Jeremiah 31: 1-6
JOHN 20: 1-18

EASTER SUNDAY–April 9, 2023

ALIVE and WELL … friends, there should never be the slightest doubt in any of our minds that Jesus Christ is ALIVE and WELL because long before we each were born Jesus Christ left that dark tomb of death behind … HE IS RISEN!!! <<HE IS RISEN INDEED>>

Last night I started to wonder why we don’t treat EASTER EVE … HOLY SATURDAY … like we do Christmas Eve. Have you ever given any thought to that … do you even consider that Easter offers the ultimate gift of love for you and also for every other person in the world? Have you told your kids … the children of our time that EASTER is GOD’s loving gift to everyone … no matter what they look like or sound like … no matter who they consider their family to be … to the folks over in Africa … to those down in New Zealand and Mexico too. A loving gift to the people of Swedesboro and also to those who call Camden home. Every person alive should be celebrating today … the kids should be giddy and we should be full of energetic joy! JESUS IS ALIVE and WELL … He is RISEN <<HE IS RISEN INDEED>>

Were you thinking last night about God’s great gift of love as bedtime approached … the enormity of the loving gift of Easter … the love God must have … you know, that God … just consider who God is … truthfully beyond comprehension but so real and evident each day if we pay attention … that loving God cleared up for us how God expects us to live by sending Jesus to clearly teach us … that loving God provided a sacrifice to erase those sins we’ve been busy committing. With the EASTER’s truth … providing believers thanks to God’s love with the key to the kingdom of heaven; an eternal life with God. You gotta love God for all this love shown to all of us and to all of our neighbors every single one of them!

Believe me, EASTER is not wrapped up in the story of the chocolates that now can be eaten … it’s not the new dress or hat that make us look even more beautiful than we looked yesterday … Friends, EASTER is our celebration that JESUS CHRIST IS ALIVE and WELL!!! Our celebration that Jesus CHRIST defeated death and the tomb and established that the homeless child of Mary born in a manger stall was not an ornamental moment in time but the Son of God … the Messiah .. the PRINCE of PEACE; Jesus Christ … Savior Rabboni, Teacher. At least He’s mine, I sure hope He is your too.

So, last night were you getting as excited about EASTER as you were for Christmas morning’s present reveal? Did you feel the need to wake up early … were the kids sneaking out of their bedrooms hoping that the family would be heading out for a Sunrise service just because today is THE DAY when we celebrate God’s love for us. A risen sun on the eastern horizon reminding us of the Risen Son of God … HE IS RISEN <<He is Risen Indeed>>. Doesn’t that feel so good … so joy-filled … declaring the EASTER truth … I know I can rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS … can’t you?

On that morning … the gift from God was unwrapped by the time that Peter and the others entered the cave that had served as Jesus’ tomb. They couldn’t figure it out and they ran to their hiding place where the other men were … even though Jesus had repeatedly told them what would happen they somehow missed out the connection between His teaching and what should have been for them an Easter morning celebration.

But Mary didn’t miss out … We heard today that Mary saw two angels brilliantly dressed in white, seated where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head and one at the foot.”

Mary stayed … she was crying but then the greatest loving gift of history was there before her. 13 The angels asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” And then He, Jesus, asked the same question … she did not recognize Jesus immediately but friends I often wonder how many folks living in the times we live in actually do recognize Jesus for who He is. How many people have made a personal choice to live as Jesus taught … deliberately discovering His teaching and God’s expectations. I also wonder how many would want to recognize Jesus today if He appeared telling us to love all of our neighbors … to help the poor and the prisoners .. feeding the hungry … or would they find a four-letter word to call Him because they already don’t like the Jesus message and name call those who do share the words Jesus taught … so sad that so many don’t recognize God’s call to humanity through Him.

I wonder how many have allowed their Lord to be taken away by their world. This morning … this Easter day do you know where you have put Jesus? Mary was asking that question to Jesus, He was right in front of her. Thinking that Jesus was the gardener, Mary answered His question saying, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put Him, and I will get Him.”

I believe that of all the days on the calendar EASTER is the day when people of faith … whether we think our faith is strong or we actually admit to ourselves that our faith is as casual as a candle in the wind … EASTER is our annual opportunity to go and get Jesus from wherever we have put Him during the year. A day of faith reflection, faith reconnection, faith revitalization, and faith renewal of what CAN BE if we act … an everlasting connection between ourselves and God that will take us right into the glory of heaven one day when this life’s journey ends … if we decide that matters.

