4.4.10 sermon notes
I have a pastor friend who was working on her Easter sermon and noted that today is at the same time both the easiest and the hardest sermon to preach. On the one hand – the message is fairly simple: Christ is risen! Hallelujah! But we pastors often put so much pressure on ourselves, because we know that this is one of the handful of Sundays in any given year when we may have lots of visitors. Perhaps this is the only sermon someone will hear this year – I better make it a good one! But really, that is foolish thinking – just my ego getting in the way.
But I have to admit, given my own history of church-going at points in my life and the statistics of increased attendance in most churches at Easter, I am aware of the fact that many of us have probably heard more Easter sermons than anything else in our lives. What new perspective could I possibly offer on this familiar story? Jesus was crucified and died, he was buried, and on the third day, the tomb was empty, and bewildered and amazed disciples have been telling the good news of resurrection ever since. Sure, different gospel writers have slightly different accounts of just who was at the tomb first and who they told next, but the core of the story remains the same. We have heard this story time and time again.
So why are we here? I think this is less about some sense of religious obligation but perhaps more about a deep need that we as humans have to celebrate hope – to rejoice in the new life that the resurrection brings, symbolized beautifully with our cross, blooming with spring flowers. So I began to wonder:
Why do we need the resurrection? What does this ancient story mean for us today? . . .
Why do we need the resurrection? Various pastor-types were recently asked that very question, and I want to share some of their responses with you:
Why do I need the resurrection?
Because it’s easy to forget. But after the earthquake in Haiti, I need the resurrection. When my friend’s parents die in a plane crash, I need the resurrection. When another IED explodes, I need the resurrection. . . . In the sorrow and the joy, the resurrection reminds me: goodness will last, light overcomes darkness, life triumphs over death.
I need the resurrection because every day I die a thousand little deaths…when I curse bad drivers, when I fail to be present to an outstretched hand, when I get irritated with a coworker who isn’t playing nice, when my heart breaks as I listen to the news, see the stray dog running loose in traffic, and when, to my surprise, the tulips are beginning to bloom. Resurrection reminds me that mercy and life are new, everyday, every moment.
I need the Resurrection because my sister is sick and can’t afford insurance, because I’ve told a weeping Haitian mom, “No, I can’t take your son home with me.”
because I’ve been rushed off a Jerusalem street so a robot could blow up a bag that could’ve blown up us.
because I’ve exploded in rage and watched their tiny faces cloud with hurt.
because evil is pervasive and I participate.
I need the Resurrection because it promises that in the end all wrongs are made right.
Death loses. Hope triumphs. And Life and Love prevail.
In a world that would have us believe that deceit and death and heartbreak are the norm, the resurrection reminds us that life and love prevail. Death does not get the last word, and we need to be reminded of that. Because when you talk with a friend who still can’t get a job or turn on the news or visit someone who is suffering, it is too easy to forget. We need only wake up in the morning to be reminded of why we need the resurrection. But the good news is that on this Sunday, and every day, we can live in the hope of the new life in Christ that the resurrection brings.
We need the resurrection and we need to practice resurrection. It is perhaps appropriate that this year Easter falls on April 4. 42 years ago today, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, TN. Death was not the end for Dr. King – his life and legacy continue still today. And we practice resurrection when we continue to work for justice and peace for all of God’s children.
How are you practicing resurrection? When you leave this worship service today, how will you proclaim the risen Christ? Not just with words or with a cross around your neck. But how will you really demonstrate the extravagant love of God in your own life? – the kind of love that death could not silence. What does resurrection look like for you? And how will you share it with others?
We are the body of Christ in the world now. We are the ones offering hope and justice and wholeness to a broken world in his name. The power of the resurrection is not in the reappearance of Jesus on that amazing morning thousands of years ago, but in the witness of the risen Christ that each of us is called to share today. That is indeed something to celebrate. May the resurrected Christ bring you new life and new hope, not just on this Easter Sunday, but every day. Amen.