Returning to Galilee, a Sermon by the Rev. Robert W. Wohlfort, Th.D., April 1, 2018

This sermon was delivered by the Rev. Robert W. Wohlfort, Th.D., Transitional Pastor, at Our Savior Lutheran Church & Campus Ministry on Sunday, April 1, 2018, Easter Sunday.

To state the obvious…this is a very strange morning! We gather to celebrate a mystery: the coming back to life of a dead man! Imperial Rome…that Empire that no one could successfully defeat…in league with corrupt, lying, fearful religious authorities believed that they successfully extinguished an annoying Troublemaker. The death was certain; the internment was completed; the stone sealed both the tomb and the end of the story.

And there is another strange aspect to this story…hinted at in Mark’s telling. Jesus is not present! Jesus does not even make a cameo appearance! He’s not there at the tomb or in the garden…Jesus is in Galilee.

Mulling over this resurrection story I let my imagination run a bit wild with other possibilities for Jesus prior to being in Galilee. If truth be told I think my imagination is my imagining what I would consider if I was Jesus that Sunday morning.

Join me if you wish or dare.

His eyes are opening and it is dark…very dark. The bed is hard; He’s wrapped tightly in a cloth…not unlike the swaddling cloths at his birth. Every limb is sore; every bone is weary the wounded hands and feet are healing as is that place where the spear pierced.

Ah, yes! He’s back! He defeated death. He remembers the haplessness of Pilate; the derision of the Roman guard…their perverse joy in torturing him; and the robe and the crown.

He remembers the priests, the scribes, the pharisees and all the other religious leaders who lied and bribed. He remembers the callousness of those nailing him to the cross.

He remembers betrayal by Judas and Peter’s denial and the other 10 who were with him for 3 years and still didn’t fully comprehend. He remembers that only John, his mother and other women being present at his execution.

He remembers that he was dead…but no more. So…it is SHOW TIME! SHOW TIME!

Maybe he will sneak into Pilate’s bedroom and quietly tiptoe to his side of the bed where he and Mrs. Pilate are into a deep and exhausted sleep and shout “Boo!” [what fun that would be.] On the way out he will take Pilate’s crown of authority.

Maybe that would so much fun Jesus will do the same to Caiaphus and selective Sadducees and Pharisees.

The Roman guard requires more empire-like arrival. Jesus will find that purple robe and wear Pilate’s crown; he’ll fly to the top of the temple and regroup the angelic chorus of his birth along with a full brass orchestra and at the rising of the sun play and sing “The Strife is O’er, the Battle Done”…it’s in the ether and centuries later this Symphonia Sirenum will be emerge for all the world to enjoy.

So many possibilities for flaunting power; so many possibilities to have fun; so many options to thumb his nose at empire and phony religion; so many opportunities for revenge and reasons to commit murder.

Jesus will have none of it. He returns to Galilee. If we want to experience the risen and alive Jesus we have to go back to Galilee where he promises to meet us. Returning to Galilee means returning to the margins where Jesus ministered.

It is in Galilee where we relive his pastoral ministry by feeding the hungry; driving out the demons that tortured people; and preaching words of hope to the broken-hearted.

It is in Galilee where he healed those in distress and broke down the walls that separated people.

It was in Galilee that we were witnesses to the power of God’s coming kingdom. And it is in Galilee, today that we experience the resurrected Jesus who leads us into newness.

For Jesus continuing his ministry and equipping others to carry on his work was more important than toying with those who sought to humiliate, discredit and murder him.

We who are a part of this ELCA community know well the “brand,” the tag line of our church wide mission: “God’s Work. Our Hands.” We will continue to respond “Yes” to Jesus invitation to meet him again in 2018’s Galilee.

The early followers of Jesus, mostly Jewish, witnessed Jerusalem destroyed in 70 CE. Resurrection would not have been obvious to them who mourned at the site of their ruined temple and were grieved by the deaths and dispersion of families and friends.

Mark’s Gospel was for them. No drama around the tomb. Jesus is in Galilee. Go there.

This week I will be writing to you about the Galilean nature of events for next weekend. Included in my pastoral letter to you will be a link to an important document, Reclaiming Jesus.

In my opinion this document is a profound witness to our need to be in Galilee with our Lord as we regroup as disciples to faithfully address the re-occurrence of the powers of empire and corrupted religion that are eroding the life and ministry of our Risen Lord in our land and across the globe. Watch your inbox and for those who do not use e-mail, yours will come via the US Postal Service with the document enclosed. However it comes to you it is your invitation to meet our Lord in Galilee. I will see you there.

Amen.

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