Easter Sunday. It’s just one of those days…..a day I have good memories of. Memories of Easters past – a beautiful spring morning, the flowers in bloom, the sun shining, the smell of plowed fields just outside the church doors.
Perhaps it’s a big family gathering day for you – a big dinner, your own traditions. Perhaps you remember going to church – getting dressed up….girls in bright-colored dresses, boys wearing ties or even suits, along with their tennis shoes (that was me!) and Easter breakfast, maybe an Easter Egg Hunt, and going for worship. The church pews are full of all sorts of people – friends and family that moved away and are in town for the weekend; the regulars; and those in the neighborhood that don’t frequent the church much.
But among all those memories….do you remember the strange story that’s told?
You know, the story about an earthquake, caused by an angel who flies down from heaven, rolls the tombstone away and plops his butt down on it. Oh, he’s glowing too….and he speaks to the women there: “Good morning ladies….Jesus isn’t here, he’s alive and running around the countryside. Nothin’ to be afraid of.”
And the women leave – still in fear, not rejoicing mind you – and Jesus appears to them in the flesh – not a ghost – and they start worshiping him and holding onto his feet – the feet of a deadman walking, who is now alive.
You know, the Easter story…..you don’t think it’s strange? Just a little?
Think about it: what Christians tell people is that we believe that this 1st century Jew was God in the flesh, died on a cross for the forgiveness of sins and so that we might know God stands with us in suffering and death, that he has taken on the reality of our humanity because he loves us. And then he raises from the dead to prove it.
And not only do we believe it, but we also believe that it has something to do with dealing with our lives – raising kids, our jobs, how we relate to our family and friends, how we deal with suffering, struggle, tragedy, and death. We allow our lives to be shaped by this story because we believe it matters – not just for a life beyond this one, but in THE HERE AND NOW – IN THIS LIFE.
I am not sure why you came here today. Perhaps it’s out of habit; perhaps it’s out of obligation as a regular churchgoer and a Christian. Perhaps you came because you do have a lot of those fond memories of Easters past. Perhaps you came because well, it just seemed like a good thing to do today.
And there is certainly nothing wrong with any of that, or any other reason you came today. But you’ve come, and you know that certain things are a very real part of your life. Things like….
Depression and other mental illness;
battles with addiction;
struggles in relationships – family, friends; spouses, parenting, kids;
struggles with health as we age and our bodies and minds can no longer do what they used to;
struggles with the reality of suffering, tragedy, and dying in our lives…..
or struggles of the human heart, where hate, fear, indifference, and pride keep us from loving and being gracious towards one another.
And you know these things….they suck the life out of you at times. They leave you exhausted. Frustrated. Fearful. Helpless. Hopeless. Dead inside.
As Christians we say – we confess – that such things, while they are a real and powerful presence in our lives, they do not have the final say. What we also confess is that the tomb is empty, “he is not here, for he has been raised,” Christ lives – life comes out of death. God overcomes death with new life. And when it comes to this life – this makes all the difference. It matters….BECAUSE he lives.
Because he lives…..No matter what stage of life, no matter what doubt or uncertainty you have, no matter if living is a piece of cake or a constant battle for you….. life – YOUR LIFE – is worth living. Life is a gift, that while sin and death seek to diminish it, God constantly nourishes and raises us up to new life.
If you look in your bulletin today, you will notice that there were two notecards in them.
On one of those cards, I want you to finish the sentence “because he lives” with your own confession – something you know to be true about your life because this God raises up his Son from the grave…to new life. Write it down on the card, sometime between now and communion. When you come up for communion, you can attach your card to the board right here on the easel.
And it’s in this way, we’re being the church – God’s church. Whether you’ve been in the church your whole life or if you’ve never set your foot in the door of one, whether young or old, member of this church or non-member, no matter your race, social status, lifestyle, belief or unbelief…….You belong to the community of all God’s people who confess in faith that suffering, sin and death is a real part of our lives. But also confess that out of death….comes life. Out of pain comes healing. Out of broken pasts and relationships…God holds a new future. Out of The cross & Good Friday….comes resurrection & Easter.
And we bear and proclaim and live that out – TOGETHER.
As for the second card, put it in your pocket or your purse and take it with you. Do what you want with it. Put it up somewhere in your house, on your car dash, or at work. Keep it for yourself, or give it away to someone else. Whatever you decide, let this card serve as a reminder of this strange story you heard today, and this confession Christians have….. that life comes out of death, and because he lives, this strange story is a source of hope, a gift from God, that makes life worth living…today, tomorrow, and in the weeks, months, and years to come.
But for now, let’s create a new Easter memory…..being the church, all of us together, singing and confessing our hope in this strange story, the Easter story, a story that matters….”because he lives.” Amen.