Weather Ruins Easter

John 20:1-18

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 doo-doo.

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 life.

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 Easter?

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 from singing?!!!

Now repeat it after me, ONLY if your promise to fulfill the promise.

Read more sermons by Pastor Brie