Easter Sunday • Midtown

Easter Sunday • Midtown

April 02, 2024 • Rev. Mindie Moore

 Matthew 28:1-10: For Thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen. (Easter Sunday 2024) 

We’re so glad that you’re here at St. Luke’s Midtown this Easter! For the last several weeks, we’ve been in a series where we have explored The Lord’s Prayer together, going line by line. And today, were are at the VERY end of the prayer- (SLIDE) For Thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen. 

Now, The Lord’s Prayer, if you spend enough time around certain kind of churches or even in your own personal spiritual life, The Lord’s Prayer often functions as a ritual, something that we do over and over again in a certain way to lead us into a specific experience. And a lot of times we think of rituals as being mostly faith based, but rituals can take on all kinds of forms. Some of you have rituals around what you’ll do to celebrate the Easter holiday; some of you just returned from a ritual of Spring Break Travel to the beach. Since it is currently March Madness, it feels appropriate that we bring a little basketball ritual into this place today. So check out this clip from the ESPN 30 for 30 Documentary called “Survive and Advance” that tells the story of the 1982-83 NC State Men’s Basketball Team and ritual that they had: 

Clip from Survive and Advance (1:51) 

I think it’s safe to say that EVERY team wants to win. But this team took that desire to win a step further— they 

created this whole ritual of cutting down the nets because they absolutely believed that victory was going to be part of their story as a team. Every single time they did this—even when it felt weird or kind of annoying to the players—every single time, it declared that they had hope and that hope was what was driving them forward. 

Now, this hope was powerful, I mean, we’re taking about it 40 years later. But it was kind of unfounded and fragile. Because they could cut the nets, they could do all the right things, but we all know that ANYTHING can happen when it’s game time! Anything can go wrong for you and right for the other team, and like THAT all of your hard work is over and you’re looking at defeat instead of the victory you planned for. So even though there’s a ritual of hope being created... it’s not always an easy hope to hold on to and trust. 

What we’re doing here today, as we celebrate Easter...that’s a ritual of hope too. It’s hope that our stories end in victory, but it’s also saying that this victory, while it involves us…it’s not ABOUT us. It’s not about what WE can do, but it’s about what God has done. And the advantage we have is that we're not waiting to see the final score pop up, there’s no mystery about how this one ends. And so this hope that Easter brings just holds a different kind of weight. It can be trusted in a different type of way. 

And when we say these words in the Lord’s Prayer, when we say, thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. What we’re doing is we’re making a statement that we believe this hope is true and that this hope is going to impact the way we live our lives. When we say these words, we are participating in something called a doxology—which sounds very churchy, I know, but that word simply means “praise” and it’s something that’s been part of our history as people of faith, and it’s another one of those hope-creating rituals that make a difference. 

What I think is kind of interesting about this part of the prayer is that this doxology isn’t in Jesus’ original teaching. It's an add on. And that might seem a little strange, but really it makes some sense. Because people have been ending their prayers in doxologies for centuries. It would have been strange, culturally, for Jesus to end a prayer on the line before this, which talks about evil. Because all throughout Jewish scripture, prayers, no matter how gritty and real they get...they almost always come back to praise. You really see this in the Psalms. Some of those prayers get DARK. But no matter how dark they get, they often end with some version of, “and God you’re so powerful and good and holy, Amen!” So it’s a little strange and unexpected, but it’s a really powerful thing to do. Because it's like no matter what we’re going through, no matter what we’re talking to God about, no matter how 

hard life is...we have this reminder that the story doesn’t end in that hard place. It doesn’t end in the dark. The story we’re a part of doesn’t end without hope. 

Because (SLIDE) When God’s involved, hope gets the last word. 

So I think looking at this line of the Lord’s Prayer is a great way to bring us into the Easter story and into that surprising hope. Because as the resurrection story begins, it actually feels really clear that some other kingdom that doesn’t belong to God has won. It starts out all kinds of bleak. Jesus has been crucified. He’s died in front of a whole crowd of people in this really humiliating way. And his dead body has been put behind this stone in a tomb and everything seems like it’s over. 

So the ritual hope of Easter actually begins in a pretty hopeless place. And I’m glad. Because this story reminds us that (SLIDE) Sometimes hope begins in a hopeless moment. 

And the way Matthew tells the story of Jesus’ resurrection is that you’ve got the two Marys, full of hopelessness, I’m sure. And they make their way to the tomb, probably knowing exactly what they expect to find. I think sometimes when we tell the Easter story, we think these people who are approaching the tomb are expecting to be surprised...I don’t think so. I think they expect to find a dead person. I think they expect to get kind of hassled by 

some Roman guards, I think they probably didn’t quite have the energy for all of that but they wanted to honor their Jesus so they pushed through and made their way to the tomb anyway. 

But what they expect is not what they get. Instead, they get this weird, chaotic, scary scene. The ground shakes, there are soldiers lying passed out from some kind of terrifying experience, and then there’s this angel just sitting there on the stone making a very subtle but powerful statement that God is still in charge, despite everything that just went down. 

And if that’s not enough, there’s the news: Jesus isn’t dead. He’s risen. 

In this moment, the kingdom, the power, and the glory are at work. 

