Sunday, April 9, 2023

Sermon - Easter Sunday: April 9, 2023

'It is at that point, when we understand our condition, face-to-face with our reality as it is and not as we wish it were, then we are at the point that we can hear the good news,that though we thought Jesus was dead, it is not so. Like the women, we hear the voice of a messenger, not for us an angel, but like for all others after the women, the voice of a flesh-and-blood human being saying he is not here; he is risen!'

The Resurrection of Our Lord – Easter Day

April 9, 2023

The Rev. Maurice C. Frontz III

St Stephen Lutheran Church


Go, tell his disciples and Peter

that he is going ahead of you to Galilee;

there you will see him, just as he told you.


Let us pray:

May the words of my mouth

and the meditations of our hearts

be acceptable in your sight, O God,

our strength and our redeemer.


Has any one of you ever heard this saying

or something like it:

God meets you where you are?


God meets you where you are.

Or, if you prefer the vernacular,

He meets you where you’re at.

What we might take this statement to mean

is that we’re on some kind of journey,

that we’re not perfect people yet,

that we have a lot of rough edges,

areas in our lives that need fixing,

but even though we don’t have everything taken care of,

God accepts our incompleteness

and meets us where we are.


A lot of people even nowadays

struggle with the idea

that church is for people who have it all together,

and that since they don’t have it all together,

it would be a shame for them to approach God at church.

But if God meets us where we are,

then even with their unfinished lives

they may encounter God,

they don’t have to wait until they have it all together.

And if that statement or another statement like it

is helpful for you in that way,

I heartily endorse it.

For God does indeed meet us where we are.


However, I’m going to take it a little further.

You didn’t think I was finished, did you?

The statement God meets you where you are is not just true,

but I’m going to add a word to it.

God only meets you where you are.

And, I’d be so bold to say,

if God only meets you where you are,

then it might be helpful and important

for you yourself to know where you are.


And this is where we meet the women

on the way to the tomb on Sunday morning,

to take care of the body.

We find them at the lowest place they can possibly be –

they are on their way to the place of death,

their future and Jesus’ present,


But it is not only the women who are at that place

of grief and sadness, oriented toward death,

but the disciples are facing the death of their leader

and the death of their dreams,

and the feeling of failure and shame.

While Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane,

they slept;

when he was captured by the soldiers, they fled.

And Peter was no doubt doubly ashamed of his failure,

for from fear for his life in the courtyard of the high priest

he had denied three times even knowing the Lord.


The women mourned the death of Jesus

and the disciples also bore their failure.

And the world?

Jesus may have been a glimmer of light,

but that light was extinguished,

and the world went on its course without him,

its human race seething as it always had,

and always would,

with desire and rage and envy,

bitterness and despair, pride and spite.


And so this is the place where they are,

the absolute lowest place,

whelmed in sin, death, and evil,

without even a shred of hope to cling to.


Often at the beginning of a service

we have the confession,

which includes our saying before God and everybody:

We have not loved you with our whole heart;

we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.

Jesus taught that to love God with our whole heart

and our neighbors as ourselves

is the summary of God’s law;

and we say that we have not done that.

But I had an insight one day

that when I was saying to God,

‘We have not loved you with our whole heart,’

I believed that on the whole I was doing okay.

My whole heart?

Well, no, but who’s an A-plus student every time?

I know I’ve got some rough edges, but who doesn’t?

Or, on days when I was feeling really bad about myself,

maybe I had a failing grade,

was at around 55 percent of my heart loving God.

I didn’t realize that even then,

I was giving myself some credit before God,

if only for feeling miserable about myself.

I still wanted to have something for myself,

something that I could bring to God as a badge of honor,

something that God would not have done for me

that I had done for myself.


Where I really was, where I really am,

was exactly at the place

where the women and the disciples and the world

were on Easter morning,

whelmed in sins, assailed by evil, oriented toward death,

with nothing to my credit.

And it is important for me, and I believe for each of us,

to know that on some basic level

this is where we all are all the time.


We may not look like it, we may not feel like it,

but we as individuals and collectively as the human race,

though we long for holiness, life, and God,

are captive to sin, death, and the devil.

Some days we will feel that more deeply than others;

some days it’s just a fact we need to keep in our heads

so we don’t get carried away with ourselves.


So once we’ve reached that place,

or realize that we are always at that place,

it’s still not at that point we meet God.

What, you thought I was done?

It is at that point, when we understand our condition,

face-to-face with our reality as it is

and not as we wish it were,

then we are at the point that we can hear the good news,

that though we thought Jesus was dead, it is not so.

Like the women, we hear the voice of a messenger,

not for us an angel,

but like for all others after the women,

the voice of a flesh-and-blood human being saying

he is not here; he is risen!

The messenger re-orients us,

turns our faces away from despair to hope,

from death to life.

Then the messenger says to the women:

Go, tell his disciples and Peter

that he is going ahead of you to Galilee,

there you will see him, just as he told you.





For the Gospel of Matthew, at least,

the ‘where you are’ at which you meet the risen Lord

is on the way to the place

where he has told you to go to meet him.

You hear this at the place of failure, of fear, of death,

and then you turn away from that place

and you go to where you’ve been told to go.

The women ran from the place of death

to tell the disciples what they’d seen and heard

and it is then and only then that Jesus meets them.

And Jesus doesn’t go along with them

to meet the disciples,

but the disciples also must first

hear the message of where they are,

so that they may not wallow in failure, fear, death,

and go to where Jesus desires to meet them.


The world goes about its business on a day like this,

and after we’ve been about our business here,

we too will leave,

delighting in God’s gifts

of food and drink and recreation,

reveling in the beauty of a spring day

upon which God, in his infinite mercy and goodness,

has chosen to clear the skies even over Pittsburgh.

But first we have come here,

because God only meets us where we are,

and we at least know where we are.

whelmed in sin, death, and evil,

and so we must hear this good news not once only,

but over and over and over again,

He is not here, he is risen!


And here as well he meets us,

we receive the tokens of our Lord

in which he is truly present to forgive each sin

and heal each wound and save each unsavable person,

with the promise that even death will be no more.


We go out to return again into a new world,

or, rather the world is it really always was and has been,

but we see it clearly now,

each moment of life alive with God,

each sip of water, each morsel of food,

each ray of sunshine and drop of rain,

received as if directly from the hand of God.

And each suffering we take,

if not with unsullied gladness,

but with a joyful assurance

that if we receive it with faith and hope,

then nothing, not even death,

can separate us from the living Lord,

and each suffering is only the road

on which we may meet God.


Okay; I think I’m done now.

Oh – one more thing:

Alleluia! Christ is risen!