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Idle Tales of Easter

April 17, 2022

Luke 24:1-12


On this Easter morning, we hear the story of the resurrection as told through the gospel of Luke. Listen as God speaks to you today.

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Every time we read this story from Luke, it is how the other disciples and apostles accuse the women of telling an idle tale that just demands my attention. I mean… I love that wording… “idle tale”. Other translations of the same passage declare that the women’s story about the empty tomb and that Jesus has been resurrected is nonsense… utter nonsense. I like words “idle tale” better… there’s something more dismissive in it… because every Easter we all stand up and proclaim that same idle tale that the women told… the same tale that was told to the women. He is risen! And I can’t help but think how easy that tale gets dismissed… maybe not in words, but surely by our actions.

The women have no proof of anything in Luke’s story… just the words of these two men in dazzling clothes to go on… words that they believe and then repeat… only to be told to be quiet… to stop talking foolishness. We have no proof of what we proclaim either… only faith. And Saints… our faith… as odd as this may sound… is not in the act of resurrection itself… the amazing power of new life out of death… the tomb standing empty… our faith is in the absolutely sovereign God who chooses resurrection… who in steadfast love is devoted to the life given. Our faith rises or falls on our trust… our sheer hope… that God is who we proclaim God to be.

We tell our idle tales and in the telling the Spirit moves within and the truth revealed stirs our spirits.

Jesus’ followers had entered into Jerusalem waving palm branches… shouting Hosanna… entered into Jerusalem with violence in their hearts and minds fueled with the hope of the sword. They were already measuring victory by the number of enemies killed… before the first blow had even been struck. When he turned the tables on the moneychangers… when he bested the high and mighty authorities of the Temple in their own biased arguments and displays of their self-appointed authority… those same followers didn’t absorb the message that this Temple would become a place a prayer… a place of our dedication to God… and not a place of our own religious commerce and self-aggrandizement. They saw this Temple as ground zero for their anger and rage against the other… the other who held them down… from this Temple would flow the power to destroy and lay waste… from this Temple they would be lifted on high with the cities of the world given to them to rule as they gave tribute to the Lord of sin and death.

When Jesus gathered around table with his disciples… and they remembered their shared heritage… remembered their freedom from bondage in Egypt… remember how the Passover and how they had passed through the waters with God leading the way… they still expected the mighty hand that would tear down… that would bring death to the other so that they might rise to a life of chosen privilege. When he spoke of his own body broken, his own blood given… they couldn’t stay awake for his anguish… they couldn’t stand by him when the violence… the violence in which they hoped and prayed for… was turned upon them. One of them betrayed openly. They all scattered into the night overcome with the same fear that had driven so much of their thoughts and actions.

When his self-declared enemies lied and lied and lied. When the waters of truth were so muddied, no one knew anything about anything. When they used their power to beat and humiliate. When the people cried for the release of the one who would lead them in violent revolution and death for the one who gave them the command to love for one another. When they nailed him to the cross and killed the body… showing the full extent of their power… their devotion to sin and death. He… he asked God for their forgiveness because they did not know what they were doing.

When they put him in the tomb. When they had silenced and were ready to forget God again. God said “no”. God resurrected this same Jesus. God brought new life from their acts of death. God created new life from the nothingness of oblivion. And God told the women the good news… the same good news that had been told and shown and told and shown as they had followed him through the countryside. The women told the other disciples the good news. The disciples thought it an idle tale. Returning new life for death… grace for fear… love for hatred… redemption replacing our illusion of power and control… an illusion built upon violence and death? That was not the world they lived in… that was not the world they knew and participated in. That was not the good news they knew how to hear. They struggled with what to do with that… just as they had struggled with the messages to feed the hungry… to care for the poor and the orphan and the widow… to embrace service over control… to forgive rather than condemn.

So they embraced lies for truth. They came to worship money and the material. They found new ways for violence and soothed their conscience by crushing the other… any other they could create. They filled their politics with fear and pandering knowing it would get more votes… more campaign contributions than a higher collected vision for the common good. They put their trust in the gun. They embraced the news of the algorithm and called it good as it told them what they wanted to hear and fed their gluttony for sin. They continued to embrace war over peace and found new ways to justify their hatred and violence. They cared about injustice only when they were hurt, but preferred blindness when injustice didn’t touch them and served their needs. They consumed the world around them to their own hurt and turned one another into commodities and called it love.

The women came to the tomb that morning knowing fully what death was. They had prepared to meet death with their ointments and spices. They were ready to perfume again the stench of sin and call it good.

And God said “no”. Here is the good news of resurrection. Go and tell the world that grace cannot be killed. That love always survives. That enemies are to be embraced. That all are my children. That in this world… there is nothing that is disposable… there is no one who cannot be redeemed. I make all things new. I am the Lord your God. You are my people. Be my people transformed by faith.

And the women ran and proclaimed… and when the disciples heard… they accused them of telling an idle tale… of spreading nonsense.

Until something clicked inside of Peter… and maybe you… Peter who had had his own expectations… Peter who had said the words, “You are the Messiah…” Peter who had denied and denied and denied and denied. Something inside Peter ignited… and he left that room of fear and hiding… he left the darkness of his sin… he left behind his idleness… and he ran to God.

And Peter… and you… and me… we have witnessed new life.

God said “no” to sin and death. And in that “no”… God said “yes” to the world and all who are in it. Amen.

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