March 27, 2016 sermon (Easter Sunday)
Look to the Future
Happy Easter, everyone! On this Easter Sunday, on this happy and the most important day for Christians everywhere, let’s start our message with a movie. Yay! Today I will tell you the story of the 2014 TV movie called The Normal Heart. This movie is set in early 1980’s when the AIDS epidemic first started and nobody even knew what it was. Ned Weeks is a gay rights activist and writer who gets involved in a movement to help gay men who are infected, and also to urge the government for a proper medical research. It was a difficult time when the stigma against gays and lesbians could destroy one’s career and put one’s life in danger. A lot of gay men were still in the closet. It required a lot of courage to step up in this situation to “do something”. A lot of men were hiding in the closet because it was safe. It is scary to be out of the closet, exposed. Ned Weeks makes a decision to step up because he can’t bear that his friends are dying and the government is doing nothing to help them. He fights, and fights, while trying to keep his lover alive. After a long, painful, and courageous fight, the government finally starts listening. I think the title should have been The Brave Heart, instead of The Normal Heart; but then there has already been a movie titled The Brave Heart. Oh well…
The events of the Holy Week must have been truly traumatic to the followers of Jesus. In a scholarly debate of whether the resurrection actually happened or it’s a metaphor, my New Testament professor at McGill commented that the disciples were so traumatized that they could have seen anything! But whether the resurrection actually happened or not is not what’s important because either way it is real to everyone who follows Jesus. On this Easter Sunday, what we have to remember is that this was a crucial time for the followers of Jesus; time for a new beginning. The death and resurrection of Jesus is the beginning of a new chapter for his followers. What the messengers say at the empty tomb is the reflection of their state of mind at this point; they will eventually pick themselves up, but for now, the disciples are just shocked and wallowing in the present, not ready to move on. “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” This question sounds like, “He moved on; so should you! What are you still doing here? Go and live the future as the disciples!”
Following Jesus around and learning from him was a fairly comfortable experience for his followers. I’m not saying they lived a comfortable life with Jesus; I’m just comparing it to their life after the resurrection of Jesus. They could rely on Jesus to do things for them and teach them. When Jesus died, rose again, and left the mortal world with the commandment to continue his ministry, they must have felt like Luke Skywalker on Star Wars when Obi-Wan Kenobi left in a wizard-like manner; lost and scared, he was. Move on, he has to. The fact that the disciples were hiding behind closed doors when the risen Christ came to meet them (spoiler alert) tells us how comfortable it is to stay in the closet, and how scary and uncomfortable it is to step out of it.
But we all know from what happened after the resurrection and ascension that the disciples had to come out of their comfort zone to achieve something. In case you’re wondering, this “something” is of course the birth of the Christian Church that spread worldwide like a wildfire through the mission works of the disciples. Because they stepped out of their comfort zone and continued the ministry of Jesus, today we can still learn about and follow the most awesome superhero in human history, a.k.a Christ Jesus. Because the disciples throughout history lived out the teachings of Jesus, the teachings of radical love and compassion, disciples today can still serve each other and fight for justice following the example of Jesus. Good things happen outside the closet, when we step out of our comfort zone and get to work.
It is scary to step out of our comfort zone, I know. But since we are called to be disciples, we are called to step up in this world full of evil, hate, and injustice to be the light of Christ that we follow. Think of the courageous people in history who made the world better; activists and messengers of love and justice, without whom the suffering of the marginalized would still be considered normal and natural. All the progress in human rights and equality we have achieved would not have happened without the brave people who stepped up and faced the scary and uncomfortable realities. Our church history is full of those brave people too. .
Now it is our turn, today’s disciples. We read in 1 Corinthians, “Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died… for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ”. Along with Christ who rose from death and revealed God’s victory and glory, let us leave our current place of comfort and look to the future. As Christ has risen from death and his tomb, let us also leave our dark cocoon like butterflies and make the world more beautiful. Why would an old man plant a tree? Exactly. Our brave work as disciples today is the hope for the future. So this Easter, let us wake up from our spiritual death, leave the cocoon of our status quo and step outside our comfort zone to live as disciples. Brothers and sisters, Christ is risen! Along with Christ, it’s time our spirits came alive too so that we can start working for the future; spreading God’s message of love and justice that Jesus worked and died for. Amen.
Rev. Sunny Kim