I believe that EASTER is a day on which you and I should be challenged to consider whether we are willing to accept God’s gift … I think we all realize we are unworthy of God’s sacrifice of Jesus on that cross … that we are unworthy of having the God of Creation loving us but God loves us anyway. God loves us every day. God loves us in our weakness and in our strength. God just wants our faith to be ALIVE and WELL every day.

Are you willing to accept and take on the gift of Easter? Jesus Christ? You do remember Jesus because HE IS RISEN <<He is Risen Indeed!>> Felt good, right?

And, friends all God is asking in return is that we honestly and completely believe and live as if our belief is real. EASTER is our reminder that by declaring that we want to go and get Jesus like Mary wanted in those moments that we are then ready to fall down and worship Him. To worship God … to accept the challenges offered by the teachings of Jesus because when we decide to call ourselves Christians … we should be willing to declare that we are God’s Easter people who accept Jesus Christ as more than a name … as more than the connector to two holidays where we focus on everything but worship except in these brief moments … well brief if I don’t preach too long that is.

Donald Gray Barnhouse in his book, “The Cross Through the Open Tomb,” writes [1]“The story of the resurrection of Jesus Christ has been told and retold for almost two thousand years; yet like a sunrise it can be fresh and new.” Barnhouse writes an interesting concept, he says “the reason that God saved us was that He loves Jesus Christ so much that He wants to duplicate Him in us?” He then poses an interesting question which to me brings Easter back into focus, he asks, “Did you ever stop to realize that Christianity actually is the duplication of Jesus Christ in you and me forever?”

You and me friends … the duplication of Jesus Christ. We are called to live as Christ lived. Jesus told His followers and if you believe the Easter message is one of truth … if you believe God is the God of the Easter Son Rise … then you need to know that our faith calls for a transformation … our faith calls us to pick up our cross and follow Jesus Christ. Our EASTER FAITH friends needs to be ALIVE and WELL each day because if we are not the Light of Christ in the world … if we are not the duplication of Jesus Christ through our Christianity then … then we are doing a great disservice to the ultimate gift giver of love … God. “Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven” … a prayer we pray but do you believe it on this Easter morn? Do you accept your role in it … do you want God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, or will that inconvenience your lifestyle too much?

After our Good Friday service ended, I sat here once everyone had left the building … only light was on the cross covered in blackness … it was the night of darkness the day to remember the cross. A Michael W. Smith song started playing in my head … You are Holy and then there’d be the echo … You are Holy. You are mighty; You are worthy; worthy of praise! I will follow! I will listen … I will love You all of my days … all of my days!”

There is a power through God’s Holy Spirit that wants to direct you and me. As your Easter fades into your Monday’s will you allow Easter to adjust your relationship with the Holy. Will you start to consider God as Holy … will you continue to treat God as Holy, Mighty and worthy of praise? Will you follow and listen to Jesus and love God and Christ ALL of your days because God is alive and well … Jesus Christ is alive and well … the Holy Spirit is alive and well but is your faith? Is your Christianity the duplication of Jesus Christ through your words, your social media posts, and your life’s actions … because friends that is what true faith requires rather than a mere hour on Easter morning before the meals and whatever else will consume your day and mine.

Another song, this time from the rock and roll world of a Canadian band called the GUESS WHO … they sang these words that I feel apply to today’s EASTER .. “Have you been around? Have you done your share of comin’ down on different things that people do? Have you been aware you got brothers and sisters who care about what’s gonna happen to you in a year from now … maybe I’ll be there to shake you hand …”

Next year on Easter Eve will you be excited what’s gonna happen to you in a year … will you be bringing folks to church with you for me to shake their hands? Or do you need a brother or sister who cares right now because your faith is on shaky ground … if that’s you talk with me, call me, text me don’t let this Easter be a waste land for you.

We heard in Jeremiah, “The Lord God declared, I have loved you with a love that lasts forever. And so with unfailing love, I have drawn you to myself.Again, I will build you up, and you will be rebuilt. Again, you will play your tambourines and dance with joy.”

The instruments were here when you walked in JESUS CHRIST IS RISEN <<He is Risen Indeed>> I hope you sense the joy and are ready to celebrate EASTER and share the celebrations with the world JESUS CHRIST IS ALIVE and WELL … live like you know it is the truth! AMEN

[1] ‘The Cross Through the Open Tomb’ by Donald Grey Barnhouse Published by William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Co.

© 2017- St. Paul's United Methodist Church, West Deptford, NJ