The text for this sermon is Matthew 28:1-10.
When I was a kid in Toledo, on many spring Saturdays my dad would wake my brother and I up at 4:30 in the morning and take us out to Anchor Pointe Marina and our 18 foot green Sea Sprite inboard/outboard with an open bow. My dad was chasing walleye and he wanted us to come and fish with him, too.
My brother and I had a couple of problems with this plan. To start with, it’s 4:30 in the morning. Beds not boats make sense at 4:30 in the morning. Second, it’s spring in Ohio. The temperature in my bed, under the covers at 4:30 in the morning is roughly 110 degrees or so. Perfect. The temperature on a tiny boat in a big lake with a lot of wind before sunrise in the spring is about negative 30 degrees. Every part of you is cold. Finally, Anchor Pointe Marina is on Lake Erie and the fish are by the Maumee River. It took that little 18 foot green Sea Sprite about an hour and a half of tossing and bouncing with frigid waves splashing your face to get to the Maumee. My brother and I were done before we ever got started. At 11years old, at 4:30 in the morning I did not want to go fishing.
I wonder if the disciples thought the same way about Galilee on day one of the resurrection. The angel was clear; to find Christ they have to go to Galilee. Jesus even shows up in Jerusalem to tell the two Mary’s that to find him again they have to go to Galilee. It sounds like the angel and Jesus thought the disciples needed a lot of encouragement to leave Jerusalem and go to Galilee.
It wasn’t that the disciples were from Jerusalem, most of them were from around Galilee. More likely Jerusalem felt like a promotion and returning to Galilee was like being sent back to the minor leagues, like having to return to West Virginia after moving to Ohio. Jerusalem was the largest city that any of the disciples were likely ever to see. These disciples were religious people and Jerusalem, with the temple in the middle was the heart of their religious faith. I got to believe the disciples were hoping that they could set up shop in Jerusalem, not Galilee.
As Matthew writes Galilee was the land of the Gentiles. Jesus was raised in a small run down cluster of huts in Galilee called Nazareth. The economy of Nazareth was providing cheap labor for an expensive, beautiful Roman city built on the Sea of Galilee. Galilee was full of foreigners. The religious Jews that lived in Galilee were not quite up to snuff, not the grade A sort found in Jerusalem.
Yet, Galilee was important to the ministry of Jesus. It was in Galilee that he ate with those that good people didn’t associate with, like tax collectors, prostitutes, lepers and other undesirables. It was in Galilee that Jesus proclaimed all people, Jew and Gentile holy and good. It was in Galilee that Jesus started to sketch just how big this Kingdom of God was going to be.
The work of Jesus was to bring all people back into the family of God. This is why he did his ministry in Galilee because it was there people needed reconciled to God. Jesus wanted his disciples to know right at the beginning of the resurrection, that they must keep heading to Galilee, and announce the Good News that no one is outside of God’s love, not foreigners, the sick, the poor, the outcasts, not even disciples who betray him, leave him or deny him.
When the two Mary’s sees Jesus by the empty tomb in Jerusalem she rushes and grabs his feet. I was reminded of grabbing my covers when my dad would open my door at 4:30 in the morning. This is good right here. Let’s stay. Jesus tells Mary to let go. This is not what he has in mind for the resurrection. Their work is to be done in Galilee. They will find Jesus there.
This is what our work 2000 years later is still about. This is what the resurrection we announce at Easter is all about. We will find Jesus in Galilee. In Galilee failed disciples are called brothers. In Galilee prostitutes are called sisters. In Galilee lepers are called clean. In Galilee all are brought back into relationship with God.
Today, we celebrate and worship at the feet of Jesus. The trumpets, the flowers, the special music, the dancing, the many guests, the grandness of it all is our joyful holding on to those feet of Jesus. Like the Mary’s, we are excited that Jesus lives and worship is how we show that enthusiasm.
This worship is good. Alleluia. Just like there is no place I would rather be at 4:30 in the morning than my bed, there is no place I could imagine being on Easter morning than with all of you. Yet, we can’t stay here. To be church, we have to let go of the feet, leave Jerusalem and get ourselves to Galilee. Jesus will be met there, because it is there that people need reconciling to God. Churches become ugly and do not reflect Christ in the world when they stop travelling to Galilee.
This is why Messiah’s ministry is marked with outreach. The five places every month we serve food to the hungry. The food pantry on Champion road we stock shelves at monthly. The clothing and furniture ministry for those in need we run daily out of a warehouse off Broad Street. We sponsor a preschool and Vacation Bible School, even Breakfast with the bunny to reach out to our neighbors. Our offerings are used to teach preach and worship Christ. This is the work God calls Messiah to do in Galilee.
To our visitors this morning welcome to Galilee. It is here you will meet Jesus. If you have come convinced that God has no purpose for your life. If you have been stung by the heat of judgment and the emptiness of shame. If your poverty makes you feel unwelcome or your disability makes you feel isolated. If your questions and doubts make faith in God seem impossible, welcome to Galilee. Here we proclaim the risen Christ who is alive.
Christ is not about gathering all the good holy looking folk in one big end time boom. The ministry of Christ and his church is to reach all who wander in Galilee, alone, lost, hurting, doubting, wondering if God’s love can cover them, too. In Galilee, the church works to bring all back into relationship with God.
Now that I am grown and raised children of my own, I look at those spring morning wake up calls differently. They were not about fishing. If my dad really wanted to catch walleye, I am sure his game plan would not have included 10 and 11 year old boys. We hampered his success rather than contributed to it. The morning trips to Anchor Pointe Marina were about being brought back into relationship with my dad. My dad wanted to get us to Galilee so we could reconcile to his love.
He worked all week. Under a lot of stress when he came home in the evening, he was often grumpy. Saturday morning was the one day of the week he could share with us. It was the one day he could just sit, with the waves rocking that little Sea Sprite, and be our father. We could joke like men do when there are no women around. We could go to the bathroom in milk jugs, always cool to an 11 year old. After a week that seemed to move my father further and further away from us, Saturday morning before the sunrise was a time of reconciliation, when we could be brought back to relationship with him. We couldn’t do that in bed, though. We had to go to Galilee.
We can’t meet Jesus in bed, either. We have to get up and go to Galilee. It is there the risen Christ can be found, reconciling all to God’s love. In Galilee we will see Jesus. Amen