April 9, 2023, Easter Sanctuary Worship, Sermon, "The Legacy of Easter"
April 9, 2023, Easter Sanctuary Worship, Sermon, "The Legacy of Easter"
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Scripture: John 20:1-18
We made it. We journeyed with Jesus and with his disciples, with Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of Jesus, through the last forty days. Through the mountains and desert, to Samaria, to Jerusalem. We were there when he spent an agonizing night praying to God to take away this cup that was before him, as he faced what he knew would be a torturous death. We were there as he went before Pontius Pilate and King Herod. We were there for the Last Supper where he washed the feet of his disciples, including his betrayer, Judas; washing his feet with love and forgiveness. We were there as our Lord, Jesus, was beaten, and then watched as he endured the weight of the cross as he carried it to Golgotha; and we were there as he was crucified and the light of Christ was extinguished. But here we are on Easter morn and the light of Christ is shining bright. See? The light of Christ is again burning bright; and we can declare in faith – He has Risen! And your response is? “He has risen, indeed!” Let’s say it again. He has risen! He has risen, indeed!” Praise the Lord!
But the challenge for so many is that if He has risen, if the light of the world has come, then why is this world still in so much darkness? Why still so much evil, so much sin, so much pain and suffering? Where there is still so much war and threats of war, where innocent lives are lost because of the sins of men in power (and I do intentionally use the word men), when we have to experience and endure the soul-wrenching pain of losing someone whom we love and hold so dear; especially at these times we may ask, “Where is He? Where is the Risen Christ? Where is the light in the darkness? What kind of world is this that we live in?”
The same may have been asked on that Good Friday so long ago by his disciples, by the two Marys: What kind of world is this? And the answer would be that it is a Good Friday world. It is a world where truth is set aside for lies, where kindness is replaced with cruelty, where hope is torn to shreds by doubt. This is the Good Friday world in which we find Mary Magdalene on this first Easter standing by the tomb. She had placed all her hopes in Jesus. She had gone to the tomb only to find that large, heavy stone rolled away and the tomb empty.
Can you imagine her distress to find the tomb empty? She runs to tell the disciples and we are told that Peter and the disciple that Jesus loved run to the tomb. They, too, find it empty. But the scripture tells us that the beloved disciple believed when he saw the empty tomb. He was the first to understand that Christ had risen. The first to go from a Good Friday World to an Easter Day World.
But for Mary, she was still existing in a Good Friday world. She returns to the tomb to grieve the loss of her Lord. Yet it is there that she encounters the risen Christ. She is the first person to see him! It is then that she realizes that hope is stronger than fear; love is stronger than hate; faith is stronger than doubt – and life is stronger than death, all because of God’s loving, saving work in Jesus!
So what happens to Mary now that she has seen Jesus? She finds herself living in an Easter Day World. Living, and not just existing in a Good Friday World. She continues to serve Jesus just as she had when he was alive, but now her life is reflecting the Resurrection Light. She is no longer dwelling in the darkness of Good Friday. Her eyes have been opened and her life, her whole world, has been changed forever!
And that Easter Day World is what Jesus invites us to live in. In fact, it is what Jesus calls us to live in, expects us to live in – to live in an Easter Day World in faith as he calls us to follow him. Can we do this? Can we live with faith and embrace this Easter Day World that Christ has given to us? Certainly there are times when it is difficult to live as Easter people. The reality of the pain and suffering in this world is too much to ignore and we should never ignore the pain of the world or deny our own pain; and, yes, sometimes the pain of the Good Friday World threatens to overwhelm us. Can we do this without seeing the physical risen Christ? The beloved disciple believed because of what he had been told. He believed even before he saw Jesus alive, but it took Mary Magdalene seeing Jesus before she understood. We aren’t given that luxury. For us, we must go on what Jesus told us in the scriptures, but that should be enough for people of faith to believe, like the beloved disciple.
For we are called on to not just believe in the Easter miracle, but to find the hope and light and love alive in that miracle; in the resurrection. If we believe, then we no longer are people of the Good Friday World, but we people of the Easter Day World. And that is the message of Easter: We are Easter People! For God so loved the world that God gave God’s only Son for us, God came to us here on earth, to be one of us. He lived our human life, he knows our human pain, he knows our sorrows and he knows our losses, even the loss of losing a loved one, and he died a very human death. But the power of God’s love that came to us on that first Easter Morning was a love that brought new life, an ever-lasting life. This is the Easter message.
And that is what happened to Mary after she understood the meaning of Easter. She lived her life reflecting Jesus’ resurrection light; no longer dwelling on the darkness of Good Friday. She began to live that abundant life, because she had been changed and was changed forever. She shared this Good News with others, as a faithful disciple, until her dying day. And that is what we are called to do: To believe and to live as Easter People.
And so I ask again, What kind of world do we live in? For us, as Easter People, it is an Easter Day World that we live in; it is an Easter Day World where the love of God is made real through the resurrection of Jesus Christ whom God raised from the dead! This is the Good News that we celebrate today. We are Easter People! We need to live as Easter people, living with the truth that comes with the Resurrection. And the truth of the resurrection is that we have been redeemed. The truth is we have been forgiven. The truth is that we will live in glory with our Lord, Jesus Christ. We live a resurrected life with him. Whenever you go through the difficult challenges that will surely come your way, remember that while your body may exist in a Good Friday World, your spirit is alive in an Easter Day World. The Easter Day World has been given to us and we need to claim it each and every day, no matter what comes our way. Christ wants us to live the abundant life that comes with being Easter People.
And that is what we are called to do: to live as Easter People, because that is what we people of faith are. We are Easter People! Let’s say that together: We are Easter People! Let’s say that again, “We are Easter People!” For Christ has risen! (Together: He has Risen, Indeed!) Thanks be to God. Amen.
© 2023 Anna von Winckler