Sunday, April 5, 2015

Easter Sermon

Christ is Risen: The world below lies desolate
Christ is Risen: The spirits of evil are fallen
Christ is Risen: The angels of God are rejoicing
Christ is Risen: The tombs of the dead are empty
Christ is Risen indeed from the dead, the first of the sleepers,
Glory and power are his forever and ever. Amen. ~ Hippolytus (AD 190-236)

My older brother, Ed, and I shared a bedroom. He was 12 years my senior, so when he went off to college, I took over our bedroom. My pennants replaced his pennants. My cool Star Wars clock replaced his boring analog clock. I slowly transformed the room into my own. Save for the one sticker above our light switch. It read:

"Today is the first day of the rest of your life."

Later on, as a teenager, when everything seemed so big, every emotion, every event, everything, that phrase near the light switch always reminded me that today was a new day. It was the first day. Things could begin again.

In today’s account of the resurrection, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome come to the tomb while it is still dark. They must have felt the predawn darkness around them: a void of hopelessness, a crushing sense of loss, grief that cannot be articulated in words. How would they ever have thought it would end like this and now they come to anoint Jesus, their friend and the messiah!

It began in the darkness of the night on Maundy Thursday, with the betrayal, abandonment and arrest of Jesus, then came the cruel cross on Good Friday and the tomb of Holy Saturday. It began with fear and violence, doubt and desertion, with the women this morning walking faithfully to the tomb to do what ritual and their hearts told them to do. But inside that tomb, or better said, what wasn’t in the tomb changed everything. The light shined, an angel spoke and the tomb was empty.

Jesus was alive! And it was the first day of the rest of their lives.

Starting over. Beginning again. That first day, we do it all the time…

· A new school year.
· A new baseball season.
· New seeds are planted.
· New jobs are begun.

Starting over. Beginning again. That first day…

Every morning you wake up and, by God, you're still alive, you have another chance to start over. Perhaps when you put your head down on your pillow the night before, you still carried in your body and soul the burdens of the day just completed: things left undone, bad things said, good things left unsaid, and lots of things left suspended. In the morning all is possibility, all is opportunity, all is good and all is God.

Starting over. Beginning again. It’s the first day…

Ours is a religion about dawn. Creation begins in the morning. The women come to the tomb in the morning. The morning is when it happens. Lose the morning and you have lost the day. Jesus' resurrection is the new day, the fresh pages of the calendar book, the new moment on the horizon. Whatever was yesterday is passed and done.

Starting over. Beginning again. It’s the first day…

Over and over and over again Scripture is the story of one chance after another, one renewal after another, until it all comes together at the empty tomb of Easter morning. The empty tomb is God's everlasting invitation to start over.

Who of us are content with who we are? Who of us are content with things as they are? Who among us does not long to be more loving, more generous, more tenderhearted, more passionate, more creative, more thoughtful, more imaginative, more useful. Who of us would not love to have the courage to act upon our convictions as opposed to our fears? Who among us does not know a heart to heal, a broken relationship to mend, a lost soul to find?

God wakes us up again this Easter. It is a new day. It is a new season. There are new seeds to plant, new places to see, new tasks to complete, and new lives to live.

Starting over. Beginning again.

Today. Right now. This Easter. It is the first day of the rest of your life.
[Adapted from Strength for the Journey: Biblical Wisdom for Daily Living by Peter J. Gomes.]
Let the angel's good news to the women, open our imaginations to the possibilities; let the light that illuminates the cave that can no longer hold Jesus illuminate our hearts to see our lives transformed by God's grace; let the Spirit of God release in us hope that we dare not imagine, joy that we fear will be betrayed, dreams that we doubt can ever be realized.

Easter is more than an event - Easter is being set free; Easter is resurrection; Easter is life, our life, in the here and now. Let this morning be the morning to begin again, to start over, to cross the chasm, to repair the broken - to rediscover God's extraordinary grace transforming our most ordinary of days, for today is the first day of the rest of your life!

Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

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