I Corinthians 15: 1-11
John 20: 1-18
April 5, 2015
A little boy wrote a letter to God which began with a question: "Dear God, are you real? Some people don't believe it. If You are, You better do something quick!"
We have gathered together to celebrate the Good News that 2000 years ago, Almighty God, the Creator and Sustainer of all that is -- the Real God -- did do something quick.
We celebrate the Easter Good News that, by the Resurrection Power of the Real God, Jesus Christ, who died on Friday afternoon was raised from the dead on Sunday morning.
There once was a Church that had a standing committee whose duty it was to go among the congregation while the sermon was going on. And whenever they saw anyone sleeping, one of the committee members went up to the pulpit and woke up the preacher.
There may be times when we could use such a committee around here, but never on Easter Day. Because, for preacher and congregation alike, for you and for me, Easter is the day of heartfelt, deep-down, wide-awake celebration.
Today is the day when the banners are flying high! Today is the celebration day for the Christian Community. Today we celebrate the victory. Today we celebrate Jesus Christ raised from the dead. Today we celebrate an historical happening, an Event that has made all the difference for us Christians ever since it happened. It is, among other things, the sign as well as the means by which the Real God communicates to us His real Resurrection Power.
By means of that Resurrection Power, God is always acting to make all things new. Out of our despair He brings hope! Out of our sorrow He brings joy! Out of our brokenness He brings wholeness! Out of our death He brings New Life! This is the way the Real God is always acting. And once you get hold of that reality at the center of your being, your life never will be the same again.
In a "Peanuts" comic strip, Snoopy and Woodstock are on top of Snoopy's doghouse. Snoopy says, "What are you doing here? You're supposed to be out somewhere sitting on a branch, chirping. That's your job! People expect to hear birds chirping when they wake up in the morning." With that, Woodstock flies off to the top branch of a shrub and belts out a single chirp. Then he flies back to the doghouse, and Snoopy says, "You only chirped once. You can't brighten someone's day with one chirp!" So Woodstock flies back to the shrub and lets out six more chirps. And when he again returns to the doghouse, Snoopy smiles and says, "There now. Didn't that give you a real feeling of satisfaction? The bad news is you're supposed to do that every morning, for the rest of your life!" This being more than Woodstock can take, he faints.
Please don't faint when I say that, for us, a people of Resurrection Faith, the Good News is that we can share the joy of our faith with others every day of our lives! He is risen! Every day of our lives we say it, shout it, sing it, even chirp it!
We experience Easter as the most powerful, the most heart-moving, the most life-enriching Event in our human experience. Easter changes us. Easter changes how we think about who we are and what we ought to be doing with our lives. Easter lifts us up and enables us to see life and each other from a whole new height. Easter enables us to appreciate and revere one another as lovely and precious children of God!
In the fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians, the Apostle Paul gives an account of the Resurrection. Consisting of fifty-eight verses, it is one of the longest chapters in the entire Bible. Only the first ten or eleven verses has to do , directly, with the Resurrection of Jesus. All of the other verses are about the way God's Resurrection Power works in our lives. Paul is eager to help us understand that this is for us a present experience; that this is not just a theological idea, not just a celebration of something that happened two thousand years ago, but something that happens now.
Easter day is the day of all days to try to get in touch, right now, with those points in your life where you need resurrection most -- the painful points, the points of pressure and stress and tension and anxiety and grief. Maybe someone is using you. Maybe it's the temptation within you to rebel against God by doing things that hurt other people. Maybe you're in a terrible situation of grief over the loss of a loved one. Maybe it's the need to forgive. Maybe it's the need to be forgiven.
A mother announced at the dinner table one evening, "I am so tired of hearing bad news. I'd give anything just to hear one piece of good news." Whereupon, her six-year-old son said, "Tuesday is my birthday."
Easter is the day of all days to make the shift from the bad news to the Good News.
Easter is the day of all days to begin to experience the Resurrection Power of God welling up from the deepest center of our beings; to feel and experience the healing right at those points where we need it most.
The spirit-lifting paintings of the great artist, Renoir, are aglow with life and light and color. He seemed to put light inside the people he painted. Such beauty on canvas! Remarkably, for the last twenty years or so of his life -- his most productive years -- Renoir was terribly crippled with arthritis. His hands were twisted and gnarled. His wrists, his arms, his spine even were ravaged by the disease. He couldn't stand as he worked. He had to sit and be shifted about in his chair by assistants as he painted. At times the pain was so great as he worked that beads of perspiration would stand out on his face. On one occasion, one of his students (the great artist Matisse) said to him, "Why do go on and torture yourself like this?" Renoir looked at the canvass on which he was working and replied, "The pain passes, but the beauty remains."
This is a striking symbol of the Resurrection Power of God that is available to us. The pain of our daily deaths, the pain of our growing and changing and relinquishing, the pain of all those bad news points in our lives passes, but the beauty of the New Life of Love, the beauty of God's Resurrection Power, remains!
In today's Gospel Lesson, John tells us that "When Mary of Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb." And, running to Simon Peter and the other disciples she said, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don't know where they have laid Him" (Jn. 20:1,2).
But now we know. Now we know that the Spirit of the Risen Christ is deep within us.