The Son Will Rise

Hello and Happy Easter!

I usually post my sermons on Sunday evening, but I figured everyone would be celebrating the Easter holiday and not waiting with baited breath for my sermon to post.

A few weeks ago, Jon and I went to see The Lion King when it came to PPAC and as I was watching, I had an idea for this year’s Easter Sermon.  After watching April the Giraffe give birth on Saturday morning (yes, I was totally sucked in!), I thought about going in a different direction, but really wanted to stick with this message.  So stay tuned for an April sermon illustration! :)

I preached out of Matthew this year.  I tend to bounce back and forth between John and wherever we are in the lectionary cycle, but have preached on John for the past few years and really was looking for something different so I turned to Matthew this year.

I hope you all had a blessed Easter celebration!

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Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
April 16, 2017

Matthew 28:1-10

The Son Will Rise

Did anyone happen to catch The Lion King when it was at PPAC a few weeks ago? It is one of my favorite productions to see live (the opening sequence gets me every time) and I was thrilled when a friend of mine texted me and asked if I wanted his extra ticket. I am not sure who was more excited, the six-year-old girl that was sitting behind us or me.

Bruce will tell you that I have a hard time getting through any musical without having some sort of deep theological reflection on it. But, The Lion King, especially, always gets me thinking; about life and death, relationships and community, pain and anguish and hope and trust in the promise of resurrection.

Now that last one might be putting a lot on Disney, Elton John and Tim Rice, but hear me out: During the song Endless Night, Simba, still deeply mourning the loss of his father, feeling heavily the guilt of his death and wondering how he could ever go back to his homeland, sings to his father, who is no longer with him on earth. He cries out that he is alone and cannot find his way out of the darkness.

And then the chorus starts:

I know that the night must end and that the sun will rise.
And that the sun will rise.
I know that the clouds must clear and that the sun will shine.
And that the sun will shine.[1]

This got me thinking about Easter; about the cries of those who loved Jesus who watched him die on the cross, who visited the tomb and who then held onto hope until resurrection came on that first Easter morning.

I say this every year, but I will say it again: As people of faith, we cannot fully understand the power of resurrection without first experiencing the pain of the crucifixion. This is why we put in the time during Lent, doing the hard work to see who we are, who we want to be and who God is calling us to be. This is why we come to worship during Holy Week, why we listen as the story of Jesus’ death is told and why we, like Jesus’ first followers, hold onto hope until resurrection comes on Easter morning.

Because as people of the resurrection, we do not want to ignore the crucifixion. We do not want to turn away from the hard parts of our faith; we want to face them head on, knowing that resurrection is coming, knowing that on Easter morning, the Son – and the sun – will rise.

This morning we heard the story of the resurrection as told in the Gospel of Matthew. In this telling of the Easter story, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary go to the tomb and an angel of the Lord appears and rolls away the stone to reveal an empty tomb. The women are afraid, but the angel says to them:

Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said.[2]

Just as he said, the Son did, in fact, rise.

This morning we not only rejoice in Christ’s victory over the grave, but we also remember that this was a promise Jesus made in his lifetime. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus foretold his death and resurrection three times; three times Jesus made the promise that the Son would rise.

And this promise was fulfilled.

And, as people of the resurrection, we know this was not a once and done thing. This is a promise that God still makes to us today: In the midst of our own pain, suffering and darkness, the Son will rise.

The truth is, the world can be a really scary place to live in sometimes. But on this Easter morning, I am here to remind you that in the midst of the scariness, therein lies a promise: A promise of hope, a promise of love and a promise of resurrection.

And do you know what? A lot of times people do not want to hear about or talk about the scary stuff in life because it might bring them down or challenge them in a way they do not like. But I think the Easter story gives us permission to talk about our own struggles. Because facing them head on does not mean that we are succumbing to them. It just means that we are as confident in God’s ability to create resurrection today as God did 2,000 years ago when two women found that tomb empty. We believe, even when we are standing in the midst of our own darkness, that the Son will rise.

So may we, like Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, bear witness to this promise. May we see the presence of angels in our lives and know that the promise of resurrection has been fulfilled. And then may we leave quickly and with great joy and run to tell the world that death has not won, that resurrection is real that the Son will rise.

Love wins! Christ is Risen! He is risen, indeed!

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

[1] Endless Night, from Disney’s, The Lion King, music & lyrics by Elton John & Tim Rice
[2] Matthew 28:6, NRSV

The Hope We’ve All Been Waiting For

I hope you all had a blessed Easter celebration! Our service was so wonderful … I’ll share more photos and stories in the coming week. For now, here is my Easter sermon!

