I used to think that Easter was the easiest Sunday to preach. The story tells itself and there’s so much else going on in the service that a brief sermon highlighting resurrection couldn’t go wrong. However, as the years have gone on and my ministry has changed, I find Easter a particular challenge.
This year in the Easter worship service there will be no musician, just me and my IPOD. Moreover, I feel the need to communicate the Gospel in a way that people wrestling with various mental health crises and symptoms might actually hear. I can’t spend too much time with the specifics of the Easter story because someone will ask out loud why Jesus doesn’t appear to us the way he did to Mary. Some others might volunteer that they, too, have seen angels. Someone else will ask where the tomb is and if it’s still empty. I’ve come to understand that these tangents are likely on the minds of anyone paying attention to the story. Yet, none of this is helpful, really. The issue at hand is not what happened on that first Easter morning, but on what is happening now.
I want people who come to chapel service to hear a word of hope, to know that the resurrection is for them, and to experience forgiveness and acceptance at a really deep level. Yes, I know this is a lot to put into one sermon. This message of Jesus’ radical love is essential. Too many people tell me that they do not feel “good enough” for God to love them. They tend to believe the basics of the Gospel message except that they somehow exclude themselves. They conclude that Jesus couldn’t possibly love them even though he seems to love everyone else.
Somehow in the midst of the unbelievable story of the empty tomb, I have to make it believable on a personal level. Beyond believable, I have to make it real and livable today. A group of people will gather in a chapel without all the fanfare of a traditional church Easter celebration and they will look to me to say something that eases the suffering in their own lives.
The question that keeps echoing through my thoughts is this: Who are you that you alone would be excluded from the love God has for the whole of creation?
With the scent of anointing oil and spices lingering in the air, women weeping, and angels in white, I think we forget that the tomb was empty. It wasn’t empty for no reason. It wasn’t empty for Jesus’ sake. It was empty for us, all of us. You know—God so loved the world. It really doesn’t matter who you are, what you’ve done or not done, what diagnosis you carry, what job you do, how much money is in your bank account, the size of your house, the car you drive, your gender identity, your sexual orientation, your relationship status… none of this matters because God loves us whether we believe it or not.
The appropriate response to “Christ the Lord is risen today!” perhaps ought to be “Thanks be to God!” Now let us go and live our lives in gratitude and as a testimony to the power and grace that conquers death with the promise of new life.
RCL- Year A – Easter – April 20, 2014
Acts 10:34-43 or Jeremiah 31:1-6
Psalm 118: 1-2, 14-24
Colossians 3:1-4 or Acts 10:34-43
John 20:1-18 or Matthew 28:1-10