“The grass is greener on the other side.” You have right to know this.
My task today is to remind you… “the grass is greener on the other side.”
There is an English idiom, a saying. We’ve all heard it many times.
“The grass is always greener on the other side.”
When we aren’t satisfied with life, with what we have,
and we see others who seem to have it better,
a desire takes hold of us: we become envious…
and we wish to relocate from where we are to where they are.
Or if we’re having a real bad day
we may wish our perceived misfortunes on those who seem to have none.
That’s not what I’m talking about here.
I’m saying “the grass is greener on the other side.”
I’m stating a fact.
And it is my hope that you will experience a renewed desire
to relocate from where you are now to where the greener grass grows.
Life on the other side of resurrection
is more fulfilling, more joyful, more peaceful, less troublesome
than is life on this side of resurrection
with its suffering and pain and loneliness and tears.
This is what Easter is about: to draw our minds, our spirits, our hearts
beyond the boundaries of this sinful and broken world
to everlasting happiness.
We will find satisfaction on the other side,
in the salvation promised to us by Jesus Christ, the Risen Lord.
Today we are asked to look over that fence and see what can be.
Today we are reminded,
no matter how hard we work to make the grass on this side greener,
we’re wasting our time, we’re squandering our resources.
We are instructed, told: everything on this side of the fence is temporary anyway.
That it will pass away.
And if we invest our life in what is temporary, we will pass away with it.
One advantage of the green grass on the other side of the resurrection fence:
we don’t have to cut it.
Our work is done by the time we get there.
There….we will rest from our labors.
As we look over the fence, see how plush, how rich and magnificent the grass there grows
and then turn to our present reality, see how poorly the grass grows here….
compare the two,
I would hope we come to the conclusion that our current situation on this earth stinks:
the senseless violence, all the lying and intentional deception,
the continued erosion and loss of moral values and principles,
out of control consumerism, terrorism, fear, hoarding,
misrepresentation, the deterioration of the environment.
Sometimes we don’t want to believe “the grass is greener”
because it contradicts the ways of the world. And don’t want to give them up.
Sometimes we dismiss this religious/spiritual belief as something to be concerned about
only when we draw close to death.
Resurrection is about more than a promised future in God.
It is also about a new life in Jesus Christ, the Risen Lord.
A life that is possible here and now.
And lest we forget who Jesus is, I brought a picture with me this morning. (Show picture #1)
I think we would all agree—this resembles the Jesus we know.
When we see this picture, or a similar looking statue, we think of Jesus Christ.
When we pray, and picture him in our imagination, this is what we imagine.
When we read the scriptures, when we receive the Eucharist,
when we sing a song in worship and praise…
this is the image that appears in our mind.
Lest we forget who Jesus Christ is, I brought a picture with me this morning.
I want to make sure there isn’t any confusion.
This picture I’m holding, is not a picture of who Jesus Christ is. (Wait for it….)
This is a picture of who he was.
This is a picture of his human body, his human face.
This is what he looked like when he walked the earth.
This is what he looked like before he rose from the dead.
This is a picture of Jesus of Nazareth.
And Jesus of Nazareth doesn’t become Jesus, the Christ, the anointed One of God
until he is raised from the dead….
until he is transformed, by the power and grace of God, into the Risen Lord.
To make sure there isn’t any confusion,
I brought with me this morning a picture of who Jesus Christ, as Risen Lord, is.
How he now exists. What he looks like in his resurrected body.
What he looks like for all eternity, sitting at the right hand of the Father.
(Hold up picture #2)
As you can see, I don’t know what the Risen Lord looks like.
What the Risen Lord looks like is lost to history.
The only people to see the Risen Lord, the 11 Apostles, Mary,
maybe a handful of other disciples,
they didn’t have a camera to take a picture of him.
No one made any sketches. There are no video clips, no gif.’s.
Any and all depictions of Jesus Christ the Risen Lord, even those done by famous painters,
those hanging in the Vatican
are pious speculation, a creative guess.
I’ve been told any number of times,
as people look for the presence of Jesus Christ in the church, in themselves,
in those around them, in the poor,
they can’t see…they don’t find what they’re looking for.
I believe this happens because people are looking for the wrong Jesus.
(Hold up picture #1…)
They’re looking for this Jesus. Jesus in his earthly form.
Jesus used to look like this. He doesn’t any more.
This isn’t what Jesus Christ, the Risen Lord looks like.
If it was, he would have been recognized immediately after he rose
by the people he called companions and friends,
those who had sat at his feet for the past three years.
But that didn’t happen.
He was not recognized by Mary in the garden.
He was not recognized by the disciples on their way to Emmaus.
We can assume he was not recognized by anyone….at least by sight.
It wasn’t until they heard his voice….till he spoke to them.
It wasn’t until they listened to him recount the OT scriptures that referred to him.
It wasn’t until they saw him break the bread as he did at the Last Supper.
It wasn’t until out of nowhere, he suddenly appeared in their midst.
It wasn’t until they put their fingers in his wounds.
I can say with confidence (hold up picture #1)….this isn’t what they saw.
They saw his risen form and it was something different than his previous physical form.
He was transformed. He was no longer an earthly being.
If there were actual pictures of Jesus Christ the Risen Lord,
we wouldn’t have to accept that he rose from the dead on faith.
If there was a picture, and it was proven to be authentic…
if there was physical proof, we wouldn’t need faith… now would we.
