3 Easter 2012
Luke 24: 36b-48
Pastor Chris Enstad
Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Brothers and sisters, I bring you grace and peace in the name of our Risen Lord and Savior,
Jesus Christ. Amen.
“While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering.”
What an amazing statement by Luke. “While in their joy they were disbelieving and wondering.”
In truth, those could be the words stamped on the outside of just about any Christian congregation could they not? Oh, I know that there are plenty of Christians walking around feigning certainty but, usually I find that that certainty is really a smokescreen for uncertainty. Indeed, often times the louder a Christian shouts at an unbeliever or questioner about the faith, the more often you have to wonder what they have that the rest of us don’t. Christ appeared in the flesh only between the Resurrection and the Ascension, so, unless you have Jesus locked away in your basement then you are in the same boat as the rest of us.
We possess a very real but a very fragile faith. Faith in and of itself is a gift given to us by the God who created us. But, in giving us that gift, God entrusts it to some very human humans, frail, easily distracted, sinful, judgmental, and capricious.
I have had friends in the faith who have had awful things happen to them or to someone they love, get lost in that most scariest of questions, “If there is a God, why would he let something so awful happen to me or to that person?”
I also have friends who have so many crazy things going on in their lives that they seek a Christian faith that is unchanging, unshifting, uncompromising. Both of those extremes, unfortunately, miss out on the living breathing gift of the fragile but real faith granted to us by the God who created us and loved us.
Elim: A people of joy who still, at times, disbelieve or wonder about this whole God thing. I wonder if a church put that phrase on the outside of the door if more people might not darken the doors. A church is all too often seen by those who are questioning, those who perhaps are in active states of disbelief, they are often seen as clubs for those who have it all down pat when, in fact, if folks out there knew that, “Hey, we have questions too,” might they not join us in our journey as a church?
“While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering”.
You know, I wonder about this whole thing all the time. Who is this Christ that we claim has risen from the dead and what in the world does it have to do with us?
We say that we meet Jesus when we walk in the doors of this place. Pr. Theim referred to the sign that is in the pulpit up here “That we would see Jesus”. Well, if I’m doing my job and Pr. Marcia is doing hers and Pastor Theim is doing his, and we are meeting Christ in the flesh when we walk in here... what is keeping us from sharing that amazing news with all of the souls walking past the doors of this place.
The last verse you heard in the Gospel text this morning says, “You are witnesses of these things.”…….You are witnesses of these things.
But, man oh man, don’t we wish we could just be witnesses and not have to testify to what we have seen? We don’t want to be seen as being too pushy or too in your face like some other kind of Christian that we see on TV or on the street corner. But, we can testify to the wonder of the resurrection in many other ways.
Being a believer gives us the story to tell. It gives us the path to walk. It gives us our way forward.
Elim is taking great steps in faith did you know that? I don’t think we have all grasped the significance of four congregations worshipping together in the same building. Do you know what kind of seed it is that God has planted?
Pr. Theim preached on Easter Sunday. Some folks questioned that decision, others got it. The way ahead for our congregation will not look or sound like the Elim of 40 years ago. This afternoon a team made up of the pastors and 4 lay people from Lao Lutheran and Elim will gather around a meal to begin dreaming of new ways to expand our relationship with each other. The opportunities are really and truly amazing.
But tell me this: What do you think might happen to us when we move beyond a landlord/renter relationship with Monument of Faith or All God’s Children churches? One is a Pentecostal denomination, the other is non-denominational, what kinds of new ways of being Elim might happen when we take those next steps?
And, what about new ministry opportunities in our community that are making themselves known to us? We are actively putting together outreach teams for Lakeview Elementary School and Good Samaritan Speciality Health Community. Please, let me or Shirley know if you would be a part of those teams.
Or, how about our soon to be made, agreement with the Red Cross to become a disaster response location or with Families Moving Forward as they seek to increase the number of places homeless families can stay for a week at a time. Or, North Memorial as they dream with us about ways we can serve as a health care outpost for them?
The opportunities for us to make a positive structural impact on our community are amazing.
But, the question I have been holding out to our leadership is the same one I am holding out to you:
“What can Elim do uniquely better than the 1,000 other congregations in our area? And why are we doing it?”
A pastor friend of mine put that question in an even more powerful manner: “If Elim were to cease to exist tomorrow would anyone in our city notice?”
I pray the answer to that last question would be, “Yes.” My answer to the first two questions is from our scripture this morning: “Because we have witnessed the resurrected Jesus Christ, we have received the promise of salvation we have been commissioned today to proclaim repentance and the forgiveness of sins to all nations.”
We are called to get over the fact that we are at once a people of joy and disbelief and are a people called to witness to our city, our families, and our world what an amazing thing God has done.
I asked our council last week to think about what kind of newspaper headlines might be written about Elim in three years time. We had several pretty awesome submissions. Let me share mine with you, and mind you, this is just visioning so, don’t get too freaked out:
The headline reads: “93 year old congregations closes its doors and reopens as The Oasis Church. Come and see a multi-cultural, multi-denominational church as it works for transformation in the Robbinsdale area. Come and experience the Oasis, a cup of cold water for your life’s journey.”
If you thought having the Laotian pastor preaching on Easter was pretty far out, just hold on to your socks.
Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed!