Bob Trankley, one of our members who died last year, described
himself as a "Chreaster." That's a person who attends church at
Christmas and Easter. There are lots of folks like that. Maybe
some here today.
And so, there's a lot of pressure on a pastor to get across
some essential message in about 10 minutes or less that will have
enough sustenance and meaning to hold some folks for the next
eight months!! But even more, the great hope that every pastor
has, is that the sermon will be so engaging, so powerful, so full
of meaning that folks will feel they have to come more often
because they not only like what they hear, but they know the
sermon is pointing them to a source that will make their life
fuller, that will strengthen them to cope with the challenges of
this life, and to come out on top instead of underneath-come out a
victor instead of a victim.
Wow-now I've even put more pressure on myself because I've used
up about a minute and I really wanted to include a humorous story,
too. Well, stories about kids are always good. We want more and
more kids here at Trinity. We love kids and we want kids to love
it here. And we want their parents, too. We want parents to bring
their kids here and to help us make kids want to come back again
and again. Here's a humorous story.
A Sunday school teacher asked her children, as they were on the
way to church service, "And why is it necessary to be quiet in
church?" One bright little girl replied, "Because people are
sleeping." (Don't you just love the bright ones!?)
A couple invited some people to dinner. At the table, the
mother turned to their six-year-old daughter and said, "Would you
like to say the blessing?" "I wouldn't know what to say," the girl
replied. "Just say what you hear Mommy say," the mother answered.
The daughter bowed her head and said, "Lord, why on earth did I
invite all these people to dinner?" Uh, oh, Mom. Those kids are
always listening, AND, kids usually spoil any plans we have to use
them to make us look good.
A father was at the beach with his children when the
four-year-old son ran up to him, grabbed his hand, and led him to
the shore where a seagull lay dead in the sand. "Daddy, what
happened to him?" the son asked. "He died and went to Heaven," the
Dad replied. The boy thought a moment and then said, "Did God
throw him back down?"
So, Dad, did you really think you were going to get off that
easy? So, what do you say next? What do you know about God and
Jesus and heaven?
Well, here's the thing. Whether you're a Chreaster or whether
you come to church pretty regularly, you need to know the stories
of the Bible, and you need to know what they mean; and most of
all, you need to know what Jesus taught because what he taught was
for our benefit. Well, no, that's not even 'most of all.' Most of
all, you need to know what Jesus really said-that is, if what
someone tells you he said, is really what he said. That's so you
can know if someone is trying to mislead you-trying to persuade
you, trying to get you to support their opinion by using the
Bible, using what they say are the words or teachings of Jesus.
You need to know if they are telling the truth, or just trying to
get you to believe what they want you to believe. And you
especially want to protect your children from being persuaded to
follow someone who is biased or bigoted and is trying to use the
Bible to back them up, to give their prejudice some authority.
You need to know what it is that you believe as a Christian or
else it will just be stolen from you. Jesus didn't suffer what he
did and rise victorious just for us to throw it away. Many
Christians don't even know the two most basic stories of
Christianity-the Christmas story and the Easter story. And, they
don't know that the Easter story is the most important to them.
There wouldn't BE a Christian religion if it weren't for Easter.
Yet we give a LOT more attention to Christmas than Easter.
Folks know those two stories, Christmas and Easter, in a
general way (and mix in lots of local tradition and folklore), but
if their life depended on telling the story accurately, with no
additions from traditions and folklore, they would be in deep
It's the popular thing now to blame Hollywood or particular
books, works of fiction, for the demise of traditional family
values. It's the easy way out-blame someone. But the truth is, we
Christians are our own worst enemy. Because we don't know what the
Bible really says, what Jesus really taught, we are just handing
over our religion, our values to anyone who wants to do anything
they want with them.
You know why so many people come to church at Christmas and
Easter? It's because the stories associated with those two seasons
are wonderful, uplifting, nice, heartwarming, pretty, "make me
feel good" times. But unless you also know the stories that deal
with the struggle that is between those times-the struggle, the
challenge that are also part of life-you have no idea what your
faith can do for you. You have a faith that is not in touch with
reality, not in touch with life. It's a story-book faith. It's a
faith that will crumble in the face of the real challenges of
I titled this sermon 'Weather Ruins Easter." That was a
headline in a newspaper of a couple years ago. I saved it all this
time because it struck me so deeply. Do you realize what it's
saying? It's saying that something as simple as a rainy day can
ruin Easter! What?! Is faith that shallow? Is that what Easter is
all about, that someone's joy can be ruined because it rains on
If my joy about Easter is that shallow, then I have no Easter
in my heart at all. I have no concept of the joy that is Easter. I
have no concept of what happened at that first Easter that makes
EVERY DAY an Easter!! I mean, come on!! Jesus, by rising from the
dead, broke the hold that death had on us, broke that hold for ALL
TIME. The devil can try to make us believe we are still caught and
not free (and some folks get caught by the devil because they
don't know the real story and the devil can bring them the story
through lots of means, including some self-righteous,
self-serving, controlling, even bigoted, fundamentalist preachers,
who call themselves followers of Jesus, yet distort Jesus' message
and the truth of the Bible-but how would folks know, since they
don't really know what the Bible says-and these self proclaimed
Christian leaders exude hate and create fear so as to divide God's
people, God's children).
If rain can ruin my Easter, then the devil already has a tight
grip on me, because I won't experience the incredible joy that is
Easter. That is, that no matter how difficult life's challenges
are, those challenges can NEVER take away what Jesus did for me
and you out of pure love for us-unconditional love: he made us
conquerors! We are no longer victims. No one, no situation, no
challenge, no matter how difficult, can take away the fact that we
are loved and we are conquerors. The devil might try to make us
believe we are victims, but we aren't. And being gathered here
together, that's where we are reminded of that. We NEED to be
reminded. We NEED to remind each other. We NEED, all of us,
parents and children alike, need to be here week after week to
thank God that we are not victims, to praise God that we are
loved, to show our gratitude to God that we are saved from endless
strife and victimization. We NEED to be gathered here together to
support one another, to know we are strengthened, to know we have
God's strength to rely on, that we don't have to face life with
just our own strength, our own resources.
This is Easter. We have been freed to live a life of fullness,
a life that has meaning beyond the scope of our own being, a life
that, because of Christ who is alive, Christ who lives in our
hearts, because we believe this, the lives we touch as we live out
each day, we bless those lives with whom we come in contact.
One of my favorite hymns is in the blue book-number 781, "My
Life Flows on in Endless Song." Please turn to it. I'm going to
sing it and as you get to that page, just join in with me. Just
sing it. No organ or piano. Just my voice, your voice. Louder and
louder till maybe the Spirit grabs hold of you and you can't sit
any longer but have to stand & shout out your singing!
Now, one last thing. I want you to repeat after me some words
that are a promise. I'll tell you what that is, and then I'll
repeat it for you to repeat-but repeat it ONLY if you promise to
fulfill that promise. Listen. Here's what I want you to repeat.
Listen to it first.
I promise to do all I can, in every way I can, through the
gifts that God has given me to share, to make Trinity Evangelical
Lutheran Church, a lively, living, vital, meaningful source of
Christ's love, by believing in the living Christ and sharing with
others the love and compassion Christ gives to me. How can I keep
Now repeat it after me, ONLY if your promise to fulfill the