Resurrection of our Lord–Homily
Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!
Throughout my life, ever since childhood, I have been fascinated with detectives and detective stories. I still remember one Christmas, long ago, I received what I thought to be the greatest gift ever. It was a book, a Hardy Boys book. But this book was not one of their usual mysteries, rather it was something more and something greater than that. It was the Hardy Boys Detective Handbook! As a young boy, no more did I simply have to read about detectives, with this book I could be one! In it, it taught me how to dust for prints, look for clues, and ask the right questions. Unfortunately, as a child with my newly learned skills, I found out rather quickly that my case load was not as abundant as Frank and Joe Hardy's. This love of detectives remained with me throughout adolescence, from the Hardy Boys to the Sherlock Holmes and the Hound of the Baskervilles.
My affinity for detectives, mind you, was not solely of the literary genre. I also watched the great detectives on television. Having read detectives and watched them on TV, I was just a bit tickled that after I took an aptitude test in high school, one of the careers listed was detective. Pastor was not listed and there in lies the humor of God. From Murder She Wrote to Law and Order, from Cagney and Lacey to Simon and Simon, from Hunter to the Rockford Files, from Monk to Longmire these detectives are forever with me. And I know I look more like Kojak, but he was before my time. Yet one detective stands above them all in my memory, the one my Grandfather and I used to watch whenever his TV specials were on in the 80’s and 90’s, the scatter-brained, bumbling mess of a detective, Lieutenant Columbo. Columbo's brilliance was that you could always tell the precise moment when he had figured out the mystery. As a skilled predator about to capture his unassuming prey, he would ask innocent question after innocent question. He lured them them into his investigative web, until he built to the moment of his most famous tag-line. The line that would pierce the hart of the hardened criminal and render their sturdy defense into a house of cards. No matter the crime, no matter the mystery, no matter how big or how small, a criminal mastermind knew the tables had turned on them, if they ever heard Lt. Columbo wearing his overcoat with half-smoked stogie in his hand utter these words, “Excuse me, Just one more thing…”
Now why mention this? Why this on Easter Sunday? Why Columbo? Well I do so, only because of the words that Jesus spoke from the Cross on Good Friday. Moments before Jesus yielded up His Spirit, with final breaths, he proclaimed to the world, “It is finished.” That night and the whole next day the world believed him. Pilate, after sentencing Jesus to Crucifixion, believed this minor inconvenience was finished. The High Priest Caiaphas and Annas, as they watched the spear pierce his side, believed that the “Jesus problem" was solved. His death, indeed, finished the matter. So too the soldiers assigned to crucifixion duty that day, believed that at the ninth hour their work was over. The bystanders who mocked him and spit on him and chanted for his death, “crucify him, crucify him,” believed that their democratic voice had won the day. Even the apostles, who sit locked in the upper room, terrified that they would be next, believed it was finished. They believed their three year journey with their beloved Rabbi was over and they sit in that room grief-stricken.
And the devil, the devil who laughed loudest on Good Friday. The devil who had whispered into the ear of Judas, turning him away from the light and into the darkness. Who had caused a friend to turn into the worst of betrayers, believed that he had won. As he stirred the masses to chant for Jesus’ crucifixion, he thought he had seen the last of the Messiah, the Christ. With each hammer stroke, with each labored breath of Jesus, and at the last with his incarceration in the tomb, the devil firmly believed his hold on the world was permanent. Satan had done, what he was unable to do in the Garden, what he was unable to do before being kicked out of Paradise, He killed God. As our Lord’s lifeless body was laid in the tomb, the evil one began his victory dance. Confident that it was indeed finished, his grip and rule of death on the world could never be interrupted again.
Yet, as the evil one was celebrating, Jesus was picking the locks of hell's gates. This we confess in the words of the creed, “He descended into hell.” St. Peter tells us exactly what he was doing on that Holy Saturday in his First Epistle, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison.” There Christ trampled down death by his death, and upon those in the tombs He bestowed life. And on the first day of the week, at early dawn, the Almighty Father proclaimed to the world, to Pilate, to Caiaphas and Annas, to the soldeirs, to the bystandards, to the women, to the apostles, and to the devil himself, “Excuse me, just one more thing…Christ, My Son, is risen! Christ is risen, and you, death, are annihilated and your tombs are laid empty! Christ is risen, and you, devil, are cast down again and your kingdom is broken! Christ is risen and you, apostles and women, lift up your heads and rejoice! Christ is risen and you, soldiers, fall upon your knees and honor him! Christ is risen and, you mockers, hold fast your tongue, repent, and be forgiven! Christ is risen and you, Caiaphas and Annas, no longer bear false witness, but bear true witness! Christ is risen and you, Pilate, your verdict and your sentence has been overturned!" On Easter morn, the Father turned the tables on the entire world.
The Father’s proclamation this morning, His, "just one more thing,” is not only proclaimed to those who stood by the death of our Lord 2000 years ago, but it is spoken directly to you. The Father has “just one more thing” to tell you as well. Christ is risen! Jesus is risen, for you. Just when you think your life is finished. When you feel your faith is empty. When you believe sin has gotten the best of you. When you believe you are unworthy of love, from a person or from God. When you heard the doctor’s diagnosis and believe it to be the end. When your anger gets the best of you. When you find yourself captive to addiction. When you start to believe the devil’s whispers and think of yourself as worthless, unworthy of God, unworthy of grace. When you believe that death is the only end. The Almighty Father from heaven proclaims to you, just one more thing. Christ is risen. Christ is risen and nothing will separate you from Him. Christ is risen and you are forgiven and healed. Christ is risen and through His water and His Word, you also will be raised! Christ is risen and life reigns. Christ is risen and there is nothing in your life, in your past or in your present, that He has not redeem. Christ is risen and you are forever loved!
To Him be all glory and honor and power, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen!