Happy Easter! I have so much to say about our Easter service, but for the time being, I will leave you with my Easter sermon. It was short and sweet, but that’s the way I like Easter sermons – after all, the story speaks for itself!
Rehoboth Congregational Church
April 21, 2019
A few weeks ago, my in-laws were here and they gave Harrison a tomato plant. We watered it a few times and then transplanted it into a bigger pot. I excitedly explained to my sweet toddler as we cared for this little plant that eventually we were going to put it in our vegetable garden outside and that it was going to get bigger and grow tomatoes that we were going to eat.
About a week later, I was at church getting ready for worship when I got a text from Bruce that simply read, “I hate her.”
A few seconds later a picture came through; a picture of our sweet toddler’s little tomato plant – or, at least, what was left of it after the cat ate it the night before.
So we took a deep breath and decided not to give up on the plant. We moved it to a different location – one that we thought (foreshadowing!) the cat would not be able to get to and made sure it had plenty of water and sun. Much to our delight, new growth emerged.
And then a week later, the cat found it again.
But since we are gluttons for gardening punishment, we decided, again, not to give up on this plant; and, again, with some nurturing and some patience and some time, new growth has emerged.
I was all set to use this story as my big illustration for an Easter sermon on resurrection and hope and then on Monday I saw the notification on my phone that the Cathedral at Notre Dame was on fire. And then I watched, probably with millions of people around the world, as that fire engulfed the iconic cathedral.
At the time, my silly story of a tomato plant seemed so insignificant and trivial. I wasn’t really sure it would really be appropriate to joke about it once I watched the spire of that 800-year-old building collapse in the fire.
I kept thinking that, as a pastor, I am trained to respond with this narrative of the Bodyof Christ and not the Buildingof Christ. We, as Christians, know that the Church is not defined by a physical structure, but by the people who have enthusiastically responded to the call to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ.
But it was hard not to be devastated as I watched that building burn.
I immediately started thinking about a different message to share on Easter morning, a message of hope; a reminder, perhaps, that the story is not over yet, that God does really great work in the midst of devastation and loss and ash.
And then photos started to emerge from the interior of the cathedral. And those photos boldly spoke that message of hope in a way that words would never be able to. Photos of ancient relics still in tact – the cross, the altar, the stained glass windows, the bell towers, the crown of thorns believed to be worn by Jesus, himself.
Just like the tiny little leaves that have emerged on Harrison’s chewed-down tomato plant, those photos were real and powerful reminders that resurrection is always possible; that even when it seems as though hope is lost, God is not finished.
God is not finished with the little and seemingly insignificant and trivial things and God is not finished with the big things, either.
The Easter story is a story of hope. It tells us that there are no lost causes, that God’s power in this world is greater than everything, even death, itself. The Easter story reminds us that God never abandons us during out times of great need; that in fact, that God does the most incredibly-inspiring and grace-filled work in those moments. It shows us that it is in our moments of grief and sorrow and confusion that angels are in our midst and that Christ will appear to us – in some way – and call us by name. It teaches us that the tomb was empty because God saw the brokenness of our humanity and said, this story is not over yet.
We live in world that desperately needs to hear this message of hope proclaimed. We live in a world where people are hurting, where they are experiencing loss and heartache and stress and pain. We live in a world where people weep, like Mary Magdalene, because it seems as though their world is crumbling. We live in a world where people feel the depths of their brokenness.
And it is in this world that people need to know that second chances are always possible, that in the darkest moments of their lives, God’s light will shine.
And so today we tell this story of hope to a world that is broken. We tell this story of our God whose love is so powerful that it triumphed over death, itself. We tell this story of a man named Jesus whose Gospel we now live out in our own lives today. We tell this story of how resurrection once turned the world upside down and how it still can, today. We tell this story of how redemption can be found in the smallest leaves on a tomato plant or in priceless relics discovered in the ash of a fire. We tell this story of how there are no lost causes and how hope is real, hope is powerful and hope is alive in our lives today.
Happy Easter, friends! May you feel the hope of God’s resurrecting love as you remember this story.
Thanks be to God!