was not a sunrise service. Here was Mary walking near a
tomb in the darkest part of the night before the dawn. A
Mary who hardly knew for sure what to expect, but there
nonetheless, praying that her worst fears or her deepest
hopes would be founded. Bring closure to this nightmare.
Either he was just a man, yes, just a man - or…….. maybe
it was true - he would live again.
The body was gone. She ran to
tell the others. Two of them ran as fast as they could
to see for themselves, stumbling over rocks, over each
other. Half afraid to look, half afraid to believe, half
afraid to contemplate the implications of what this
could mean for them, for their nation, for their world.
Jesus' body was gone, there was
no denying that, but what did it mean? What did it
mean?………… they just went home.
Not much different from most of
us, I imagine. We come here today and shout Alleluia,
Christ is Risen - He is Risen Indeed. We will sing the
joyful triumphant songs. And, then go home. Maybe go out
to dinner for a nice meal. Visit with family. Candy,
Colored Easter Eggs. Will we ask ourselves the question,
what does it mean?
A director of children's
ministry once asked the little ones what Easter was all
about. A little 3-year old blurted out, ""Easter is when
we wake up early and open presents.' 'No, that's
Christmas.' The second one said, 'Easter is when we have
turkey'. 'No, that is Thanksgiving' said the dejected
educator thinking about what a poor job the Sunday
School teachers had done in the weeks during Lent.
Finally, one young girl said, 'Easter is when Jesus dies
and comes out of his grave.' 'That's right' said the
Director, breathing a sign of relief. "And if he sees
his shadow, we have 6 more weeks of winter. The
director's mouth dropped open as another kid raised his
hand and said, "It looks like he saw his shadow this
year." Whatever point this director was trying to make
in her children's message was cast aside as she
immediately moved toward prayer time.
When I talk to people outside
the church family, many of them don't know what the
events are during Holy Week let alone what they mean. I
was trying to explain to one woman all the things our
congregation was going to do for our Maundy Thursday
service and she looked at me confused. She said, you do
all that Monday through Thursday or just Monday and
Thursday. I chuckled, realizing what an easy mistake
that would be if you didn't already know from childhood.
Easter, the day Jesus broke free
from the bonds of death. The day God invited us to see
and touch that there is life beyond life. That there is
so much more than our immediate concerns no matter how
serious and life threatening they are. There remains
life in Christ, life in God's kingdom.
Ken Burn did a documentary about
the American Civil War. It contained a scene 50-years
after the conclusion of the war. Rebel and Union
veterans, now all of them old, old men, gathered for a
reunion at Gettysburg. That battle as you may remember
was one of the bloodiest of the war. At one point,
during this 50 year reunion, the veterans decide to
re-enact the so-called 'Pickett's Charge.' They lined up
on either side of the field…only now, fifty years later.
They did not have rifles and guns, but crutches and
canes. Someone signaled the charge, and the groups
rushed toward each other…or at least, at their age, they
started walking toward each other. And the story goes
that, as each side converged, they did not fight. But
instead, they fell into each others' arms…weeping…and
crying…and embracing… The writer, Frederick Buechner,
commenting on this scene said this: If only those
doddering old veterans had seen in 1863 what they now
saw so clearly fifty years later…Half a century later,
they saw that the great battle had been a great madness.
The men who were advancing toward them across the field
of Gettysburg were not enemies. They were human beings
like themselves, with the same dreams, needs, and hopes,
with wives and children waiting for them to come
home…what they saw was that we were, all of us, created
not to do battle with each other but to love each other,
and it was not just a truth they saw. For a few minutes,
it was a truth they lived. It was a truth they became.
Jesus' entire life embodied that
truth. His vision was justice. His actions compassion.
His voice love. His death was life. His resurrection the
gift that we can live a life eternal NOW. Paul said it
in the Corinthians passage. IF For this life only we
have hoped in Christ, we are of a people most to be
Indeed if your life is one of
self-preservation, licking wounds, or seeking what is
rightfully yours or perhaps retribution for what is
lost, then I encourage you to take today and the next
and the next to contemplate what the resurrection means
for you and for those around you.
Rarely do we get that experience
it. We spend most of our lives wandering sometimes
aimlessly, sometimes on track - in search of ourselves.
In some sense we are all like the lead character in the
movie Antwon Fisher.
Antwon was an orphan. He spent
his youth in foster-care homes and orphanages. His
experiences were not good. Sometimes he was controlled,
sometimes slighted. sometimes abused. He never knew
unconditional love. He enrolled in the Navy out of high
school, but got into trouble because of anger management
issues and he was assigned to visit a psychiatrist.
Together, he reluctantly peeled back the layers of
frustration and resentment, layers of internal fear and
control…and he did it because someone cared, someone
showed him the face of real love, someone who treated
him like a son - not a case to be resolved.
AT one point, Antwon decides
that he needs to go find his birth mother. He needs to
know why she gave him up, why she couldn't love him.
Returning to his home town with
only the name of his father and mother, gets out a very
large phone book, and just starts calling everyone with
their last names. Finally, he stumbles on his Aunt and
Uncle who greet him warmly and tell him all they know
about his father, the brief relationship with his
mother, how he had since died. His uncle offers to take
him to see his mother.
They drive over to a tenement
apartment. His uncle goes inside and calls her name. The
two men walk in. They walk into a tattered living room
with one woman sitting in silence. His uncle tells her
that her son is there. She never moves. The uncle leaves
to give them some time alone. Antwon sits down and asks
her many of the questions he had always wanted to ask
her. She never responds. She just rocks…She is just not
Finally, he gets up and walks
out of the room. He had come all that way, with all
those hopes, all the questions that he wanted to get
answered, to be comforted and held…only to find that
spiritually he was a motherless child. He is just numb,
His uncle was waiting for him in
the car. They drove across town in silence to another
house. The two of them get out together and walk up to
this other house. There are people out on the porch,
people inside milling around. As Antwon walks up to the
house, they start introducing them selves to him. "Antwon,
I'm your cousin Clarice." "Antwon, I'm your great uncle
George." There are more people in the living room, more
in the hall. Dozens of people, all introducing
themselves to him, until finally he gets back to the
dining room, crammed full of people. They finally lead
him up to a regal, elderly woman sitting at the table.
And the table is spread full of Sunday food, bowls and
bowls of steaming wonderful food. She takes his hands in
hers, her eyes brimming, and she says, "Antwon, I'm your
grandmother…Can you stay for dinner?"
In the resurrection, God comes
to tell us the rest of the story. We may not have the
life that we would have chosen if we could have it all
our way. We may have more pain than we can bear. That
pain may have turned us into people we never intended to
be. It may be impossible for others to tell who we
really are - crying to be reborn. But Christ came to
tell us we have a place at the table.
God is like the great matriarch
of Antwon's family, loving us, pulling for us,
surrounding us with people that will build us up,
praying for us when we are far away, calling us back
home. WE are surrounded by a great throng of people that
are supporting us unseen.
You are somebody. Remember who
you are, remember whose you are. Live forward into the
full potential of that identity. No matter how lost or
alone, or confused you may feel, God is calling you
The story of Easter is not that
we avoid death, but that even in death, even through
death, God is with us and for us.
May I close with the words of
Helen Keller that most of you know a woman totally blind
from early childhood.
It is the resurrection day
again: there is joy upon the hills and gladness in the
fields. Wherever we listen, there comes the songs of the
blossoms, the chime of birds and stream. Wherever we
look, we behold the miracle of life new risen. The green
tide rolls from the south, pressing on over the hills
and running into the valleys, bringing hope to
Even thus, the Word of God runs
swiftly upon the earth, searching our hearts, as the
soft spring rain seeks the roots shut in the dark earth,
and awakens in them the impulse to rise and share in the
glory of leaf and flower, sunshine and song.
So may the Word of Life awaken
in us an irresistible desire to think more deeply, feel
more sincerely, love more generously, and be more worthy
of our spiritual heritage!
This is he fairest of all
resurrections…the rising in our souls of a nobler self.
Now is the moment for us to rise out of the darkness of
our selfish lives and, quickened by His love new risen
in our hearts go forth in His steps with healing in our
hands for the wounds of the world.