John 20:1-18 Easter Message
There’s an old story about a man who was in a terrible accident and he was comatose for 30 years! He finally woke up and was amazed at all the changes in the world. The Internet. Technology. All the advances in medicine and science. He started reading book after book about all the changes in the world. A few months later he had an appointment with his doctor, and he said, “All these changes in the world are amazing!” And the doctor said, “Yes, absolutely. So many wonderful things have happened in the world.” And then the man said, “Of course, I still believe that the greatest miracle ever is the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter morning.” That’s when the doctor said, “I guess you haven’t got to the part about the Cubs winning the World Series!” [i]
Well, the Cubs not-withstanding, I agree with the man . . . nothing surpasses the message that Christ the Lord is Risen! But the truth of it, the relevance of it, the great heartbeat of it, well, that’s up to us alive.
What do I mean? Well, I believe with all of my being that the Love of God is alive and well in the world today. And it’s because the Spirit of God journeys with us that we can face these troubling days, that we can endure this time of isolation, and that even as we mourn the loss of so many people to the Covid19 pandemic, we can find hope.
My friends, we can have hope, when can share hope, we can rely on hope, because God is with us. But there’s a challenge of being in the presence of the Risen and Living God and the challenge is this: it’s not something we can keep for ourselves. The grace and the blessings and the love that we’ve known in our lives, even in our darkest hours, is something we need to share with others.
Why? Well, as we gather virtually today, I would invite each of us to consider the things we admire most about Jesus. What was it about this wandering Rabbi, this first-century prophet, that has captivated the imagination of millions and millions of people across the centuries?
First, he was a person of profound compassion, bringing good news to the poor and healing to the brokenhearted. He reached out to everyone who had been wounded by life, including those who had been wounded by organized religion. He transcended ethnicity, race, religion, gender, and status in society. And instead of judgment, he brought understanding. Instead of revenge, he brought forgiveness. And in the face of power, he brought courage for justice and fairness and respect for all people. Most of all, he brought a profound sense of hope, believing that betrayal and violence do not have the last word. Nor do our personal disappointments or heartaches. As long as love beats inside the human heart, then a new humanity is possible. That’s the Easter message we celebrate today.[ii]
It’s a message of grace and faith and love. My friends, our Easter message today is one that proclaims the veritas of Spring in the midst of lifelessness, healing where there was once, only suffering, and the light of hope penetrating the darkness. Our Easter message for today is one of life over death.
Now, as I considered this understanding of Jesus and Easter this week, I came across a wonderful set of 7 affirmations from a UCC congregation in Los Angles. 7 Affirmations we would all do well to consider on the Easter Sunday.
- We affirm that the gospel of Christ calls us to speak to our times, as it did to all our Christian ancestors.
- We affirm that God’s love shines equally on all people, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnic background, or religion.
- We affirm all creation is God’s handiwork, and that we are called to respect, protect, and nurture it. Not exploit it.
- We embrace the diversity of our state and nation, and seek respect for women, refugees and immigrants, different nationalities, minority groups, the poor, and the disadvantaged in our society.
- We resist those who use hate, anger, and intimidation to divide us, and who use speech, disinformation, and actions to demean others.
- We resolve to make our church a safe space for all people of good will and to welcome them with dignity, respect, and compassion.
- We commit ourselves to make our church a vibrant place for ideas, a faith informed not only by Scripture, but by reason, experience, scholarship, and scientific knowledge.[iii]
You know, there’s so much brokenness in the world. A brokenness that’s not limited to “them.” Everyone, including you and me, carries something broken inside our soul. But what if we could live-into these 7 affirmations? What if they became our mantra? Would we not display to even a greater degree those qualities that we admired in Jesus? Might some of the brokenness of the world and within our own beings, be repaired? Repaired by hope.
My friends, God is alive, and God is still speaking in the world today, even when it’s beyond our capacity to understand. And it’s in the presence of God that we are being repaired by hope each and every day.
I invite you now to hear a story of life over death, a story being repaired by hope, I invite you to hear once again, the story of Easter!
Early in the morning of the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. She ran to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they’ve put him.” Peter and the other disciple left to go to the tomb. They were running together, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and was the first to arrive at the tomb. Bending down to take a look, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he didn’t go in. Following him, Simon Peter entered the tomb and saw the linen cloths lying there. He also saw the face cloth that had been on Jesus’ head. It wasn’t with the other clothes but was folded up in its own place. Then the other disciple, the one who arrived at the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. They didn’t yet understand the scripture that Jesus must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to the place where they were staying. Mary stood outside near the tomb, crying. As she cried, she bent down to look into the tomb. She saw two angels dressed in white, seated where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head and one at the foot. The angels asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
She replied, “They have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they’ve put him.” As soon as she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she didn’t know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who are you looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she replied, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabbouni” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Don’t hold on to me, for I haven’t yet gone up to my Father. Go to my brothers and sisters and tell them, ‘I’m going up to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene left and announced to the disciples, “I’ve seen the Lord.” Then she told them what he said to her.[iv]
[ii] Ibid Colgazier
[iii] Adapted Statement of Faith, First Congregational Church, Los Angles California, 2017.
[iv] John 20:1-18 Common English Bible (CEB)