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Easter Wonder

wonderA transcript of Senior Pastor Karen Brau’s sermon on Easter Sunday, March 27, 2016 — centered on the theme of wonder.

Luke 24: 1-12

Early in the morning
some women show up
at Jesus’ tomb
they’re carrying spices
eager to get to work
on the dead.

They are surprised —
someone rolled the stone away
(no easy feat)
makes it easier for them to look in, for Jesus
but he is not there,
instead, it’s two dazzling men
terrifying the women, so much so that they
bow their faces to the ground…
if it was me, I would be all the way to the dirt.

The Dazzling men offer:
“Why are you looking for the living among the dead?
HE is risen!”

The incarnation — God made flesh in Jesus
love made human
has not been stopped,
it has just changed —
Jesus has transformed.

The Dazzling men go on:
“Remember, he told you what would happen..”

This unexpected agitation to remembering
quickens the women to WONDER
energized, they pull their faces out of the dirt,
stand up and leave the tomb.

Back with the rest of Jesus’ friends,
they tell about WONDER
their sheer surprise
the inexplicable has happened!

Their WONDER generates an attitude
that is knowing and not knowing.

Think back —
their knowing exactly who Jesus was on Holy Thursday—
their loving friend.

their knowing who Jesus was on Good Friday  —
their dead friend.

and their not knowing who Jesus was that Easter morning —
“Their Missing Friend,” wasn’t fully accurate.

There is an exhibit at the Renwick Gallery in DC called: WONDER.

Renwick Gallery—was the first building in the United States designed expressly as an art museum—
After a major two-year renovation competed at the end of 2015,
it re-opened its doors.

To celebrate, the entire museum transformed
into an immersive artwork with the debut exhibition,

During Holy Week I walked down Vermont Ave to the White House and turned right…
There was a crowd waiting to enter the Renwick, and I was herded up the front stairs…

I ended up close behind some grandparents
with two little children.
Grandpa was explaining they would check their bags once inside,
Explaining that some things were not allowed in.
The little girl asked grandma a question I couldn’t hear,
but heard the grandma’s response:
“No, dear, they won’t bother with your Barbie phone.”

Once inside the Renwick, I turned to the left —
and WONDER began…
it was true, the entire museum is an immersion in art.

Nicholas Bell, one of the artists,
spent a whole year reflecting on WONDER,
before creating his piece.

Bell talks about WONDER
as a feeling you get before the mental clutter,
like intellect and taste,
drown out the senses.

And he created his art —
willow stick by willow stick…
A concrete and mysterious exploration of space and place
in a larger than life stick weaving.

In WONDER at the Renwick
you see sticks
and pieces of cards
and colored string
creating tremendous evocations of awe.

It’s concrete and mysterious how insects
could be used on walls to make incredible designs…

For the women at the TOMB,
the concrete is that the Jesus body,
they were for sure was dead on the cross
is no where to be found.

Their report back to the others who stayed away
seems an idle tale —
it doesn’t match their experience that dead is dead.

Edward Hayes, writer and theologian,
in his precious book,
Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim, writes:
“Religion is not all answers, one is invited to be open to a spirit of exploration and wonder.”

In part, that’s what happened that early Easter morning,
women whose faces were down in the dirt
because they were so terrified by the two messengers.  Messengers — who issue an invitation
of exploration and wonder.
“Why are you looking for the living among the dead?
He is risen.”

Exploration and wonder is dismissed by the other disciples —
they are not into idle tales.

The women have too vivid an imagination
they are too emotional
their vision is not grounded in reality.

Yet the invitation to us today
is to move into a space that exists
before the clutter of intellect and taste,
a place that is suspect to many
— sometimes, even to me.

of a risen and living God.

The Wonder is something that includes what we can see
in the physical world, and beyond what we can see,
at the same time.

It’s a space that has room for doubt and questions.

In the book after Luke, Acts,
we meet a character named Saul.

He is a Jesus hater
and he has an experience that could be called an idle tale —
He meets the risen and living Christ
on the road to Damascus.
and his encounter is so powerful
that he is transformed in his head and heart
he is converted to LOVE
and he is never the same.

Paul encounters the living God…
the risen and living God takes him in,
makes him whole —
forgives him for all past dealings of death
and transforms him into a teacher and preacher
who lives totally out of the space of WONDER…

WONDER of the risen and living Christ, doesn’t cease
with the biblical witness either.

Jesus is not just a churchy icon that adorns the walls
of the senior pastor’s office.

WONDER still shows up for us —like a pop up
all over the place,
encouraging us to get our faces out of the dirt
and immerse ourselves in the artwork God does everyday
with people.


A woman addicted for decades,
hits rock bottom and has to choose life.
There is recovery with twists and turns…
And she remembers, as her soul looks back in wonder,
at all the ways that the risen God carried her
when she should have been dead.
and since addiction has lost its ability
to press her face into the dirt, she looks up
and lives as risen!


A man returns to church after years away—-
It’s time for re-looking at his life,
he asks questions,
he is accompanied by a small group of people
who give him a framework to recognize the Risen Christ
he affirms his long ago Baptism at the Easter Vigil
and he can testify,
his life is not the same…


A colleague of color is tired of talking about the racism of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
it’s been a too long dry spell.
And he starts to be part of yet again, new discussions,
and maybe, he is moved a little by hope,
and this white pastor, speaks from her white privilege,
yet again, and her colleague calls her on it —
there is a pause, a breath,
and they don’t give up on each other
and the colleague says, it’s a new time,
and I am no longer dead…


An urban congregation engages in its neighborhood,
and has amazing staff that gathers
neighborhood children into an incredible next step —
a summer day camp ministry.
And from this there are attempts for worship.
but the senior pastor does not speak good Spanish,
so worship doesn’t fly.

Yet the risen Christ shows up in a pastor from NYC
who want to offer himself for ministry with Latino in DC —
and on his first Sunday,
he is greeted by a tall enthusiastic usher
and a teenager who speaks fluent Spanish —
proving to him — what he preaches in Spanish —
that the Lutherans are truly an inclusive
and welcoming church!

Good news: the WONDER of a risen and living God
Good news: a risen God for Mary, Joanne, Mary the mother of James

A risen God for all the apostles.
A risen God for caterpillars and butterflies.
A risen God who loves the world – and its peoples of every kind.
A risen God who loves you…
whoever you are, whatever you’ve done, or left undone.
A risen God who longs for us all to get our faces out of the dirt
and look up — look up in WONDER

Christ is risen.
Christ is risen indeed.

Alleluia, Alleluia.

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