Sunday’s Sermon: Remember with Amazement

It was the first day of a new week.

The first day, Sunday morning, following the Sabbath. It was the first day of the week following a Passover celebration that was unlike any other.

That Passover celebration was a week that began with so much joy and expectation, but ended with an equal amount of pain and suffering. Jesus, the man who was hailed as the King at the start of the week, was crucified on the Friday of the Passover. At the start of that week, Jesus’ followers believed that they were going to witness the inauguration of God’s kingdom. By week’s end, they were dumbfounded at what had occurred and wondered would happen now.

It was the first day of a new week when three of Jesus’ disciples, all women, made their way to Jesus’ tomb. His tomb was quickly secured by Joseph of Arimathea. In the rush to remove Jesus’ dead body from the cross before the Sabbath began, there wasn’t enough time to fully prepare his body for burial. So, Mary Magdalene, Mary, mother of James, and Joanna went to the tomb to complete this task of honoring the Lord’s body.

It was the first day of a new week, but it was also the first day of a new experience and new creation. For these three women would be the witnesses of the greatest news ever delivered to the world. The good news was told to them by two men, angels, who greeted them at the tomb. Much like the announcement of Jesus Christ’s birth earlier in Luke’s gospel, these angels announce to the world a great new hope: Jesus is not to be found in the tomb! He is not there! He is alive! Mary Magdalene, Mary, mother of James, and Joanna became the first to hear the grand announcement of Jesus’ resurrection.

It was the first day of the new week, but more importantly, it was the first day of a new era. God began something new that day, the beginning of a new creation. It began with the joyous news that death could not hold our Lord. The cross was not the final story. The resurrection is the beginning of the story that helps explain all that Jesus did and continues to do through the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Easter is the most important day in the church’s calendar. The resurrection gives power and hope to Jesus’ teaching and confirms to the entire world that he is the Son of Man and Son of God. Without the resurrection and Easter, nothing else would have mattered about what Jesus said or did. The resurrection is the event that defines all we know or ever will desire to know about God.

Easter is a day of celebration. It is the day that we rejoice at the most glorious news that Jesus Christ is alive! We give praise to God that the tomb was found empty. Beyond the lilies, candies, and new outfits, there is a truth that we came to celebrate and embrace again.
It is a truth that we are called to remember this morning. Our celebration of Easter and Jesus’ resurrection is our opportunity to remember the good news that Christ is alive. Every Sunday is truly a chance to do that. On this day, though, it is a chance to relive the story and hear the good news once again.

That news that death does not win. The news that sin does not win. The news that darkness does not control us. The news that Jesus Christ won the battle over sin and death. Jesus is the victor in the cosmic battle between good and evil. His resurrection secured that victory and allows us the opportunity to experience a hope, love, and faith that is truly amazing.

Jesus is alive. It is an astounding bit of good news that we remember this morning. Yet, so often we live our lives as if the tomb was not found empty. We act as if the tomb was found with the stone still covering the entrance and that Jesus’ body is dead. It is a belief that says Jesus has no power, no hope, and no presence in our lives today.

But, that is not the Lord we worship. We do not worship a lord who is dead, but a Christ who is alive. We remember the good news of the tomb being found empty and allow that to shape how we respond to the living presence of Christ that is active in our lives. The resurrection gives us the hope and reminder that God is truly with us. Jesus is living in us, with us, and through us.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is truly a wonderful thing. It is something to behold and to be amazed by. That was Peter’s reaction to the news of the resurrection. After the three women proclaimed the good news to the disciples, some reacted with disbelief, but Peter had to see it for himself. Luke tells us he goes to the tomb and sees that it is empty. He leaves wondering what had taken place.

It is an act of being amazed by something. We do not know why Peter was amazed at the tomb being empty. Did he believe the reports? Did he believe upon what he saw? One can be sure that whatever he believed, he felt a sense of wonder and awe at the fact that the tomb was empty and Jesus was not there.

Wonder and awe are truly acts of worship. We worship in wonder of all that God has done and awe of the love and beauty of the Lord’s works. At the center of our wonder and awe is the truth of the resurrection. Today we praise God for the fact that God raised Jesus from the dead. It is a raising that leads to a life that never ends. Jesus’ body has been transformed and glorified. That is worthy of our praise.

We especially praise Christ for the fact that the Lord is alive today, but we do so every day. Worship in response to the resurrection is a daily act of living in response to all that God has done. Sometimes in our busyness, we lose the perspective of being lost in the wonder and awe of what took place at the tomb. Yet, that wonder and awe helps us to soak in the glory, love, and hope that came forth as Christ’s light shone into the world once again and for all time.

Every day is Easter for us. Every day is an opportunity to experience the hope of the resurrection and the fact that Jesus is not dead, but is alive. The resurrection is not something that can be boxed away and brought out when convenient. It is a truth that defines everything and helps us to live in response to our love of the Lord.

Because of the resurrection, we can face the difficult moments that exist in our lives. That is because the hope of Christ was fulfilled and shared through the resurrection. We can be bold and confident in our faith, because the resurrection is our promise that the Lord is with us always. We are truly never without the Lord’s presence in our lives. The resurrection is our promise of God doing something new in our lives, because something new began at the resurrection. A new experience of God’s love, a new reality of salvation, a restoration of what God made perfect.

The resurrection allows us to live in hope and to be hope in a world in need of good news. We claim the good news as our own and seek to share it with others in how we live. The three women did that. They shared the good news with the disciples. Peter did it in his amazement. When we live out the hope of the resurrection and the reality that Jesus is alive, people will notice. They will see that we are living through hope by a power that will never go away.

