How many of you took a shower this morning?
Raise your hand if you took a shower either this morning or last night. How many of you brushed your teeth? How many of you put on clothes this morning? No matter what steps you take or how you do it, each of us has a certain routine. We get up, we brush our teeth, take a shower, comb our hair if we have any, and put on our clothes. You probably have your own routine, but whatever order you do it in or whatever your routine is, skipping one of these steps probably makes you feel uncomfortable all day long. It’s like you feel incomplete. We get this anxiety about us when we skip something that is part of “what we do.” It’s like something is WRONG WITH THE UNIVERSE! It’s probably happened to you at one time or another. I know it’s happened to me. I remember it distinctly. When I was serving at Roswell UMC, I was in rush to get out the door and get to church. I had a lot of my mind that day. I don’t remember exactly what it was, but I remember having my head just going full tilt about church and all the things I needed to get done. So I took a quick shower, got my clothes on, brushed my hair and took off. And about 30 minutes into my drive to the church, I realized I never brushed my teeth. All of a sudden my mouth felt dirty. I was sure people could smell some foul odor on my breath. I got to church and scrubbed my teeth with my finger and gargled with water in the sink like that would help. I avoided talking directly to people all day, and I remember thinking that everyone MUST know my mistake. If they did, they never let on. Sometimes, I think that’s why we get married. Or keep really close friends. They’re the only ones who feel free to tell you things like “You’ve got something in your teeth.” They are the only ones close enough to you to tell you those kinds of things.
But what if you NEVER brushed your teeth?
What if you rarely took a shower? What if you didn’t own a comb? Other than being smelly with no teeth and matted hair, would you even notice? YOU would notice because these are parts of our everyday lives that are important to us. But to someone who never does these things? Would they even know? Would they know about the health risks, would they know about hygiene? Probably not. Because it’s not part of their everyday lives. But WE know. WE know why it’s important and why it’s good for you and why it’s part of our everyday routine. And we care. That’s why we send care packages at Christmas to other countries with soap and shampoo. That’s why we donate brand new combs and brushes to local shelters. That’s why we have fundraisers for potable water. Because we know how important those things are. Now ask yourself this…do you feel the same way about your spiritual life as you do about your physical body? Do you feel the same way about your spiritual life as you do about your physical body? Because if we believe in Jesus and we believe in what he said, then our soul should be at least as important as our bodies. But is Jesus part of your everyday routine or like the guy who doesn’t take a shower, are you disconnected from Jesus enough that you just don’t notice? Is there someone in your life who can encourage you to go to church, or to join a Bible study, or to pray regularly? And do you listen?
You know, the coolest thing about living in Biblical times is that they often encountered God.
It must have made believing in him even easier. Moses got to talk to God a few times. Elijah heard the voice of God even before he understood what was happening. Job got God to answer his questions directly. I think most of us wish that would happen. We wish God would answer us directly. Many people have a list of questions they would like to ask God. Even Larry King, the famous reporter from CNN, once said that if he got to interview anyone he wanted it would be Jesus Christ and he would ask him one question, “Were you virgin born?” He said, “The answer to that question would define history for me.” Wouldn’t it for all of us? But think about it. Simply living in Biblical times wouldn’t necessarily be enough. Even though they lived in the time of Jesus and the time of Moses, there were still thousands and thousands of people who didn’t believe. There were people who encountered Jesus directly who didn’t believe. Over the past five weeks, we’ve been talking about them – the Pharisees, the Herodians, the Sadducees, the teachers of the law. Tons of people who even witnessed some of Jesus’ miracles didn’t believe. And we’re going to explore one of those stories of disbelief this morning. If you have your Bibles or a Bible app on your phones, please turn to the Gospel of Luke, chapter 24, verses 1-12. Luke 24:1-12. This story takes place after Jesus’ death on the cross. His body has been taken down and placed in a tomb where Joseph of Arimathea helped to prepare his body for burial with linen cloth. Apparently, there were extensive burial rituals, but with the Sabbath approaching and the sun nearly set, they didn’t have time to finish the burial properly so they wrapped his body with 75 pounds of spices “to help mask the smell of decay.” A group of women decide to come after the Sabbath to finish what Joseph had started, but they find quite a surprise.
