April 1, 2018
+ As many of you know, I lost my mother in January. It has been a very hard couple of months. I really have had a hard time these past few months. And many of you have journeyed with me through this dark journey.
But, way back in February, as we began our season of Lent, I shared a story in my sermon on the First Sunday in Lent. I shared the story of how my parents’ former pastor sent me a card following my mother’s death, in which she closed with these words:
Those two words have kept me going over some very dark days these past few months.
“Easter’s coming,” I would remind myself when things were hard.
Now, of course, she didn’t literally mean this day. She meant what this day represents. She meant, all the joy, all the glory, all that this day embodies.
And, here it is!
I have never made a secret of this fact…but, I LOVE Easter. Some people are Christmas people. Some people are Easter people. I’m definitely an Easter person.
Easter, after all, is all about life.
A life that does not end.
It is about the dawn that comes after a very long night. And it is about our response to that life.
This word we keep hearing today, “Alleluia,” is the word we use to show our joy, our excitement at this wonderful reality.
Now, Alleluia is a word we take for granted. We will hear it hundreds of times during the 50 fifty days of Easter that begins today. But the word is important to us. It means “Praised to Yah” or Jah, which of course means Yahweh or Jehovah. For us is means, “God be praised” or “praise God.”
And that is what we are doing today. We are praising God. We are praising God that God gave us life. And that God’s gift of life will not be taken from us. It is an eternal gift.
See, this is why I LOVE Easter.
But what’s even better about Easter in my opinion is that, unlike Christmas, which when it’s over it’s over (people put out that Christmas tree the day after Christmas), Easter happens again and again for us who are followers of Jesus. We get to experience it and all it represents multiple times over the year. Certainly every Sunday we celebrate a mini-Easter. And every funeral is also a celebration of Resurrection and all that Easter represents.
And why shouldn’t we celebrate it beyond this season? When we celebrate Easter, we are celebrating life.
The truly wonderful Christian writer, Rob Bell, once said,
“Eternal life doesn’t start when we die. It starts now. It’s not about a life that begins at death; it’s about experiencing the kind of life now that can endure and survive even death.”
I love that. Resurrection is a kind reality that we, as Christians, are called to live into. Right now. It’s not just something we believe happens after we die. We are called to live into that Resurrection NOW. By raising Jesus from the dead, God calls us to live into that joy and that beautiful life NOW. The alleluias we sing this morning are not for some beautiful moment after we have breathed our last. Those alleluias are for now, as well as for later.
We are essentially saying, Praise God for the life unending that God has given us! Those alleluias, those joyful sounds we make, this Light we celebrate, is a Light that shines now—in this moment.
We are alive now!
Easter and our whole lives as Christians is all about this fact.
Our lives should be joyful because of this fact—this reality—that Jesus died and is risen and by doing so has destroyed our deaths. This is what it means to be a Christian. Easter is about this radical new life. It is about living in another dimension that, to our rational minds, makes no sense.
Even, sometimes, with us, it doesn’t make sense. It almost seems too good to be true. And that’s all right to have that kind of doubt. It doesn’t make sense that we are celebrating an event that seems so wonderful that it couldn’t possibly be true. It doesn’t make sense that this event that seems so super-human can bring such joy in our lives.
Today we are commemorating the fact that Jesus, who died and was buried in a tomb and is now…alive. That God raised Jesus from the darkness of death, and he is now alive. Fully and completely alive. Alive in a real body. Alive in a body that only a day before was lying, broken and dead, in a tomb.
And…as if that wasn’t enough, we are also celebrating the fact that we truly believe we too are experiencing this too. Experiencing this—in the present tense. We are already living, by our very lives, faith in God and our faith in in the eternal, unending, glorious life that God shows in the resurrection of Jesus.
We will live because God raised Jesus to life. Now as wonderful as this all seems, the fact is, we aren’t deceiving ourselves. We’re not a naïve people who think everything is just peachy keen and wonderful. We know what darkness is. We know what death is. We know what suffering and pain are.
Most of us here this morning have had losses in our lives. We know the depths of pain and despair in our lives. What Easter reminds us, again and again, is that darkness is not eternal. It will not ultimately win out. Light will always win. This Light will always succeed. This Light will be eternal.
I am honest when I say that part of me wishes I could always live in this Easter Light. I wish I could always feel this joy that I feel this morning. But the fact is, this Light will lose its luster faster than I even want to admit. This joy will fade too. But I do believe that whatever heaven is—and none of us knows for certain what it will be like—I have no doubt that it is very similar this the joy we feel this morning. I believe with all that is in me that it is very much like the experience of this Light that we are celebrating this morning—an unending Easter. And if that is what Heaven is, then it is a joy that will not die, and it is a Light that will not fade and grow dim. And if that’s all I know of heaven, then that is enough for me.
The fact is, Easter doesn’t end when the sun sets today. Easter is what we carry within us as Christians ALL the time. Easter is living out the Resurrection by our very presence. We are, each of us, carrying within us this Easter Light we celebrate this morning and always. All the time.
Easter is here!
It is here, in our very souls, in our very bodies, in our very selves. With that Easter Light burning within us, being reflected in what we do and say, in the love we show to God and to each other, what more can we say on this glorious, glorious morning? What more can we say when God’s glorious, all-loving, resurrected realty breaks through to us in glorious light and transforms us;
So, what do we say?
We say, Alleluia!
Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!