Easter Not Like Anything Else
Easter Sermon by Rev. Steven McClelland on the Reality of the Resurrection and Rasaan Bourke & The First Presbyterian Church Choir as they Present the Hallelujah Chorus.
Why are you here today? I can guess – some of you are here because you can’t imagine being anywhere else on Easter, some of you are here because your families brought you here, some of you are here for social convention and some of you are seeking you want to know if the resurrection is real and what it has to do with our lives today.
Yesterday when I was working on my Easter sermon I got a call from a member of our church who’s heart felt hope and plea is what the resurrection has to do with our lives today. “Steve my daughter needs a miracle to live. I want her to live so badly. Can you say a prayer and ask God for a miracle for my daughter? Can you have the congregation ask God for a miracle?”
And whether she gets the miracle that her family and friends are praying for has everything to do with the resurrection, because in all of it God is saying even if this cup does not pass from her – she will be with God in a place as John says “where God will dwell among us and we shall be his people and God will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and there will no longer be death or mourning or crying or pain anymore for these the first things are passing away. And God said: Behold I make all things new.” (Rev. 21: 4 – 6)
That’s the rub of Easter – it happened but we have to choose whether we want to believe it or not. There are no proofs other than an empty tomb, the testimony of unreliable witnesses and the fact that for over 2000 years people have been willing to stake their very lives on this belief.
This past Friday we held a community Good Friday service. For those who couldn’t be here you missed one of the greatest services I have ever been a part of. The preaching and the music were beyond compare. It was as if we were taken back through the centuries to a place and time before our own.
Rev. Dale Buettner opened our Good Friday service with this statement: “How radical is the forgiveness of Jesus? Radical enough to exonerate guilty people who don’t know they are guilty.”
And the service was closed by Rev. Sam Weddington who said, “There is a lot in the Bible we don’t understand and pretend to, for we make pronouncements with such certainty as to make a crow blush. But there is only one statement that we need to understand and in it we understand everything. “Father into your hands I commend my Spirit.”
That statement is one of total trust. It is a statement born out of experience and trust, out of not knowing for sure, Father if there is any other way than my crucifixion let’s find it, but not my will be done. Your will be done.” It is a statement of faith.
The resurrection is God’s statement covering all that we go through in this life. It includes the moments of joy and the moments of sorrow. It includes all of life and death and it’s not like anything else. Without it we wouldn’t be here today. Without it there would be no discernable purpose to life other than brute force and survival. Without it we would be lost.
So the story today really isn’t about us. It isn’t about how good we can be. It isn’t about deserving it. It’s God’s way of saying. “I come to you when you need it the most and deserve it the least.”
The Good News of our faith is that God takes our limits seriously. God takes our guilt seriously, because God takes the cross seriously.
The resurrection is God’s word that weakness is as much a part of life as strength – and it is understood. Failure is as much a part of life as success – and it is acknowledged. Guilt is as much a part of life as righteousness – and it is forgiven. Sorrow is as much a part of life as joy – and it is embraced. Doubt is as much a part of life as faith – and it is understood. And death is a part of life but it shall not have the last word.
It is precisely when I come to my limits and run out of answers and reasons that God’s grace strikes me. And these are just a few of the ways that the resurrection makes its presence known in our lives today.
The resurrection can strike you when the same old addictions that you’ve struggled with your whole life are suddenly gone. The resurrection can strike you when you find yourself muttering – the good I want to do is not what I end up doing. But the bad is and I can’t seem to stop that cycle.
For everything there is a season and time for every matter under heaven and in this world Jesus said, “You will have tribulation. In this world of production standards and social Darwinism, not to mention your own mortality you will have frustrating reminders of your liabilities and limitations. You are young – you will grow old. You are old you will one day die. ‘But be of good cheer, for I have overcome this world.’” (John 16: 33)
How do I know this? I know this because I believe in it and as I have believed in it I have seen glimpses of it in my own life. I remember Francis Sherrill – a woman whom I used to visit in a nursing home in Flemington. I remember the night she died like I remember the day my daughters were born. Both miracles – both amazing in ways defying logic and human achievement. I saw my daughters take their first breath and I saw Francis take her last. And in both cases there was this amazing awareness that life had just moved, where to? I’m not sure. Jesus likened it to a mansion with a great big banquet table.
That works for me. I believe that death does not have the last word. My life experiences my faith, even my reason leads me to be aware of things that are beyond me and that I do not completely understand but am glad is real and true such that the resurrection comes to mind.
The resurrection is God’s commentary on the crucifixion. The crucifixion is the symbol of our weakness, failure and sin. And across it all, God has written, “Attention has been paid. Death has been defeated. You are forgiven your endless sins against one another and your ignorance of them, you are accepted even when you know you don’t deserve it, and you are loved by a power that will not let you go – now or until the close of this age.
And if you allow this, if you chose to accept this then today can be a different day than all the other days too. To me that is the mystery, the meaning and the hope I have in the resurrection. And every now and again I am blessed with a glimpse of it in my own life. May it be so for you too! Amen