Easter is always a fun day to preach. I am usually a little overly excited and then slightly disappointed that I did not preach a perfect sermon. The church is packed. Small children are sitting throughout the sanctuary in the fanciest clothes they have ever worn on a Sunday morning. Nervous visitors don’t know that it is fine if a child reads a book or plays with a bunny around the pew racks. Grandchildren will push in their grandparent’s wheelchair to the new accessible seating areas and sit holding hands as the congregation rises to sing the “Hallelujah Chorus”. Friends will embrace. Spouses will pose together in their Easter jackets. These wonderful moments of community will return one day, but even as we long for this pandemic to end, let us not forget the beauty God weaves into and through our church family connections.
We know Easter dresses and holiday brunches are fun but not able to bring us enduring hope or transforming love. So hear the Good News again, Christ is risen! Christ is risen in the midst of seasons of plenty and loss, joy and sorrow. Magdalene, Mary, and Salome came to the tomb while it was still night, very early in the morning. They do not seek permission from the religious police to break the official secure seal on Jesus’ tomb. When these women arrive, they are shocked for the Crucified One has already risen. The angel announces, “Do not be afraid, Christ is risen and going ahead of you, you will see Christ (out) there!” (Mark 16) God’s patient love is always out ahead of us, pulling us along, even when we think we have arrived! On Easter, Christ commissioned these three women as clergy; it will be 1956 before we Methodists do the same! Christ is not behind us, but already way ahead of us!
The Resurrection is the heart of Christianity! Life overcomes death. Boundless forgiveness takes the place of human frailty and sin. Love’s self-giving sacrifice overcomes systemic injustice and oppression. Christ is risen; Christ is going ahead of us. We will see Christ as we break bread together, remember the words of Jesus, wash another’s feet, feed hungry people, clothe displaced people, reform prisons, flip over unjust tables, welcome immigrants, make disciples, make peace, love enemies, and forgive… one more time. Easter’s message is the same whether we are all together or we find ourselves alone in our dorm room worshipping through the livestream. Last week a college student sent me a text before the organ had cooled off, “Watched the service on the banks of the creek this morning!!” Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed. May we find Christ in the unlikeliest of places, the simplistic acts of kindness, and our boldest risks for justice. Happy Easter, dear Belmont friends! The Peace of Christ be with you!