Different Journeys; One Christ

My Easter sermon.  Interactive with the choir!

Happy Easter, friends!  Christ is Risen!

***

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
John 20:1-18

Different Journeys, One Christ

Guess what?

Choir: What?!

This morning I bring you Good News!

Choir: What is the Good News that you bring?

When Mary found the stone rolled away from the tomb, they found that it was empty! Christ has risen from the dead! Christ is Risen!

Choir: He is Risen, indeed!

And because Christ lives, we, too, are given eternal life. We are given a second chance at redemption, both here on earth and in heaven.

Choir: That is Good News!

A few weeks ago I logged into a webinar given by my graduate school preaching professor, Tom Long. He was talking about preaching the Easter sermon. He reminded us that the Easter sermon is a small part of a much bigger picture – and encouraged us to let the story – the Good News! – do a majority of the preaching. He said, “When it comes to preaching, no news is bad preaching.”

This morning I bring you Good News. Three days ago, Jesus died on a cross and now he lives again. And because he lives again, we, too are given eternal life! And over the past 2,000 years, because of this Good News, millions of lives have been transformed. Individuals have been changed. People have been called and led to do great things. More Good News has been revealed through the lives and ministries of Jesus’ followers. Christ’s message has spread throughout the world.

The Good News did not end with the resurrection; it began with it.

It is interesting to look at how the different characters in the resurrection story reacted to the Good News. We heard the account of the resurrection this morning from the Gospel of John. John records that Mary Magdalene first saw that the tomb was empty. She ran to get Simon Peter and the other disciple whom Jesus loved and they ran to the tomb. The other disciple ran ahead of Simon Peter, saw the linen wrappings lying there and immediately knew what had happened. “Then the other disciple,” John records, “who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed.”

This disciple just knew; belief came very naturally to him. He did not need to see the Risen Christ to know that it was true. He just believed.

And that was how one of the disciples experienced the Good News.

The story goes on; Mary sat outside the tomb crying when Jesus appeared behind her. He said, “Mary!” – and that was when she knew! All Mary Magdalene needed was a single encounter with the Risen Christ in order for her to believe. She did not need any further explanation. She simply knew that it was Jesus that stood before her.

And that was how Mary experienced the Good News.

The story goes on further than we read this morning.

Jesus appeared to the disciples next. He entered a house where they were all staying, showed them his hands and his side and said to them, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And then they believed. The disciples needed more than simply seeing Jesus in front of them and hearing him speak. They needed to see his wounds and hear his message. But then they believed.

And that was how those disciples experienced the Good News.

Thomas was next in line to experience the Risen Christ. He is known as “Doubting Thomas” because – well – he doubted. He was not with the disciples when Jesus appeared to them and when they tried to tell him what had happened he demanded proof. “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side,” Thomas said to the other disciples, “I will not believe.”

And that was how Thomas experienced the Good News.

I find it interesting that the gospel records four different accounts of individual experiences with the Risen Christ – and no two are the same. Each character in this narrative experienced Jesus, experienced the work that God was doing in the world, in a unique and different way. Some simply believed, some needed proof and some doubted.

But they did not have to believe in the Good News the same way in order to believe that is was true.

And we do not have to either.

We spend a lot of time in our world today trying to convince other people to believe what we believe. Social media has exacerbated this problem; it is very easy to have a voice and to make that voice heard. It is probable that we will – at one point during the day – read or see something that we do not agree with. And all it takes is a few words typed and a click of the “submit” button in order to make our disagreement known.

And this is not a bad thing; we should have a voice and we should be able to let our voices be heard. We would not be able to share our thoughts and our faith if we were not able to use our voices.

But I think we also need to remember that even the earliest Christian believers – those who were actually there to witness the resurrection – did not see and understand the same way. They came into their faith through different roads.

But all of those roads led to the Good News.

The resurrection narrative – the Easter story told to us in the gospel of John – ends with the following narrative:

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. {John 20:30-31}

How will you experience the Risen Christ on this Easter morning? How will you come to believe in the Good News? What will your road like? Where will it take you along your journey through life?

There are many different types of Christians in the world. There are those who grow up believing and know no other way of life. There are those who spend their lives doubting; asking questions and seeking answers. There are those who have one profound experience or encounter with God, one that gives them enthusiasm and clarity. There are people who enjoy traditions and there are people who want to live a more contemporary faith. There are Protestants and Catholics, spiritual and religious, conservative and liberal.

And that is okay.

The Christian story needs diversity in order for it to be alive and vibrant. The Body of Christ needs us – all of us, wherever we are on our journey of faith – to be who we are and who God calls us to be.

The resurrection story reminds us that even 2,000 years ago, as the Christian story was unfolding here on earth, individuals were experiencing the Risen Christ in different ways. They were shouting “Hallelujah” for different reasons. They were embracing their faith because of different experiences; they were expressing their faith and their belief in different ways. They were living out the Good News in a way that was unique to them.

Different journeys; one Christ.

On this Easter morning, I invite you all to celebrate the unique way that you are experiencing the Good News. Embrace the different ways that we are all journeying towards Christ. Rather than praying that we all might be of one mind, let us pray that we might all simply be of one body. The Body of Christ.

Different journeys; one Christ.

This is the good news that brings us new life.

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

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