Rise Up!

a sermon for Easter Day


Jesus rose from the dead today, but it’s our Resurrection Day. So what’s holding us back?

Note: With the pressures of Holy Week and preparation for my sabbatical, I freely admit that this sermon is not my original work.  As I note in my introduction, most of this sermon comes from one given by Bishop Andy Doyle, of Texas.  His original is here.   John Dominic Crossan’s new book can be found here.  And Ray Wylie Hubbard’s song can be heard here.  




Before I begin, I want to acknowledge three people who greatly influenced what I’m about to say. The first is John Dominic Crossan, a theologian and author whom I was fortunate to have lunch with at the Awakening Soul Conference. We somehow got to talking about my Syrian heritage and he had just come from a trip to the middle east.  He told me about how the Eastern Church differs from the West in their view of the Resurrection. The second is Bishop Andy Doyle of the Diocese of Texas, whom I met a couple of years ago. He gave a sermon at Texas A&M a few years ago in which he asks the question “what’s holding us back?” Much of this sermon comes from him.  And finally, there is Ray Wylie Hubbard.  He is a singer-songwriter and wrote a song called “Whoop and Hollar” and I’m going to try to sing it for you:

When I rise up out of the river knowin’ my sin’s been washed away
I’m gonna whoop, I’m gonna hollar
When I rise up out of my grave and I see my savior’s face
I’m gonna whoop, I’m gonna hollar
When I rise up in God’s empyrean heaven flappin’ my angel wings
I’m gonna whoop, I’m gonna hollar

I’m gonna whoop, I’m gonna hollar
I’m gonna whoop, I’m gonna hollar
I’m gonna rise up, whoopin’ and hollarin’
Rise up, whoopin’ and hollarin’
Rise up, whoopin’ and hollarin’
Rise up, rise up

Today is the day we all rise up.

The Gospels tell us that Jesus did a whole lot of risin’ up. When Simon Peter’s mother-in-law was sick, Jesus told her to “rise up” and she was healed. And when a man who couldn’t walk was carried on a stretcher by his friends, and there were so many people around that they had to pass him down through a hole in the roof, Jesus said, “rise up;” and the man folded his mat and walked. And when Jarius, a leader of the synagogue, came to Jesus and told him that his daughter had been stricken and was close to death, Jesus went to his house and said, “Little girl, rise up!” And she did. And when his best friend, Lazarus, died and had laid in the tomb for four days, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” And he rose and walked out of the tomb.

Rise up, whoopin’ and hollarin’

Of course, Jesus told his disciples that he also was going to rise up. He said that he was “going to undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.” And so when we come to today’s Gospel, we really shouldn’t be surprised. After all, Jesus had been in the risin’ business all along.

Rise up, whoopin’ and hollarin’

In today’s Gospel, Mary Magdalene gets to the tomb and she is told: “He is not here. He has been raised.” And if Ray Wylie Hubbard had been with her, she might have started whoopin’ and hollarin’ herself. Because she knew that the Resurrection Day is not only about Jesus rising up. Today, we have been raised with Jesus.

That’s right. It’s already a done deal. By Jesus’ resurrection, we have already been raised. His resurrection raised us all, ALL – those who came before us, and those who have yet to be born. Today, all humanity has been raised from the grave.

You don’t need to take my word for it. Jesus promised it when he said, “I am resurrection and life. Whoever believes in me will live.” And Paul proclaimed it when he said, “God, who is rich in mercy, out of great love…made us alive together with Christ. By grace you have been saved and raised up with him.”

We are already raised. There’s nothing left for us to do because Jesus has done it all for us.

But the interesting thing about the Resurrection is that the story doesn’t end there. Jesus doesn’t stop on Resurrection Day. He continues past the grave, continues past his resurrection and he goes back to work, back to Galilee. As Bishop Doyle points out, Galilee is the place of life and ministry. Galilee is the place of healing the sick, feeding the hungry, finding homes for the homeless. Galilee is the place of mission and ministry and life. Galilee is where we live. And Galilee is where Jesus tells his disciples to meet him.

If the Gospels are about anything, they are about following Jesus. And part of following him is rising up and getting out of our own graves and following him back to Galilee. The question is, what’s holding us back? What keeps us in our graves? What keeps us from whoopin’ and hollarin’ about our own very real resurrection?

If you’re like me, it’s probably because you’re living your life on autopilot, playing the same tape over and over in your head. It’s a tape of my own creating. We think, “maybe I’m not smart enough. Or maybe, I’m too young or too old. Or maybe I’m the wrong color, or the wrong gender, or I love the wrong people and nobody wants me to do this. Or maybe it’s too risky to do this and I don’t want to fail.

Maybe you stay in the grave because you don’t think Jesus is talking to you.

But, Jesus is talking to you. Jesus is inviting you to rise up. Jesus is saying, “I know you have doubts and fears, I know you’re unsure if you’re worthy, or capable, or good enough, or smart enough – I know you might be afraid. But I am inviting you to rise up out of your grave. Rise up! Come out of your grave, because I need you.”

Jesus didn’t stop after the Resurrection, because there was more work to do. He paid for all our sins, he was victorious even over Death, he rose up out of the grave, and still he went back to work. Back to Galilee.

And he’s calling us to be there right alongside of him.

Jesus needs you to rise up, get out of your grave, and to share his words of life and hope and joy with a cynical and broken world. He needs you to give voice to his Gospel…to be merciful to those who don’t deserve mercy, to have compassion for those who are meek. To forgive those people in your life that you believe are unforgivable – maybe even including yourself.

Jesus invites you to rise up and build homes for the homeless; to care enough to see that all the hungry people are fed. Jesus invites you to care so much about the other guy that you forget about yourself, forget about the things holding you back in the grave. Jesus invites you to be his voice, and speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves. To proclaim the Gospel that God loves the whole world in everything you say, and more importantly, everything you do.

Jesus rose from the grave today, but it’s our Resurrection Day. There is nothing that keeps us in our graves, because Jesus has set all that aside. His victory is complete – Love has conquered Death. His forgiveness is assured – there is nothing to hold us back.

Rise up! Let me hear you whoop!
Let me hear you hollar!

Alleluia! He is risen!
The Lord has risen indeed. Alleluia!


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