Sermon for April 21, 2019 -- IT MAKES A DIFFERENCE


-a sermon preached by Terry McGinley 4-21-2019 Pardeeville

(1Corinthians 5:6b-8 and Mark 16:1-8)


     Among the many functions I am responsible for at our house, I am the pizza maker.  Sometimes I enlist other family members to cut up the toppings…or prepare the meat…or grate the cheese.  But the dough is all mine.  I found a recipe to make pizza dough many years ago that I still use.  Now it wasn’t always like this.  When I was young, which is getting further and further in the past it seems, I helped my Dad when he made pizza dough.  He was kind enough to let me measure some of the ingredients and he taught me how to knead the dough.  No disrespect but, I always thought that, if we didn’t need the dough, we wouldn’t have made it in the first place.  Dad rolled his dough out thin which is something I do as well.  At our house, pizza is usually a Sunday evening treat.  It’s something to settle in with and enjoy as we watch 60 Minutes®.  This week, I was reminded of one particular batch of pizza dough I made…a long time ago now.  I put everything together, mixed it up, and kneaded it as long as I thought I should.  I set it aside to rise.  When I returned about an hour later, not much had changed.  My first thought was that the yeast wasn’t any good.  Now I know that a good worker never blames his tools.  What I ultimately had to admit was…I had neglected to add any yeast to the dough.  So we had what amounted to pizza on crackers that night.  It’s an acquired taste…that I have never really acquired.  And I haven’t forgotten the yeast since!  The moral of the story is a simple one…yeast makes a difference!

     Yeast is in the reading from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians that we heard this morning.  Yeast is a small part of any bread recipe but its effects are seen throughout the entire batch.  Paul invited the readers of his day to celebrate the festival.  This would have been the Passover.  Today, we celebrate Easter.  That’s why we’ve gathered here today.  We’ve come to celebrate the day Jesus was raised from the dead.  And that’s important.  The fact that Jesus rose from the dead and is alive today makes a difference too.  Let’s first take a look at that day almost two thousand years ago and begin to understand the comedy of errors that went on.

     I don’t know about you but it seems to me that people were pretty mixed up on that first Easter morning.  We want the story to be different somehow.  We want the women to go to the tomb, to see for themselves that Jesus is not there, and to understand the resurrection event right away.  We want them to go to Peter and the others and share this good news with them.  Too bad it didn’t happen like that!

     The women were on their way to the tomb early on that Sunday morning for only one reason.  There hadn’t been enough time on Friday afternoon to complete the embalming process of Jesus’ body.  There was barely enough time to place his body in the tomb before it was time for the Sabbath to begin.  So on Sunday morning, the women were on their way to the tomb to finish the job.  They were not even considering the scene they found when they got to the tomb.  Rather, they were talking among themselves and sharing their mutual concern, “How on earth are we going to roll that huge stone back?”

     That turned out to be the least of their problems.  As they got close enough to see, it was obvious that the stone had already been rolled away from the entrance to the tomb.  In an act of utter bravery on their part, the women walk inside the tomb to see what’s going on.  Jesus is not there…just a young man in a white robe who tells them not to be alarmed.  Why do angels always open with some form of “Do not be afraid” when talking to humans?  Don’t be alarmed?!  We came here expecting to find Jesus…he’s not even here…and you expect us to stay calm?!  I wonder what sort of explanations went through their heads?  How do you think they reacted to this unexpected situation?  Perhaps they thought someone had stolen the body of Jesus.  Perhaps they thought the disciples had been there first and done something with the body.  One thing was for sure…they never expected the explanation that young man in the white robe gave them.  Jesus is risen?!  No explanation of how such a thing could have happened…just this:   “He is risen and he’ll meet everyone in Galilee like he said he would.”

     That, of course, did absolutely nothing to calm the women down.  They left the tomb at full gallop.  They were still unsure what it all meant and they were terrified.  And we learn exactly how many people the women told about their experience early Sunday morning…zero!  Why did everyone that day miss the significance of Jesus’ resurrection…or even that it had happened?  The simple answer is…they weren’t expecting it!  But why not?  Jesus had told his disciples not once but three times what was going to happen when he reached Jerusalem.  Maybe it had to do with the events of Holy Week.  On Thursday evening, Jesus had been arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane.  The disciples had all scattered, leaving Jesus to face everything that lay ahead of him alone.  Peter had the nerve to follow Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest but, while there, he denied that he knew Jesus three times.  Good Friday was the worst.  Jesus was crucified.  He died.  And he was buried.  It looked for all practical purposes that the ministry was over.

     Eventually, the women who went to the tomb, the disciples and all the rest of Jesus’ followers came to realize what had happened…but it took some time.  Since no one was really prepared for this and no one ever expected Jesus’ resurrection to happen, they had to come to believe in other ways.  Later on, Jesus appeared to his disciples.  Jesus joined two other followers on their way to Emmaus that Sunday evening.  As unbelievable as it seems to us today, those two guys did not recognize Jesus even though they walked about seven miles with him.  But, when they all stopped for a meal together and Jesus broke bread and shared it with them, they understood it was him and they couldn’t wait to tell others what they knew.  Little by little the word spread among all of those who followed Jesus.

     Now we come along about two thousand years after this event.  We have a decidedly unfair advantage over the disciples in that we understand that Jesus was raised from the dead.  We know how wonderful that is.  We know that God is still at work in the world in every place we look.  And we know that it is now up to us to share the good news of the resurrection…of the salvation that has been won for us by Jesus…that we have a marvelous God, a wonderful God, a God who wants to have a relationship with us.

     It’s good to be reminded of these things on Easter Sunday.  It’s good to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and reacquaint ourselves with its significance.  But it is far from our only chance to do so.  There are signs of resurrection and new life all around us at this time of the year.  Even after a long winter and a late spring, the signs are beginning to show up.  Grass is becoming green again.  Some of the trees are budding out.  Soon we’ll be seeing crocus and daffodil and tulip coming out of the ground.  And that’s just the beginning.  It won’t be long before we’ll be able to look any direction and see the signs of new life.  Even dandelions in our yards will speak of resurrection.  That tree that when it buds out leaves all those sticky things on the ground and you track them into the house and you get yelled at will only further confirm the new life that lives all around us.  We’ll see it in every butterfly…and in every caterpillar.  Yes, it makes a difference if the dough has yeast in it.  And it makes a difference that Jesus was raised from the dead on Easter.  Starting today, because of Jesus’ resurrection and what it means for us, we are new people.  We are Easter people.  For this gift and for so many other things, thanks be to God!

  July 2020  
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