Pastor Bradley E. Schmeling picture
April 9, 2023

Easter Sunday, Pastor Bradley E. Schmeling

Matthew 28:1-10

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!

Christ is risen, indeed.  Alleluia!

Lately, artificial intelligence, or AI, has been in the news.  It’s now possible to have the computer, through an online service, do your writing for you.  Hypothetically, a pastor could sit on his couch, sip coffee, and watch the snow fall the week before Easter and give instructions, like, “Write a sermon on Matthew’s Account of the Resurrection, including a quote by Dolly Parton and a touching story about life renewed.”  The little character spins on your screen for a moment, and then you watch the computer write a terrible sermon using exactly what you suggested.

I’ll give you a hint, if you ever want to know if a sermon has been produced by Artificial Intelligence, listen for phrases like, “Let us be reminded,” or  “Let us be mindful.”

I did get this from Dolly Parton once said, “Love is something sent from heaven to worry the hell out of you.”

I’m still unpacking that one. I suppose if you are the powers of death and sin, one of the caretakers of injustice and hate, it’s probably true that the arrival of love is going to be a problem.

Artificial Intelligence for writing works by predictive text.  You’ve probably seen this when you’ve tried to find something on a search engine.  You ask a question, and then when it think it knows what you want, it will fill in the rest of the sentence.  For example, if you type, “How do I cook…”, it will suggest “bacon in the oven.”  Which I think may have something to do with my own history. It takes our computer use, the collective experience of the internet, and makes an educated guess on what’s next.

Easter is our predictive text.  It gathers all the ways God has been in the world; it gathers up how we have all been as humans, all the beautiful and horrible things we’ve done and suggests the outcome of it all: Death has no more dominion over you. Christ is risen. Goodness, compassion, mercy, and justice become part of the story going forward into eternity.

We all come to Easter morning as authors of a life story, starting our sentences in the best way we know how.  Some of them are filled with joy.  My first grandchild was born yesterday.  I saw something green in the flower bed yesterday.  The meds got my anxiety under control for the first time in my life.

But other sentences are harder.  I lost my job.  I messed up the best relationship I ever had.  The high school is on lockdown.  A legislature just removed two black lawmakers for organizing against gun violence.  The text was positive. My youngest decided to quit confirmation.  We had to call hospice.

Like the women going to the tomb early on a Sunday morning, we don’t always know what the next phrase or chapter is going to be. Easter may not take away the effects of the crucifixion or the suffering that is possible in the world, but it does tell us that there will be surprises, and openings, and new possibilities that we can’t fathom right now.

Matthew makes his point this quite dramatically by adding the feisty angel with his heavenly intelligence descending before their very eyes to roll the stone out of the away, interrupting the predictions from Friday, rolling way of all the sorrow, rolling over all those voices that attempted to stop Jesus’ mission of love, justice, and healing, and says, “Oh no, let me make a prediction. He’s going ahead of you to Galilee.  He will meet you there.”  The Jesus that you knew in a bodily form is now alive in the depths for your being and in your life story. In fact, he now lives in all things. Jesus becomes the Christ, our co-author, our search engine, our partner in constructing the story in which we can live.

I heard an interview with Oprah Winfrey on Tik Tok.  She was asked, “Given all the famous, interesting people that you’ve interviewed, is there a common thread?”  She said that the common theme is that they all had a clear vision for where they were going, or of what the world can be.  “Most of us,” she said, “get stuck in our heads, spinning, trapped by the things we think are insurmountable.  We’re stuck.  These interesting, joyful, change agent type people have their heads in a future world, not in some naïve way, but see whatever is happening today is just part of how we get there.

That’s the power of Easter.  God gives us this vision of an empty tomb, of a future that’s open; of a Christ, who is raised with love, mercy, and generosity, not dead in the past but mysteriously and strangely alive in every moment.

So.  Let us be mindful that no matter what, love wins.  In God’s life, there are no outsiders, only everyone gathered home. The arc of the universe bends toward justice, and, of course, if we ask, Dolly Parton will always have something to add.

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!

Christ is risen, indeed.  Alleluia!