We would be convinced by what we could actually see.
Now I wouldn’t bring this up if I thought it to be unimportant.
It’s very important for every Christian who lives and will ever live.
The Risen Lord, Jesus the Christ, makes it very clear: he lives among us.
That his presence somehow continues through His Spirit.
Easter, the feast we celebrate today, is about new life….
the new life the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth makes possible.
When we are baptized, we enter into this new life.
We share in this new life in the present.
Throughout the course of our Christian lives we are being raised up
from death to this new life.
We die to sin and we are raised up to a new life of grace.
We die to the old self and are raised up to a new self.
We die to the past and are raised up to a new present and future.
As we die and are raised up, we are ever so gradually being shaped into the image of…
not Jesus of Nazareth (hold up picture #1), not this.
(Hold up picture #2) But this.
(Hold up picture #1) This is worldly. Flesh. Material. Corruptible.
When Jesus was raised from the dead, he didn’t return to his earthly life.
(Hold up picture #2) Now this…..well I have great faith that it is wonderful, beautiful,
breath taking, indescribable, glorious.
We can know the Risen Lord without seeing Him.
We can experience the Risen Lord with our spiritual sense.
“That doesn’t exist” …some of you might contend.
If it doesn’t exist, then there is no reason for us to be here.
As human beings we are physical and spiritual.
And just as our bodies have sense receptors that help us to know our physical world,
our spirits have the ability, the capacity, the means of detecting what the physical body cannot…
the spiritual reality, the spiritual world.
As we partake of the Eucharist (hold up picture #2) this is what we are receiving.
Yes, the Eucharist is physical….but it is heavenly bread.
It is bread and wine transformed
into the body and blood of Jesus Christ, the Risen Lord.
And if it’s true that we become what we eat,
then this is what Eucharist causes us to become.
Eternity is either going to be this (hold up picture #2) or hell.
I don’t have a picture of hell and don’t even want to imagine what it looks like.
Everything pertaining to Jesus both before and after his resurrection from the dead
has to do with saving our souls from Hell.
We gather as God’s people, we come to church,
to stir back into flame our desire, our longing to live forever in the house of the Lord,
to behold his face eternally.
Our prayer, this Eucharist, our school, our sacraments…
all these serve and are motivated by this longing.
As we seek the face of the Lord….this is what we are seeking (picture #2), not this (picture #1).
This is who protects us.
This is in whom we place our hope.
This is who rescues us.
This is who hears us when we cry out for help.
This is who heals us.
This is who we love, who loves us.
This is who intercedes for us to the Father.
This is the center of our unity, our oneness, our peace.
This is the Christ we worship.
Now I’m not saying it’s bad or wrong to imagine Jesus according to his earthly form.
But think of it this way: it’s as different as a caterpillar is from a butterfly.
I don’t want to remain a caterpillar all my life. I want to be transformed into a butterfly.
The Christian life, if lived faithfully and well, turns us from caterpillar to butterfly.
And then, when we physically die,
and the Lord takes us by the hand to raise us up out of the grave,
he will not look like this (picture #1);
he will look like this (picture #2).
When we are raised from the dead, we will not return to our earthly form.
Somehow, someway we will become like this (hold up picture #2).
This is how Jesus was known before resurrection (picture #1).
This is how he is made known to us today (picture #2).
The Body of Christ that is the church,
that Body of Christ that claims us as one of its parts,
is a body transformed….raised up from sin to glory.
It is in the world, but it is not of the world.
It is the body of Jesus Christ the Risen Lord.
St. Paul says “Think of what is above, not of what is on earth”.
This is exactly what he means.
What we think about will affect and determine
what we choose, what we desire, to what we aspire.
Don’t get me wrong.
The resurrection cannot be separated from the teaching of Jesus, from his earthly life.
The new life offered in resurrection is and has to be a moral life, a good life, a holy life.
Everything that Jesus revealed and taught applies.
The resurrection cannot be separated from his passion and death on the cross.
We must always put our faith in, our trust in, what Jesus suffered
for it reveals to us the height and depth, the length and breadth of divine love.
But Jesus isn’t earthly any more. He is glorious.
And to walk with him on a journey of faith is walk with him as he is now.
We have new life in Jesus Christ, the Risen Lord. He is our Savior.
On this Easter Sunday 2017
we celebrate the dawning of a new day, the dawning of a new era,
the dawning of a new forever.
Jesus of Nazareth is risen from the dead. He is the Christ
The light of this new day sees us through
the darkness of sin and wickedness in this world.
Before we leave this building we have decision to make.
Can we trust our spiritual eyes, our spiritual sense
more than our physical eyes and senses?
If we believe in Jesus Christ, the Risen Lord,
if we are willing to live our lives accordingly,
then maybe it’s time for us to hang his picture
in our churches and in our homes.
Why is the grass greener on the other side?
It’s always greener where the Son shines.
Our prayer today: “O Lord, You fill our hearts with Easter joy. Renew our reverence for what is transcendent on this triumphant feast. Draw us beyond the misery of this passing world and into the blessed daylight that shines eternally. Save us from our flawed purpose, our wayward path, and give new birth to our abandoned hope. In love and through love turn our sleepy dullness and sluggish faith into glorious worship as we reclaim Jesus Christ as our Risen Lord. May his victory over death raise our hearts, our minds and our eyes to that happiness that lasts forever. Amen!”
“The grass is greener on the other side.” You have right to know this.