APRIL 5, 2015

Rev. Dr. Richard C. Meyer

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            I came across a new word on Thursday paraprosdokian.  Any of you know the definition of a paraprodokian?  A paraprosdokian is a figure of speech in which the second part of a sentence or phrase turns out to be surprising or unexpected.  Often a paraprosdokian makes us smile.  Let me offer some examples. 

            You do not need a parachute to skydive.  You only need a parachute to skydive twice.

            If I agreed with you, we would both be wrong.

            There are a number of different crunches that affect my abs.  My favorite is Nestles.

            Heres one from Groucho Marx I had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasnt it.

            One last one from Will Rogers a fool and his money are soon elected.

            Imagine the paraprosdokian that the visitors to Jesus empty tomb, on that first Easter Sunday, might have written in their journals that evening:  We went to the cemetery and found out what it really means to live.

            Each gospel writer has a little different version of what happened at the tomb that day, but the main details remain the same.  For example, all the gospel writers agree that women were the first ones to the tomb on Easter morning, but differ on the number and the identity of women.  Matthew has two women coming to the tomb, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary which could have been Mary of Martha and Mary fame, Jesus mother or Mary, the mother of James whom two of the other gospel writers name.  Mark has three women, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and a woman named Salome.  Luke has a unspecified number of women coming to the tomb.  He mentions Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James by name, and what he calls other women with them.  John mentions only one woman coming to the tomb, Mary Magdalene.  So they differ on the number of women, but all agree that they came early.

            For simplicitys sake this morning, lets go with Matthews version of Easter morning. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary head to the tomb at daybreak.  Likely their faces were streaked with tears; their eyes clouded with pain as the two of them made their way to the tomb.

            An angel greets them at the tomb, explaining what has happened and the two Marys hightail it to tell the disciples. On the way there they were intercepted by the Lord himself. Matthew has the resurrected Jesus saying, Greetings!  I think it would have been more appropriate for Jesus to have said, Surprise! but who am I to question our Lord?  In response to their encounter with the risen Lord, the two of them fell down, grabbed his feet, as if to say, You arent getting away from us ever again, and worshipped him. 

            Then the gospel writers mention additional resurrection appearances, and they vary in this regard as well.  Eventually, months later, he would appear to the Apostle Paul on the Damascus Road.  Luke, the gospel writer, mentions this in his second volume, the Book of Acts, and years after that encounter with the Risen Lord, the Apostle Paul writes about the resurrection and the implications of the resurrection for our lives.  Listen to his words.  Colossians 3:1-4.


            So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your mins on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ is in your life is revealed, then you will also be revealed in glory with him.


            Interesting words … “if you have been raised with Christ” … implying that Easter is not just about an event that took place more than two thousand years ago, but also it implies that it is a way of living today.

            Author, pastor and radio host Eric Butterworth tells about a young soldier who lost his legs in battle. Something died within this young man when he found he would never walk again. He lay in his hospital bed, staring blankly at the ceiling. He refused to talk to anyone who tried to help him. He refused to cooperate with doctors or nurses who wanted to help him to adjust.

            One day another patient in the hospital strolled in and sat down on a chair near the bed. He drew a harmonica from his pocket and began to play softly. The patient looked at him for a second, then back to the ceiling. That was all for that day. Next day the harmonica player came again. For several days he continued to come and to play quietly. One day he said, "Does my playing annoy you?" The patient said, "No, I guess I like it." They talked a little more each day.

            One day the harmonica player was in a jovial mood. He played a sprightly tune and began to do a tap dance. The soldier looked on but was apparently unimpressed. "Hey, why don't you smile once and let the world know you're alive!" the dancer said with a friendly smile.

            But the legless soldier said, "I might as well be dead given the fix I'm in."

            "Okay," answered his happy friend, "so you're dead. But you're not as dead as a fellow who was crucified two thousand years ago, and He came out of it all right."

            "Oh, it's easy for you to say," replied the patient, "but if you were in my fix, you'd sing a different tune."

