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!
Rehoboth Congregational Church
April 16, 2017
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.
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.
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!