Welcome once again on this Easter Sunday 2015 the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave. This is the most important day in the year for Christians.
Tomorrow is the biggest day for many college basketball fans, isn’t it? The final between … and … will play tomorrow evening. Anyone a Yankee fan here? Tomorrow Yankee baseball team has the opening game in Bronx. Do you know tomorrow is the biggest day of the year for some golfers, as well? It is the start of The Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Georgia. I heard Tiger Woods will play this week returning from the leave of absence.
Years ago, someone working at the CBS sports discovered that The Masters and Easter Sunday happened on the same day that year. Upset at this conflict, he asked one of his colleagues, “Who sets the date of Easter? Didn’t they realize that they scheduled it on The Masters weekend? Let’s find that person and have him change it.”
I don’t know how they resolved that conflict. I’m pretty sure they didn’t change the date for Easter though if they could, they probably would. Sports are a powerful impact in our society.
Do you know what is tomorrow really? Tomorrow is the first day after Easter, because of course today is Easter.
What has been the greatest impact in your living, in our living in this world? The Masters? Fighting against the ISIS? Reaching the Iran nuclear deal? The World War 2? 9 11? Surely each of these and many global events have a crucial impact on our life directly and indirectly.
But I say clearly from the pulpit that the most important and powerful event in our human history is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Easter has changed the world upside down. It is the God’s incredibly amazing event that has touched the whole world. Easter clearly shows that death was not the final word and Jesus has the power to deliver us from death. Through faith in Christ, we can conquer death and we don’t have to fear death. Jesus is the resurrection and the life.
That’s what Mary learned early on that first Easter Sunday morning.
Remember the story with me. On the Thursday night before Easter right, Jesus was arrested at the Garden of Gethsemane. He was brutally beaten, rushed through a fixed trial which was held strangely in the middle of the night… and was declared guilty. The next day, Good Friday, Jesus was crucified. And, He was buried in a borrowed grave. And then on Easter Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb… to do what had to be done… to care for His dead body.
But, when she arrived she discovered that the stone which had been covering the opening to the grave had been rolled away. She looked inside. She was startled to see that His body was gone. She thought someone had broken into the grave and stolen the body. She was crushed, heart-broken and devastated.
“They crucified Him… and now they have taken His body away. How could they be so cruel?” she cried bitterly. But then she heard a noise behind her. She turned and saw the silhouette of a man. She thought it was the gardener… until He called her name. “Mary,” He said tenderly. She recognized that voice… and at that moment she faced the new reality. She realized the truth. It was the Christ. His body had not been stolen. He had risen! He had conquered death! He had defeated evil! He had come back to life! He had resurrected!
A humorous story: A couple of weeks after the Resurrection, someone asked Joseph of Arimathea, “Why’d you let them bury Jesus in your brand new tomb?” Joseph shrugged his shoulders and answered, “He only needed it for the weekend!”
Yes, only three days he stayed at the tomb and returned. He had come back to life on the third day. When Mary Magdalene had come to the tomb that Easter morning looking for a dead body, she found instead a Risen Lord. And with that discovery, Mary was resurrected, too! No more weeping and wailing. No more heavy sighing. No more tears of sorrow. She was enthused and elated, shouting, “I have seen the Lord! He is alive! I have seen the Lord! He is risen!”
On that first Easter Sunday morning, the upside down, total transforming and big eye-opening moment came to her when the Risen Lord called Mary by name… and she turned toward him. ….
Now, on this Easter Sunday morning, (right now) the Risen Lord is still speaking… and if you will listen real closely you can hear Him. Listen to that… He is calling your name and mine. Can you hear Him?
He is calling us by name… and telling us that He has conquered death… and that He wants to share with each one of us personally…The Good News of Easter. The Good News of His great victory. The Good news of Easter is the four letter word, LIFE. Life. Jesus wants to share with each one of us: New life. Abundant Life. Redeemed life. Energized Life. Spirit-filled Life, Resurrected life and Eternal life. The purpose of life is not death, Easter says. The purpose of life is life with Christ. . . a life that triumphs over death forever.
“The best way to make your dreams come true,” writes Paul Valery, “is to wake up.” How true it is. “How can you have a dream come true if you don’t wake up? Before your dreams can come true, you must first wake up!”
Christ is risen from the dead. We must wake up to the power the risen Lord brings to our life. Christ is risen from the dead. We must wake up and open up to the power of the Scriptures to speak to our life. As Jesus called Mary’s name to finally stir her soul to consciousness, so Christ sends a personal wake-up call to each of us this morning. Easter morning is an annual wake-up call addressed to you and me.
The hymn-writer Helen Lemmell put it like this: Wake up and “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”
Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. (John 11:25-26) Christ is risen from the dead. We have resurrected life in Jesus. Hallelujah. Amen.
Because of Easter, we not only receive the message of hope, but also we become people of hope. Jesus sent Mary out to the world with this message of Good News. “Do not hold on to me…. Go instead… Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ”
Jesus is asking Mary, saying, “Run, Mary, Run! Go find the others! Run Mary, Run! Tell them the news! Tell them I am still here. Tell the world that hope is still alive. That love is still alive! That God is still alive. That God is still in charge, that God will win, that God is always with us, that God loves us, that when we are down and out, God comes looking for us like He did with Mary on that first Easter Sunday morning… He calls us by name.”
God has the power to resurrect and God has the power to resurrect us. God has the power to turn sorrow to joy; to turn tears of grief to tears of gratitude; to turn death to life. Go. Run with this good news to the world.
The same risen Christ is sending you and me with this good news.
Where are you, Lord? I love to see you. One day a man asked God. After a short pause, God pointed out something down in the world with His finger. The man followed the direction to find out a church in a village. “There, I am” says the Lord.
The church is not a steeple. The church is not a building. I am the church. You are the church. We are the church together. The risen Christ is with the church and in our midst.
We remember Jesus giving the great commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19)
Jesus gives us a task: But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth. (Acts 1:8)
Jesus gives us a message: That repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations. (Luke 24:47)
Jesus gives us a promise: I am with you always to the close of the age. (Matthew 28:20)
In all of this, God gives the church power for living and loving and doing the ministry of Jesus Christ. We are the church who take all that Christ gives and puts it into practice.
Yes, we are the church who “Where there is hatred, we sow Love. Where there is injury, we share Peace. Where there is doubt, we bring faith. Where there is despair, we bring Hope. Where there is darkness, we bring Light. Where there is sorrow, we bring joy.” We are the resurrected people of God to do the resurrection ministry.
Paul’s words come to us as a timely encouragement. “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” … But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:55-57)
Tomorrow is the first day of the Masters. Tomorrow is the first day the Yankees play the game. Tomorrow is the day March Madness reaches the final destination.
Tomorrow is, above all, the first day of Easter. It is the first new day of the new life with Christ. It is the first day of the resurrected people to share the new life with Christ wherever we are and whatever we do.
We greet on Easter, saying, “Happy Easter!” It sounds good like “Happy Birthday, Happy Thanksgiving.”
I would like to introduce a new Easter greeting. You heard, “Army Strong!” Right? We know it is not grammatically correct. But it is catching, isn’t it?
How about “Easter Strong!” I say, “Easter people!” You say, “Easter Strong!” I say, “Christ is risen.” You say, “Christ is risen indeed.” Amen. Amen. Amen.
May we be filled with the Holy Spirit and keep Easter strong today and tomorrow and many years to come. Amen. Amen. Amen.