            With this the dancer stood up and said, "I know a two-thousand-year-old resurrection is pretty far in the past. So maybe an up-to-date example will help you to believe it can be done." With that he pulled up his trouser legs and the young man in the bed looked and saw two artificial limbs. The tap-dancing fellow with the harmonica was not simply a Pollyanna. He once lay where that young soldier now lay. He, himself, had known the power of a resurrection. He had learned to live life abundantly - even without his legs. Needless to say, the young soldier's own resurrection began that moment.[2]

            Easter isn't just about an event that occurred two thousand years ago. Easter is a way of living today.

            Theres one more thing.  If you have been raised with Christ, writes Paul, seek the things that are above, implying that Easter is a day for reflecting on the meaning of life. 

          There was a Sunday in September fourteen years ago when many churches were full like this. Do you remember? It was the Sunday after 9/11. We were all stunned, bewildered, grief-stricken. We needed help making sense of it all, and so we turned to the one place where might be able to make some sense of it. We turned to God.

            Easter gives us the opportunity, without being morbid, to reflect on the ultimate meaning of life. Are we mere creatures of the dust here only for a moment or are we created for eternity?

            On the southwest coast of Scotland lies the little town of Whithorn. In its ancient cemetery there is a tombstone with an intriguing epitaph.  It reads, You think Im forgot. Im not.

            We are not forgotten by those who love us. It's not enough, though, to live on simply as a memory. We want to know that we will continue to exist as real people when we say goodbye to this earthly body. We want the joy of being reunited with those whom we love beyond the pale of death. This is why Easter is the most important day on the Christian's calendar. It is not simply a celebration of an event long ago. Easter is about the two most important days in our life - today and tomorrow. Can we count on having a tomorrow? Will we ever run out of tomorrows?

            In late March 1993, a sudden, unexpected snowstorm blanketed the East coast of the United States. In the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Eastern Tennessee and Western North Carolina, it was the snow of the century. Many hunters and hikers were trapped in the park, cut off from their loved ones.

            Four medical doctors from Knoxville, Tennessee had chosen that weekend for a hunting excursion in the Smokies. Since they had expected to be gone only one night and did not expect any adverse circumstances, they did not bother to give their families or their staffs the exact location of their hunt. They felt that their SUV could take them deep into the mountains and get them back out with no difficulty whatsoever.

            Imagine their surprise when the snow banked up around their vehicle became so deep that their SUV refused to budge. What were they to do? This was before cell phones became commonplace. No one in the outside world knew where they were. They hadn't brought enough food for more than two days. They were frightened and bewildered as what to do next.

            Evening fell on the second day. Still, they had no contact with civilization. Their SUV was as unmovable as on the day before. They divided a stale doughnut that someone found in the back of the vehicle. They were cold, hungry and greatly discouraged. Would no one find them before they had either frozen or starved?

            Then suddenly they heard a sound overhead--the unmistakable whrrrr of a helicopter. They jumped out of their vehicle and screamed and waved their arms to allow the pilot of the helicopter to locate them. And he did. For a moment the helicopter hovered above them. They could see it was already filled with other hunters or hikers. Then they saw a basket being lowered from the helicopter. In that basket was a note. On that note was one word: "Tomorrow." Immediately those four sophisticated medical doctors made a chorus line, and they kicked their legs as high as the snow would allow and they began to sing at the top of their lungs, "Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you, tomorrow, you're only a day away." Their fear was gone. Help was on its way. They would live to see another day.

            Tomorrow. That would be a good song to add to our church hymnal. Tomorrow. For that is the Easter message. Because of what Christ has done, we don't have to worry about today or tomorrow. Christ has conquered sin and death. We can live resurrection lives beginning this moment. God loves us. Our lives do matter. We will always have . . . Tomorrow.




[1] Sermon idea borrowed from the message Search for Tomorrow by King Duncan.

[2] Eric Butterworth, Discover the Power Within You, HarperCollins Publishers, 1968, p.198.