Sermon - Easter Day 2022
In the Name...
Did you know that the Easter Bunny is real? I’m serious. In the museum of the University of Wisconsin you can see, with your own eyes, a stuffed rabbit which comes from … Easter Island. The Easter bunny – right?
Well, today is a glorious day. Of course, when a pastor looks over a larger than usual congregation he's bound to feel that way. But, even if this church was totally empty today would still be glorious, because today is the greatest day that history has ever seen or will ever see. Today is Easter Day.
An author with the curious name of Og Mandino once wrote a book called "The Christ Commission.” Its premise was that a modern-day mystery writer goes back in time and interviews various people involved in the events of Holy Week - Joseph of Arimethea, Caiaphas, Pilate, Peter, etc. To me, though, his most revealing interview is with a minor character, one of the Roman guards, because it contains an extraordinary insight. That night, the guard says, he and his fellow guards thought they saw a man walk through the stone and out of the tomb, so they opened the tomb to check and, when they saw it was empty, they fled.
I had never thought about that before, but it makes sense. If Jesus could later appear to his disciples in a locked second-floor room, the stone didn't need to be rolled away for him to get out of the tomb. It was rolled away so that we could look in. It was rolled away for us, not him.
Over the years, a lot of people have tried to disprove Easter. They sometimes claim that Mary and the disciples went to the wrong tomb or that saying Jesus is alive means the mental moment when the disciples realized what he meant to them. But, if you read the Gospels you realize that the disciples did not expect there to be a resurrection and had no grounds for making it up. The cry is "Theft" not "Alleluia." Peter and John are confused, not ecstatic.
Some years ago, Sue and I enjoyed a visit to the Holy Land. It was a memorable experience and one of the reflections our leader gave us was that while tourists usually travel to see things, in Jerusalem millions flock to the Holy Sepulchre to see nothing. Nothing. To gaze upon an empty space - not so much where Christ was buried, but from where he got up. As our leader put it, "The bones of Lenin are in Moscow, the bones of Mohammed are in Medina, the bones of Buddha are in India, but the bones of Jesus are nowhere on this earth."
It's the getting up of the corpse that sets Christianity apart from all other religions or philosophies and getting up was a large part of Jesus' ministry. He told the sick, "take up your mat and walk.” He tells the blind beggar to get up and come over to where he is. He even says, "Lazarus, come forth.” While carrying the Cross he fell and got up three times, like a wounded soldier struggling under fire to take a hill. He did. It was called Calvary and there he won his greatest victory - our Salvation.
Focusing on "getting up" helps, I think, to correct a common misunderstanding of the Resurrection event. Easter is not so much about life after death as about getting up to face life here and now. Each of our lives is filled with our worries, our fears, our sadness, about this or that. It's easy to be overwhelmed and think there's nothing we can do. Life can, ironically, threaten to bury us.
But, Jesus was always opposed to inactivity, even that brought on by death. The pile of discarded grave-clothes is his gesture of contempt for it. And the message of Easter is not just that Christ is risen; not just that we can go to Heaven when we die; but, that the same God who raised up Jesus can raise us up when life is ready to write us off.
So, Easter shouldn't just be a time for a family reunion when we all stand around and eat chocolate bunny rabbits. Yes, we should be happy. Yes, Easter should bring us joy. But, Easter should also be a wake-up call to life.
That is the true message of Easter. That the God who empowered Jesus to endure the Cross empowers us to face our crosses. That the tomb could not hold Jesus and it cannot hold us, either.
The power of God in our lives is greater than any other physical or spiritual power. We live, we can live, and we can live again, in this world and the next, for one reason and one reason only.
Because Christ is risen. Alleluia!
In the Name...