Alleluia!!!! Christ is Risen
The Lord is Risen, Indeed! Alleluia!
You have no idea how much I wish we were together on this holiest of days!
Hope this sermon will resonate with you as we wait, impatiently, to be together again with each other and with our Risen Savior.
[Read John 20:1-8 and/ or Matthew 28: 1-10]
Easter is the day when God surprised the world! Normally, we greet each other with the good news above. At least we do that in church, when we can. More commonly, we greet each other with the wish, “Happy Easter!” It can become an empty greeting, but we need such things these days – – wishing for each other a day and season which will bring fresh surprises and joys .
Good Friday night had seemed to be the end of things. What could those who believed in Jesus do now? Some of them had already run away — some went home. It must have been a dream. Some of them did the only thing they could do … they carried the body of their Lord to his tomb.
A few days later, somewhat at a loss for what to do next, they returned to the tomb to care for what remained. The women came — Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of James, Salome and some others. It was very early in the morning. They wondered how they could get around that heavy stone that had been put in front of the tomb. But, you know the rest…the stone had already been rolled away! God surprised the world!
Some years later, the apostle Paul caught the spirit of this surprise when he wrote, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard … the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” It was God’s surprise. The stone was gone. It was God’s surprise when a voice said, “Jesus is not here.” It was God’s surprise when Mary Magdalene saw a man and thought he was the gardener, until that man called her by her name. It was God’s surprise when the broken band of disciples claimed that God was alive. And, what had been the one surprise of Easter Day became the thousand surprises of Easter faith down through the ages. In this time of our exile, God is standing ready to surprise us with his presence, his grace and the love between each of us, his followers.
Whenever a person becomes a committed Christian, and really professes Jesus as his Lord, he is in for a lifetime of surprises. One big surprise is a heavenly citizenship in the midst of this present life. Another is the surprise that pain and suffering can be filled with love and strength as long as they are faced in the light of Easter. Yet another is the surprise that death is not an enemy any longer, but a friend, and we realize that the statement “the last great enemy is death” merely applies to those left behind. And, the biggest surprise is that life can be quite different if a person belongs to Christ. “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard…the things God has prepared for those who love him.”
Since that first Easter surprise, many centuries of Christian civilization have passed, The Christian Gospel has assaulted nations on every continent, and every time it has done so, it is the newness and the surprise which has overcome apathy and unbelief. But, when Christianity has become the norm and acceptable, and a mere habit that nobody really thinks about anymore, then the glow and freshness of surprise can fade away. Sadly, we know that is true in our own time and in our own culture. To be a Christian is, for many, just a social convention. It becomes like just one other club membership. The surprise has faded.
So many articles have been written and speeches given in the last ten or twenty years … speeches and articles discussing what the church’s greatest needs are today. what do we need to do and be if we are going to witness to our faith and bring our faith to the unfaithful world around us? I cannot think of any greater need than the recovery of the surprise of the Christian faith by good Christian people. The surprise of Easter faith can be shown all year long, and we need to recommit ourselves this Easter, in this time of our exile, to living into that surprise.
On this Easter Day, and throughout the season, let us all renew ourselves by opening ourselves to the surprise of this faith we profess.
First, we deal with all the dullness, familiarity and convention which seeps into our souls as life goes on. Instead of the dullness, let us yield to the wonder and the vividness of our Christian faith.
Next, we all have our own story of slow progress as Christians, or even our story of no progress at all. Let these stories not blind us to God’s own desire to surprise us … surprise us, perhaps, with a love, or a courage, or a faithfulness. If we let them, these surprises may prove to be more than we ever desired to ask. And, when we confess our sin, God’s absolution is his word of surprise for us, rolling away the stone of our guilt.
Next, let our anxieties for the world give way to a faith that God can still surprise our world. Take the miserable tale of division and bitterness which marks our culture. How can that ever be overcome? Easter tells us that these can be overcome by women and men surprising themselves with a new vision of brotherhood, cooperation and partnership. And, it will be a surprise when we discover it!
Or, take the need for trust between the nations of our world. We still need to work diligently so that peace may be secure in all parts of the world. That can come about when the nations surprise themselves with a new will to come together, and by God surprising the world by changing the hearts of the most stubborn and narrow-minded people.
It is the same with the Church. We see that the Church is being called to mission work right here at home, as well as in foreign lands. We have a monumental struggle, in the name of the Church, to overcome the materialism and apathy of our time. IT is by divine surprises that souls are won to Christ. The surprise for us will be when we have the courage to cast off the apathy of our world and discover a new vitality in ourselves which others can see and even imitate.
A British historian from long ago, who was called the Venerable Bede, wrote about the conversion of the British people. It is story of a people surprising itself and finding itself Christian. When Pope Gregory sent missionaries to the British Isles, he told the missionaries that the British people had frozen hearts. After the work of the first missionaries, the Pope amended his opinion saying that the frozen hearts had been warmed by the Holy Spirit to the Love of God. Surprise was the order of the day!
Easter is here. On this day, God surprised the world by the resurrection of Christ from the dead. Easter is here, and with our hearts we thank God and praise him. God has overcome death for us. He has opened the gate of everlasting life for us. Now, we pray for the surprise for you and me as God puts good desires and good intentions into our hearts.
Easter is here! Surprise! Perhaps the biggest surprise is the unfamiliar ways we will celebrate it. But, be assured that God is at work as always. Easter is a miracle, as always. And, the Love of God and the triumph of Easter is the order of the day, in all times and in all places.
Blessings on you and yours on this surprising day!