This week I’ve been asking folks about their experiences growing up with Easter. People had stories of Easter bonnets and dresses and huge family meals, and easter egg hunts and long, church services. Which we aren't trying to create those kinds of memories today. Meredith Joy remembered her Easter experiences this week and said,"You know people always told me growing up that Easter was the most important holiday – but I never believed them. The presents are way better at Christmas!"
Each of us comes to this day from different places and experiences – but in the Christian church… this is OUR DAY.
This is the heart of our story. This is what holds all the other days together. It’s the glue that connects the stories from Genesis to Revelation. It’s the reason that the birth, life and teachings of Jesus matter.
The story of the Christian faith cannot be told – without the story of the cross and the resurrection.
For us, this story tells us something very important about God.
The cross tells the story of a God who is willing to be humbled into human form, to suffer pain and humiliation out of a great love and compassion for humanity, who is willing to go to incredible links to restore a right relationship with creation.
And the resurrection tells us of a God who death cannot contain, a God who is in the business of bringing life out of death.
It is the story of a God who defies predictability. This is a God of extraordinary possibility.
And the Easter story tells us something about ourselves.
That despite our mess, despite our brokenness. We are beloved.
The lengths that God is willing to go tell us that in the midst of our mess – we are a people of infinite worth.
At the cross - Instead of receiving judgment, we are offered salvation.
And at the gate of the empty tomb - Instead of death, we are offered life.
The God of extraordinary possibility invites us to be made new.
The God whose dreams are far bigger than we can imagine – invites us to become big dreamers as well.
This is our story. It’s the story that we sang about today when each member of our choir sang the anthem and when our musicians played their trumpets and trombones (names were said outloud).
It is our story and it is good news.
The joy of Easter began when Mary’s name was called in the garden… and her life was turned upside down.
And Mary knew in that moment that this good news was for HER.
And the joy of Easter has continued throughout history – every moment where we experience life, when we hear our names called – the joy of Easter continues.
The new life and new possibility that were real then – become real TODAY.
For us. (more names said outloud)
But if we are honest. Easter comes and goes each year and most of us don’t experience life changing moments like Mary that turn our worlds upside down.
Actually, Easter Sunday has a rhythm of predictability around it.
The songs, the story, the Easter eggs, the food… the CANDY.
Did you know that we produce, every year – 90 million Chocolate easter bunnies?
And 16 billion jelly beans?
It’s easy to be distracted by the 5 million Marshmallow Peeps produced daily.
And the problem is that PREDICTABILITY is not at all what Easter is about.
Part of why the resurrection of Jesus was such good news is that it was utterly unpredictable. It defied the logic, it required Mary and the disciples – to reconstruct their entire reality. The joy came out of the fact that this changed everything.
And so it is not surprising that when we arrive on Easter Sunday with a pre-determined box about what we will hear and experience, about what we can expect AT BEST – the story of Easter can only enhance our lives, bring a little bit of a good feeling,
It couldn’t possibly turn our worlds upside down!
We often miss the sound of Jesus calling our name – each of our names – (more names said outloud)
Each month at Summit – we celebrate the sacrament of Holy Communion. We tell our story again – much as we have this week and this morning and we break the bread and we pour the cup and we invite all to this table of welcome.
This March, for me – was one of the most memorable communions ever.
Perhaps for some of you too.
We always set out the bread and the cup on the table ahead of time – before the service.
Before we started the official service, while Grayson was preaching. Little Charlotte Rauschenberg, decided that it was time for Communion. And she bolted out of the nursery. Past the teachers and into the Centrum. And she ran passed all of us – into this Centrum and grabbed a big chunk of bread – and then she ran back out.
There are moments where the presence of Christ breaks through in a very real way.
And for me – that was one of them.
Unconcerned about anything or anyone else.
Charlotte was focused and ready to receive the good gift that was on that table.
And she knew. She knew the gift was FOR HER.
And she wasn’t going to wait one more minute to receive it.
Part of the reason I think that Easter doesn’t change us – is that we aren’t really ready to receive the gift. We aren’t really ready to hear God’s voice anew. To know that this day and this celebration brings something special for us. Something that can bring new possibility and life and healing and hope to our lives.
Ready to receive this story and this gift that is FOR US.
If FOR US.
(more names said outloud)
Do you know that? Do you know that this story – this story about Jesus rising from the dead – this story of new life is also a story about you?
That your present reality, the things that plague you – the deaths that you feel in the pit of your soul – that God is longing to bring in – new life and resurrection?
That you might experience LIFE and JOY?
(more names said outloud)
We recently started a new tradition at our home on Sunday evenings. Sunday evenings are MOVIE nights.
And we all look forward to it. Marcus asks every morning whether tonight will be movie night.
The best movies are really just GREAT stories.
Recent movies like Hunger Games – people waited in line to see this movie on opening night , they dressed up in character, they stayed up for the midnight showing– some of them, because their friends were doing it – but in large part - because the story is so compelling.
When we go to the movies, we get to become a part of the story - to walk into a great adventure – where the stakes are high, where there are twists and turns, where there is sorrow and joy, and where hopefully in the end – good triumphs over evil
It allows us a place to dream and imagine and experience adventure – without having to disrupt our orderly lives.
But the truth is friends that in the story of Easter, God is inviting us into the kind of adventure in our lives that is REAL.
God is inviting you – (more names said outloud)
The first Easter morning also brought on a thrilling adventure. An adventure with twists and turns, but where you needed to be alert and ready. When Jesus met Mary in the garden, when Jesus said her name – he invited her to be a part of something bigger than herself.
In the place where she expected to find death, Jesus was alive and he invited her to LIVE as well.
Jesus invited her on a great adventure, one that would be filled with unexpected surprises but would be filled with JOY.
And here’s one of the things that I love so much about this story is that right in that moment –
And at the very moment when Mary’s name was called and she received the good news and responded.
At that very moment – she was automatically qualified to share this good news with the world.
No special training, no small group study, no years of study in seminary.
Mary’s name was called and she was invited to step out of the box, out of everything she had known and to be a part of changing the world…
Mary was invited to receive the gift of love and to go out and share it – to bring that love and good news into the world – and to remind everyone that ALL THINGS ARE NEW. To dream big dreams about what was possible and to live her life as if the good news were true!
And you know where this is going – it’s our invitation too.
You have been called by name.
(more names said outloud)
To receive LIFE. To be changed by this story. To RECEIVE it.
And to live in such a way that others might SHARE it.
Each one of us
(more names said outloud)
Now – I probably missed someone today. And if I did – I’m so sorry.
But I need you to know that it is not about April speaking your name.
It is about the living God – the resurrected Christ – who knows each of our names and invites us today to a life filled with JOY – a life that is ready to receive it – and a life that is ready to go out into the world and SHARE it.
That is the great adventure that you have been invited to. So, I hope that like Charlotte, you will be unafraid to run and grab this gift that is right before you.
CHRIST IS RISEN!
CHRIST IS RISEN INDEED!