Sermon - Easter Day
In the Name...
A Sunday School teacher asked her class of little ones, "What's Easter all about?" Well, one child said "Eggs!" Another child said, "Bunnies!" The teacher was getting worried, but then one child put up his hand and said, "Easter is when Jesus rises from the dead and comes out of the tomb." The teacher breathed a sigh of relief, until the little boy continued, "And if he sees his shadow we have six more weeks of Lent."
A little confusion between holidays and holy-days. Amazing, isn't it though, that the message of Easter morning can be summed up in three words, "Christ is risen". And the response is one word, "Alleluia". It all seems much too simple. But, maybe that's just as well. The fact is that no human being, however talented and gifted, has been able to explain what is staring us in the face this morning - an empty tomb, a living Lord. All that can be said about Easter is what the angel told the women. Christ is risen. That's it, that's all.
There's a great deal more, however, that can be said about another subject and that is the answer to the question "So what?" So what?
In the spring of 1821 there was a society ball in Paris attended by all the rich and famous. It was a glittering affair - music, caviar, champagne. Everybody was enjoying themselves. Suddenly a messenger arrived, his clothes covered in dirt and mud. He had ridden a long way very fast. He clumsily made his way across the floor jostling the elegantly attired aristocrats until he reached a raised platform at the end of the room. There sat an elderly man, surrounded by dignitaries. The messenger approached, bent down, and whispered something into the man's ear. Three words, "Napoleon est mort." Napoleon is dead. Suddenly, a look of fright came over the faces of those standing near and those three words, "Napoleon est mort" were whispered around the room like a spreading fire. The dancing stopped, the music died away, and as a tense hush fell over the hall, all eyes turned to the seated figure.
Holding his cane for stability, the man stood up, reached for his pocket watch, glanced at it for a moment and then, the man, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand, the leading politician of France, the man who had engineered Napoleon's downfall and exile, returned the watch to his pocket and remarked, "It is no longer an event. It is just a piece of information. Continue the dance."
What is our reaction when we hear the words, "Christ is risen"? Is that just a piece of information, some old news which can be ignored as we continue the dance? Or is it an event, something which demands we stop whatever we're doing and pay attention?
Talleyrand was correct about Napoleon's death. It was old news. No reason to cancel the ball, to disrupt the routine of the living. It had no impact on the lives of ordinary Parisians. In his day, Napoleon had been a powerful figure, but, he was bound to die sooner or later and when he did he would no longer play a role in the affairs of men.
But, what about the news that Christ is risen? Is that, too, just ancient history from a distant corner of the world? Ah, but, there's a difference. The Easter Proclamation is not of an end, of a death. It is an announcement of a beginning, a life, and where there's life there's activity.
Easter is an event and the message of Easter is that Jesus Christ is alive and well and living in Paris and every other city and village in the world. This event demands that we respond to it. And there are only two ways to respond, with "Alleluia!", or "So what?"
A Sunday School class was preparing to enact the Easter story and a little boy said he wanted to play the part of the stone at the entrance of the tomb. That's not exactly a part, so his teacher asked why would he want to be that? The little boy replied, "So I can let Jesus out."
To let Jesus out. That should be our life's work.
You see, there are millions of people in our communities who keep Christ locked in the tomb and don't let him out. To them, the Good News of Resurrection is nothing special. It's just another piece of information in an information filled age. Easter is something on the calendar like Mother's Day or Groundhog Day. They really have no idea of what it's all about or how it should affect them.
That's why we have to live "Alleluia" in such a way that it answers the question "So what?" St. Paul says, "Christ lives in me" and we need to show that same life lives in us. We need to roll away whatever stone in our hearts and minds is blocking the way. You see, Easter isn't a holiday. It’s not even a holy day. It's a way of life and if we are going to live it we cannot continue the dance, the self-indulgent, self-preoccupied dance we often call life.
My brothers and sisters, Jesus Christ is risen today. How are we going to respond tomorrow?
In the Name...