With the indulgence of my wife, here is the sermon I preached this morning for our Easter Sunrise Service.
Perplexed, Dazzled, Terrified, Dismissive and Amazed
Grace and Peace to you this morning. Grace and Peace.
The first responses of the witnesses to the resurrection were not faith and rejoicing and celebration. They did not put on their Sabbath finest, show up with their Easter bonnets, shout “Woo Hoo!”
The first witnesses were perplexed, dazzled, terrified, dismissive and amazed.
The women with the spices, coming in that strange mix of obedience and grief, were perplexed by the stone being rolled away.
When the angels show up, they are dazzled by the brightness of their shining and they are terrified.
When they tell the other disciples what they have seen and heard, the disciples are dismissive – it can’t be true, can it?
And when Peter goes to see for himself, he is amazed.
Maybe we grew up with this story, hearing it at home and in Sunday School and in church. Maybe it has lost some of its power to dazzle and terrify us.
Or maybe we are more recently come to trust the resurrection of Jesus, but we are still perplexed.
Maybe we have seen healing that we can’t explain any other way, or experienced the lifting of our fear, the resolution of our conflicts, the new life that does not fit anything other than the grace of God.
It can be terrifying when we start to know we are not the ones in control.
Or maybe we have grown so used to the ways of the world, we are dismissive of the possibility of resurrection.
I used to think I knew how to pray.
I have prayed in church and at home, in hospitals and hospices, on street corners and in fire stations, in auditoriums and at a traveling copy of the Vietnam Memorial.
I have prayed with people who just lost a loved one, and with people who have just had a baby.
I have prayed alone, with one other person, in a small group, in front of tens and hundreds (I don’t think I have reached thousands yet…).
I have prayed prayers from centuries ago.
I have prayed prayers I have written, my teachers have written, my mentors have written.
I have prayed out of prayer books and off the top of my head.
I have prayed the “thou hast’s” and I have prayed the “just wanna’s.”
But last Monday, I discovered that I don’t know how to pray.
Last Monday, Mary and I had an Easter moment. After years of trying, after shots and surgeries and drugs and procedures and the great roller coaster, we looked on the monitor of an ultrasound machine and saw something that the doctor explained to us was about the size of a grain of rice, except that this little bitty thing had a heartbeat.
And I discovered I didn’t know how to pray.
I was perplexed. You see, I am a control freak. (This should come as no surprise to anyone here!) And suddenly, I realized that we were pregnant. Which means that any illusions I might have that I am in control are swiftly flying out the window.
I was dazzled. I was not ready for how amazing that moment would be.
I was (and am) terrified. I see messed up families all the time. I know my own failings and foibles. I also know that however much I want to control the world, I will not be able to make it all safe, to make it all better for this child. I will mess it up. And the world is pretty messed up, too.
I was dismissive. I had gotten so used to the roller coaster of trying and it not working, of going through the procedures, of giving shots, that I had hardened my heart against the possibility of this actually working. It was a defensive mechanism to keep me from crashing again.
And finally, I am amazed. I can quote you scripture about healing and resurrection; I can tell you stories of people whose lives are turned around, who find hope, who experience grace and forgiveness; I can walk you through the questions we ask at times such as this.
But this is different.
I can even tell you of times I have felt God’s presence, known new life, been forgiven and able to forgive, experienced resurrection.
But this is different.
No I am not ready for it. (Probably nobody is…small comfort that that thought brings.)
Yes, I know that even as I tell my story there are others who have been here before. I know that there are others on this particular roller coaster still, still stuck on Friday, not yet hearing good news.
I can’t dismiss them. I have been one of them.
Nor am I ready to proclaim that I have faith all figured out. Some days I am doing well just to get through the day.
But I am in good company. I am not the first to be perplexed, dazzled, terrified, dismissive and amazed at a resurrection.
I can add my voice in a new way to these witnesses of God’s goodness, of the hope the Gospel brings, to resurrection.
And in all my perplexity, bedazzlement, terror, dismissal and amazement at the prospect of being a dad, I am learning I need to pray a whole lot harder than I have been.
For me and Mary. For this child who is here but not yet here. For all those who know the power of the resurrection. And for all those who are still stuck on Friday or Saturday, still waiting, still hoping.
For these I am learning to pray. And I am also learning a new way of proclaiming:
Christ is Risen!
Christ is Risen indeed!
Thanks be to God!