It makes me think of something Will Willimon says: “The story before us is not about us. It’s a narrative of a God who is not simply love, but love for us, love in action, taking on our battles with sin and death, doing for us that which we could not do ourselves...the most interesting actor in this story is a God who raises the dead and makes a way when we thought there was no way.” 

I think we’ve all been in a similar place where we thought there was no way to be made. I think we’ve all been in a place like the Marys found themselves that day. Maybe 

the wait was too long, the relationship was too broken, the diagnosis was too bleak, the politics were too divisive, the doom scroll was too much. Whatever it looked like, we were SURE that hope was not for us. 

And because we’ve all been there...that’s why we need the hope of Easter. Because (SLIDE) Easter reminds us that there’s something forever good happening in the middle of our temporary pain. Easter reminds us that we are people living in a bigger story, living in God’s story, and that this story isn’t contained by what we think is possible or realistic or even that we’ve ever seen before. 

We don’t have to understand it for God to want us to be part of it. I think about how my son always wants to me to see what he’s doing in Minecraft. I DON’T UNDERSTAND IT, ok? And yes, I went to that exhibit at the Children’s Museum. Yes, he has explained sheep and creepers and zombies and villages to me. Yes, we’ve watched YouTube videos together on how to build things. I still do not have an intellectual grasp of what is going on! But that doesn’t change the fact that he really wants me to participate. It doesn’t change the fact that he keeps reaching out to me saying, “Look! Be part of what I’m doing!” 

We don’t have to fully understand what Jesus is up to for him to say, “Look! Be part of what I’m doing.” The women SURELY didn’t. But Jesus gave them an invitation and an assignment immediately. They're the ones that are going 

to tell this good news. They are the ones who are going to do this work. And they are going to do it in the most unexpected of places. 

Because where Jesus tells them that they’re going to find him next? It’s not the temple, it’s not back in the Roman courts so Jesus can get even, it’s not to somewhere that feels important or holy...it’s just a neighborhood. It's just to Galilee. It’s the real world, where real people live and real things happen. THAT’S where Jesus says his story is going to keep going. That’s where you’ll find the Risen Christ. That’s where the kingdom and the power and the glory are going to be happening. In the everyday places with everyday people. That’s where Jesus shows up. 

Jesus is showing up right where you are. Because sometimes we have trouble finding him. We think we have to look really hard or that it needs to be complicated, but remember—Gallilee. When we are willing to find Jesus in whatever OUR Gallilee looks like, we live out this closing word of the prayer- Amen. Now, we often think about amen as just this reflexive way to end a prayer, but that word means, “let it be so; truly.” Glenn McDonald, former pastor of Zionsville Presbyterian Church, who will be preaching here at St. Luke’s July 14, says, “Every time we say amen we’re declaring, ‘This is how I want the world to be. Starting with me.” 

We see how it starts with the women at the tomb. Do we see how it starts with us? I want to close today by telling you how this amen, this commitment to finding Jesus in ordinary places, to making the world what God would want it to be, doesn’t END with these women at the tomb, but is happening with three St. Luke’s women right now. 

Susan Peters (SLIDE) has been a member of St. Luke’s for 25 years. She reached a point in her life where she was ready for a change in both her career and her faith. Through church services, she kept seeing the call out for volunteers for Freedom School, a national program aimed at helping at-risk youth that we host at St. Luke’s. As She volunteered and got to know that kids, she found herself shifting. She found hershelf encountering Jesus day after day. And one thing led to another, and Susan is now on our staff at St. Luke’s as Assistant Director of Outreach and Justice. 

Anne Gabbert (SLIDE) has a similar story. A few years ago she learned about Hub for Hope, St. Luke’s Outreach ministries that comes alongside moms providing support in the form of rent assistance and diaper distribution to over 300 neighbors in our community. Anne helped from the ground up with this program and has been their leading Spanish language translator. Anne found new purpose in her life and started to connect with God in ways she never 

had before, all through this work with moms and families in our community. 

And finally, Kristen Kouka (SLIDE) regularly serves in our Mosaic ministry to help create a sense of belonging for people with disabilities and their families so that everyone experiences a place of belonging and inclusion. But her story and commitment continue beyond the walls of the church, into her everyday life. She serves on the Carmel School Board, where her faith shapes the decisions she makes that impact so many families in her community. In her work as a speech therapist, she meets families and kids who are just looking for hope and support. That work isn’t always easy or quick to see a solution, but it’s when she hears child say their first word and complete their first sentence that she encounters a God that truly performs miracles, a God that provides and God that gives hope. 

This radical hope of Easter can be found exactly where you and I find ourselves. Jesus is showing up. Resurrection hope happened that first Easter day, but I’m telling you the resurrected Christ is at work right here and right now. And you and I, we get to be living examples OF that hope, of that kingdom and power and glory that show up so uniquely in Jesus’ way. 

Whether you are like the NC State Coach and you are cutting down nets, believing in hope with all your heart or you’re like the Marys before they see Jesus and are sure that hope is gone...the forever hope of Jesus is for you. We KNOW how this story ends, we know that hope always has the last word. No matter who you are, no matter where you are, no matter what’s going on in your life. That hope is here and we get to be part of it. 

Let’s pray.