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5 In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” 8 Then they remembered his words.
9 When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. 12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.
These were Jesus’ closest friends and disciples, and even THEY didn’t believe.
He even told them it would happen this way! In Luke 18 he said, “…everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him, and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.” He even said it to them. He tried all different ways to tell it to them but when it actually happened, they didn’t believe. And it wasn’t just because Jesus had revealed himself to the women because in Mark’s version of the Gospel Jesus revealed himself to two others who came and reported to the disciples what they saw and they still didn’t believe. It wasn’t until they experienced Christ for themselves that they knew he had been resurrected. It wasn’t until they experienced Christ for themselves that they knew he had been resurrected. Thomas gets a bum rap for not believing, because the truth is that the rest of the disciples didn’t believe either. But his words ring true for many of us, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” We, like the disciples, want some sort of tangible evidence to help us believe. But unless Jesus comes back, how are we going to encounter the living Christ?
The answer is in each of us.
The only way for us to truly encounter Christ in this world is through one another. We must make Christ real in the world today. Jesus knew that people would need this real world encounter to come to faith in him. And we see this becoming a reality through the disciples. It’s why he often told the disciples to “go and do.” When he fed the 5,000, Jesus could easily have done the work himself, but instead he tells them “…you give them something to eat.” And he blesses the bread and the fish and sends the disciples into the crowds. When he tells the expert in the law the story of the Good Samaritan, he asks him at the end, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” And when the expert answers, “The one who had mercy on him,” Jesus replies, “Go and do likewise.” There are many examples of Jesus incorporating the community of believers into his ministry. The sending of the seventy comes to mind, the gathering of the disciples. Christ comes alive for us BECAUSE of Jesus but THROUGH one another. Christ comes alive for us BECAUSE of Jesus but THROUGH one another. Like the disciples in our reading, we need to experience Christ’s presence in our lives ourselves and the best way to do that is in the context of the community we gather in. It is only then that the Gospel comes alive in each and every one of us. When we pray with and for one another, we feel the presence of Christ. When we share of our bounty, whether that’s with our presence, gifts, or talents, we feel the presence of Christ. And when we come together in fellowship and worship, when we share the same bread and the same cup, when we sing together our praises toward God, we feel the presence of Christ.
We feel like we are missing something in our lives when we skip steps in our morning routine.
We feel like that because our morning routine is so ingrained as a part of who we are. And when Jesus comes alive for us, when we see and understand the importance of being in relationship with other believers, when we experience for ourselves the love and grace of God through our church community – it is then that we will feel the same about missing something spiritually as we do physically. We would miss church when we can’t make it on a Sunday and feel like our week was incomplete. We would miss not going to our small groups and learning more about God together when we had to skip a meeting. We would feel disconnected if we didn’t pray that day. We would feel these things because like brushing our teeth and combing our hair they would simply BE a part of our lives. And if that is not where you are, I would encourage you to become plugged in to your church community. Join a small group, pray regularly, come to worship, and see for yourself if it makes a difference in your life. If you DO feel like that already, then it is our responsibility to help others feel the love of Christ come alive in them. Like the guy who doesn’t realize why he should take a shower, we can’t expect people to simply KNOW they need Christ in their lives. We have to help them experience it and realize WHY it’s so important.
Easter is a celebration that Christ lives! And he lives in us.
As we come forward together today to receive the elements from the bread and from the cup, let us remember our baptism as well. Let us remember that Christ is more vital to our lives than simply this bread that we eat. For it was Jesus who said, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Let us also come forth in humility and thankfulness for all Christ did for us, remembering that is only in Christ’s sacrifice we are made whole and only in his resurrection that he has conquered death. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.