives life. No sect, no religion, no creed that gives life. Life comes from Spirit. Life comes from the life-giver, the God we worship. God’s Spirit in us.
“For those that live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the spirit set their minds on the things of the spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death. But to set the mind on the spirit is life and peace. For this reason, the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
Those persons, those tribes, those churches, those groups who try to rule others by the letter of the law, by creed, by crusade, by caliphate, reek destruction and death. What is it? What is that verse of scripture? ‘The letter kills, but the spirit gives life.’ You are not in the flesh. You are in the spirit, since the spirit of God dwells in you! Anyone who does not have the spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body be dead because of sin, the spirit is life because of righteousness.
Quakers believe that there is that of God in us. But we do not believe that we are God. We have the same choice that the people of Rome did so long ago. We either choose to live in the spirit of God, or we choose to live in the flesh. We either choose to live by the letter, or by the spirit.
If you want to know what’s going on in the world today, grab a copy of your favorite newspaper. The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Indianapolis Star, or the book of Ezekiel. It’s all there. Dislocation, superpower politics, ethnic nationalism violence, devastation, national alliances.
The people of God were in exile. Hopeless, terrorized, and uncertain about their future - if they had a future. Just then, God took his prophet Ezekiel to a valley filled with dry, dead bones. Not bodies, just bones. Lots and lots of bones. “Can these bones live?” asked God. “Only you know,” answered Ezekiel. God commanded Ezekiel to speak to the bones. To prophesy to them. Can you imagine? Speaking, but not to living persons? That’s what Ezekiel always did. He was a prophet and was used to standing in front of living persons like you. No, God said to speak to these dead bones, this whole field of dead bones. Ezekiel prophesized as he’d been commanded. “Thus says the Lord God to these bones, I will cause breath to enter you and you shall live. Muscle and sinew, then flesh, then skin to cover you. I will put breath in you, and you shall live. And you shall know that I am the Lord.”
(Rattle sticks together.) Suddenly there was a noise. Bone to bone. Bone to its bone. The bones came together. Ezekiel watched and saw, sinew, tendon, muscle. (It would be kind of creepy.) Then flesh, then skin. But there was no breath. ‘And then God said, prophesy to the breath. Prophesy and say to the breath, “Come from the four winds. Breath, come and breathe upon these slain that they may live.”’ Ezekiel did. The breath came into them, and they lived. They stood on their feet, a vast multitude, scripture tells us.
Stand on your feet, please now, stand. Take a deep breath. Now another. Imagine this vast multitude. God spoke to them all, “Thus says the Lord, I am going to bring you up from your graves and bring you back to the land of Israel. I will put my spirit into you, and you shall live.” (Signal meeting to be seated.)
The sound of rattling bones surrounds us today. We hear them in our Meetings and churches where we speak of what we cannot possibly do, rather than what God’s spirit makes possible. We hear them in our neighborhoods where guns are being sold and people are being killed. We hear bones in our legislature, where we act before we think of the consequences for all people. We hear them in our own country any time self-interest becomes more important than the good of all. We hear rattling bones in our families where children are hungry, where elders are left uncared for and abused, where relationships are no longer tender and nurtured. Anytime we live by the things we cannot do, rather than in the things God calls us to do, we live by the letter that kills, rather than by the spirit that gives life. Rattling bones, muscle, tendon, flesh, skin, no breath. When we listen for the voice of God speaking, and sense the power of God’s spirit moving - the ‘ruah’ of God - we remember our resurrection. The same spirit that raised Jesus from the dead brings us to life through the power of God’s Spirit. That Spirit lives in us.
George Fox, 1669… here’s what he said:
‘All Friends in the living spirit, living power and in the heavenly light dwell. Quench not the motions of it in yourselves, nor the movings of it in others. Though many have run out and gone beyond their measures, yet many more have quenched the measure of the spirit of God and afterwards become dead, and dull, and questioned through a false fear. So there has been hurt, both ways. Therefore, be obedient to the power of the Lord.’
I told you that I had good news. The same spirit that raised those dry, dead bones that Ezekiel found, the same spirit that raised a crucified Christ, is the same spirit that lives in each one of us. It gives us the power to live. To live fully, as God calls us to. Not just on Easter Sunday, but every day. Every day. Every day. Jesus isn’t the only one who lives in resurrection this morning!