Today, we remember the story of the resurrection and it brings us to a sense of awe. It doesn’t just have to be today. Like we said, every day is an opportunity to be amazed at what God did in the garden. Every day is an opportunity to remember the resurrection in ways that it impacts our lives today for holy living that impacts the lives of others.

Communion assists us in helping to remember the resurrection and be in awe of Easter. In a few moments, we will gather at the table and share in this holy meal. It is a meal of remembrance of all that the Lord did and has done for us. On this Easter morning, the meal is our remembrance that the tomb was found empty and that Christ is alive. As we celebrate at the table, we stand in awe of the fact that Christ meets us here. His living presence is with us always and truly is with us as we celebrate at the table and worship in his presence.

Friends, take it all in today. Take in the story once again of how the tomb could not keep our Lord and how death does not win. Take in the wonder and awe of the fact that Christ is alive and is with us. And let that be our guide in sharing the Easter truth not just today, but every day.

The stone was rolled away. The tomb is empty. Jesus is alive! Remember the Good News with a sense of awe and wonderment for the great joy of Easter!

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Easter Sunrise Sermon: Darkness into Light

As we gathered this morning, there has been a cloud of darkness that has covered us. The darkness is quite understandable. It is early in the morning. Sunrise today is not scheduled for a few moments yet, so we are just now starting to see some of the first glimpses of the light of a new day.

The darkness that surrounds us, and the glimmer of light shining through, is appropriate this morning. It allows us, I believe, to more fully experience the joy of Easter morning. Today, we gather to announce good news to the entire world. Good news that Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, is not dead! He is alive! Good news that hope has won! Good news that joy is victorious! Good news that darkness has been defeated by light!

However, it was darkness that described how the disciples entered that first Easter morning. It is a darkness that does not just speak of the lack of light, but the darkness of one’s soul and emotional state. Following Jesus’ death, the followers of Christ were in deep despair over what they saw.

Just a few short days earlier, many of Jesus’ disciples experienced what they believed was the tragic end of his ministry. They had witnessed his betrayal from within. They saw his unjust trial that led to a conviction on charges he did not commit, which led to a punishment he did not deserve. They saw him tortured, abused, mocked, and, ultimately, killed on the cross. They thought it was over and they were in pain, because they believed that in Jesus was the One they had been waiting for.

The hours immediately preceding Jesus’ death were the darkest in human history. No one knew what to expect or how to react. They didn’t know what would happen. Would the Roman government and religious leaders come after them? Were they next?

That Sunday morning began as a dark morning, but that didn’t stop their devotion to the Lord. That is especially true for the women who went to the tomb to further prepare Jesus’ body for his burial. John tells us the anointing process began in Bethany, prior to his death, but in the rush to remove Jesus’ body before the start of the Sabbath, the full anointment had likely not been completed. So, the women head to the tomb to finish this task.

John doesn’t focus on all the women, but only Mary Magdalene. She was the first to visit the tomb. She saw that something had happened. The tomb’s stone had been rolled away and Jesus was not there. Mary began to fear that someone had stolen the body. Grave robbing was a common crime in those days. She runs to report the disappearance to Peter and John, who both immediately head off to search the tomb for answers.

All three didn’t know what to expect that morning when they returned to the tomb. In their darkness, we could assume that they figured the worst. Someone had stolen the body and they would have to search for Jesus’ body. When they arrived, Peter and John noticed that the grave clothes were there, tucked away as if no longer needed. They left knowing that something amazing had happened. Mary, however, stayed behind and was able to see it for her own eyes.

What was it that they saw that Easter morning? They saw the Light break into the darkness.

Truly, as the light that is beginning to shine on us this morning, so was it the case that Easter morning so long ago. Mary, Peter, and John were the first to witness that the Light of the World had returned. Jesus is not dead. He is alive!

Today, we gather to celebrate the fact that death could not keep our Lord. Easter is the celebration of what took that gave the world hope. We do not worship a Lord who is dead, but a Lord who is alive! That is hope. We shout with joy of the Good News of the resurrection.

Jesus‘ resurrection is the victory we need. It is the victory over sin. It is the victory over the powers of evil. It is the victory over death. It is the victory over darkness. What the resurrection does is replace all these things with the light of love. It is a light that only comes through the living presence of Christ.

Christ is alive. His light is with us today. That is the good news of the resurrection. No matter what darkness we face, Christ’s light is there. The darkness of our sin is overcome by the light of Christ’s hope. The darkness of death is replaced by the light of everlasting love with the Father, through faith in Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit. The darkness of this world is replaced by the world’s true light.

On this Easter morning, all of us face some kind of darkness in our lives. It could be the darkness of family discord. It could be the darkness of personal struggles. It could be the darkness of not having a relationship with the Lord in a deeply personal way. Whatever darkness we face, the truth of the resurrection is this: Christ’s light has broken through the darkness that this world has over us and gives us an everlasting hope.

Mary, Peter, and John saw the light in their own ways that Easter morning. Peter and John looked in the tomb and saw that Jesus was not there and left knowing that something had happened. Mary saw it for herself. What about us? How will we experience the Light this Easter?

In our darkness, we have gone to the tomb searching for what was. My prayer is that we leave this encounter with the light that is with us, in us, and all around us. That is the living Light that is Christ Jesus.

Darkness did not and will not win. Christ is alive! The Light is here! Glory to God in the highest!