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Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
April 5, 2015

Isaiah 25:6-9
John 20:1-18

The Hope We’ve All Been Waiting For

I told the confirmation class last Sunday night that this winter is turning me into a crazy cat lady who only talks about the weather.

I wish I could say that I was exaggerating, but that is the absolute truth. This winter just about pushed me over the edge. The snow, the ice, the month-long sub-freezing temperatures – at one point I was absolutely convinced that winter was just never going to end, that we had somehow entered this literal weather vortex that was stuck on the winter cycle.

So there I was this winter, with nothing else to do but stay inside with my cat and complain about the weather. And then there I was where I started to complain to my cat about the weather …

I needed spring to come this year. I waited and waited and waited for spring to come this year.

I always say that it does not matter what a person’s favorite season is, but that most people need spring more than any other season by the time it comes around. And boy, oh boy – did we need spring this year.

I do not normally preach from the Old Testament on Easter Sunday, but I could not help myself this year when I saw this passage from Isaiah come up in the lectionary. Because at a time when so many of us are desperately waiting for spring to come, we are reminded by this ancient prophecy that God’s grace can always be found in the midst of our waiting.

It will be said on that day,
Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us.
This is the Lord for whom we have waited;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.

Now clearly the people that this prophecy was aimed at were dealing with much greater struggles than my frustration with the snow. Destruction of land and exile are much more serious problems than the fact that I have not been able to wear my cute spring and summer shoes in three months. But I think the prophet’s words do remind us of something very poignant about who we are human beings. It points to the nature of us – all of us – needing something to help us along this crazy journey through life.
Life is not easy; I think we can all agree to that. We all feel hurt and pain and anguish at some point throughout our lives and this prophecy shines a light on those times where we are waiting – sometimes desperately waiting – for something to save us from the darkness that is surrounding us.

We wait. We wait for a cure. We wait for a relationship to be mended. We wait for a spouse or a child to come into our life. We wait for a job. We wait for pain to disappear. We wait for conflicts to go away. We wait for our lives to have some sense of normalcy.

We wait.

Well guess what? We are people of the resurrection and we do not have to wait any longer! Christ rose and we are saved! Christ rose and we are free! Christ rose and we no longer have to be alone! Christ rose and we have proof that God is always with us and that God’s love always wins! Christ rose so that we can always carry with us that beacon of hope that new life is always possible, even if we have to wait for it to come.

Winter aside weather, we all face real struggles in our lives. I cannot tell you how many people have said to me that one of their favorite parts of worship every week is the part where we lift to God in silence the “prayers that are still too raw to be spoken out loud.”
Because we all have them.

We all have things in our lives – pain, struggles, anxieties, sadness and hardships – that we hold onto. Or – perhaps more accurate – that hold on to us.

But you know what? The resurrection not only proved to us that God always knows these silent prayers, but also that we can surrender these prayers to God in a way that completely frees us from the burdens they place on us.

Because the resurrection proved that God’s power is so much greater than the burdens of the world.

Life does not have to weight us down. This world that we are living in is far from perfect, but the resurrection proved that God can do amazing things, even in the midst of chaos. The resurrection proved that even with all of the imperfections of our earthly and human lives, God can shine light in the midst of darkness, bring hope to the hopeless and give life to something that seems lost.

Resurrection was not a one-time thing; resurrection happens every single day of our lives. And today, as we celebrate Christ’s resurrection, we also celebrate the ways that we are living out this story in our lives as well. We celebrate the ways that – even when we are struggling and even when we are waiting – we see proof of God’s work all around us.

We practice a faith that is grounded in the foundation of resurrection to new life. We have to believe that this is possible in our lives as well.

As Christians experiencing Lent, Holy Week and the Easter Triduum, the resurrection is what we have been waiting for. But we have to remember – we have to believe – that resurrection happens every day. And if we believe this – if we truly believe this – then we are assured that the hope that we are constantly waiting for is happening all around us.

God is with you, my friends. God’s love was victorious on the cross and God’s love is victorious in our lives today. This is what we have been waiting for! This is the Good News that calms the chaos of our lives, that resurrects the things around us to new life.

Christ is Risen, my friends! He rose then and he is risen now!

So let us go and live our lives as people of the resurrection, proclaiming to the world that even in the midst of chaos, the hope that we have been waiting for is already here.

Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed!

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

Faith Without Control

I hope you all had a WONDERFUL Easter!  Here is yesterday’s sermon …

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Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
April 20, 2014

John 20:1-18
Colossians 3:1-4

Faith Without Control

The weather was absolutely beautiful last Saturday, wasn’t it? Sunny, blue skies and blissfully warm temperatures. I drove to church with my sunglasses on and my windows open. I wore flip flops! My friends and I pulled out their patio furniture and fired up the grill for the first time this year. Daffodils were starting to open around town. I vividly remember backing into my driveway, looking at my bright green lawn and thinking to myself how nice it was that spring was here and that we could finally say with absolute certainty that we were definitely, without a doubt, done with snow for the year.

So then it snowed on Tuesday night.

That was great.

As I sat in my car on Wednesday morning waiting for the half an inch of ice to melt off of my windshield because I was refusing to pull out my scraper out of sheer protest, I could not help but laugh.

Because if there is one thing a mid-April snowstorm will teach you it is that we really are not in control.

How fitting to be reminded of this four days before Easter. Because – let’s face it – the Easter story is also a great reminder to us that we really are not in control.

It is actually kind of difficult to preach on the Easter story, because it just sort of speaks for itself. The death and resurrection of Jesus is one of the single most powerful stories in the history of the world, certainly of our faith. Resurrection. Salvation. God’s grace unfolded in a completely miraculous, yet completely realistically spectacular way. It is truly remarkable.

But here is the thing about this story: No one – no human, anyway – could control the outcome of that first Easter. Not the people who betrayed Jesus. Not the people who put Jesus on trial and who mocked him. Not the people who crucified Jesus. No – they were not in control of that first Easter. Jesus rose from the dead! Proof to all of us that God was in control of that first Easter.

And over the past 2,000 years, that has never changed. God has always remained in control.

As we relive the Easter story, we are reminded that living a life of faith – believing in this Easter story, walking as a disciple of Christ and submitting yourself to the mystery of the resurrection – means letting go of control. It means letting go of control of the things that you understand and – perhaps more importantly – the things that you do not understand. It means letting go of the need to control the people around you. It means letting go of the question, “why?” and instead just focusing on the journey ahead. It means seeking out God instead of seeking out answers.

It means trusting that no matter what happens in this world and in your life – good or bad, joyful or heartbreaking – you are never alone. God is always with you.

This does not mean that bad things will not happen. In fact, as we remembered Jesus’ final days and death on the cross this past week, we were poignantly reminded of just how imperfect our world is. Bad things do happen – many of which we cannot control.

So I think we just have to stop trying. And I think that we have to believe that within the midst of the chaos and the confusion of life, God is working with us and within us.

The Christian Faith is not about rules and dogmas, it is about a moment in time when God stepped in and revealed his glory to us. It always has been and it always will be.

And I think that if we just try to let go of our control in our lives and in our faith, we may see God’s glory revealed to us in a new way.

You know, it is a good thing that humans were not in control of that first Easter. Because think about what might have happened if they were. Jesus would have remained in that tomb; he never would have risen to new life. We would have never been given proof that God’s love is stronger than human imperfection.

Let me put something on the table right now. I will never be able to explain the resurrection. I will never be able to show you proof that Jesus physically rose from the dead. But I believe that in some way, shape or form – some way, shape or form that is completely out of my control – it happened and it was real and the world changed because of it. I HAVE to believe that. Because without the resurrection, the crucifixion would have had the final word. Without God’s grace giving us new life, death would have had the final word. Without God’s love, hate would have the final word.

And that is not the world that I want to live in.

Not only did that mid-April snowstorm teach us that we really are not in control, but – for those of us who put away our plows and shovels and started planting things in our yard and garden – it also taught us that maybe – just maybe – we should stop trying to be in control as well.

When we embrace a faith without control, we are embracing a faith of resurrection, not crucifixion; we are embracing a faith of new life and not death; and we are embracing a faith of love and not hate.

Let us embrace that faith.

Let us allow God to open our eyes to see new things. Let us turn to God for comfort in our moments of fear, anger and sadness. Let us use God’s light to illuminate the path ahead of us.

On this beautiful Easter morning, as we remember a story that rocked a community, changed the world and gave new life to generations upon generations of believers, let us embrace a faith without control. Let us – in the infamous words of Elsa from Frozen – let it go and let God take care of the rest.

Thanks be to God!
Amen.