March 27, 2016 – The Resurrection of Our Lord/Easter Sunday
Proclaimer: Rev. Dennis W. Foust, PhD
Sermon: Looking for Easter
Scripture: John 20:1-18
As he pulled his car around to the garage, he saw the grandchildren in the backyard. They were carrying brightly-colored baskets, looking behind trees and shrubs. He knew what they were doing, but, he called to them anyway: “Hey, what’s going on?” The four year-old called back, “Granddaddy, we’re looking for Easter eggs.” Then, her younger brother, who partially repeated everything she said, called out, “yeah, we’re looking for Easter.”
Looking for Easter is what you do today – and every day. You know that nothing can entomb the power of God. You go forth looking for power that dispels hopelessness; looking for the clarity of faith that makes visible the invisible; looking for Light which transforms darkness into dawn; looking for signs of the ineffable – revelations of the Divine Presence. Each and every day, you are looking for the power of Easter.
Mary Magdalene was like many people throughout the ages; she was looking for Easter unaware. She was like multitudes of individuals we meet week by week who are unaware they are on a journey of transformation. How many people do you know who are just going through the motions of being alive? Who do you know that is on a journey to no place without understanding they are on a journey at all? Do you know persons who are unconvinced that God’s power cannot be entombed?
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene approached the tomb and saw the stone had been removed from the entrance. Her only message was confusion and bewilderment; yet she ran to tell Simon Peter and John. Those two disciples ran to the tomb, saw what they could see in that moment without using their eyes of faith, and, like most people on a Sunday morning, went home to return to their normal lives.
Yet, Mary followed them back to the tomb. And after the men returned home, Mary stood weeping and looked into the tomb.
By glancing into the tomb, Mary saw angels who spoke to her: “Woman, why are you weeping?” Preoccupied with her unfinished task of anointing Jesus’ body, she answered, “They have taken away my Lord…” Have you ever felt as if Jesus is not in the place where you left him? Mary turned and saw a man who she supposed to be the gardener beginning his work day. He asked her the same question she had already heard and then he added a second Easter question: “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?”
Mary said to him, “Sir, if you have moved his body, tell me where you have placed him and I will find him and take him away.” And, the next word that fell on her ears changed her life and changed the world: “Mary!” From that moment until this moment, the spiritual ears of people have heard the Living God calling them by name on the journey to finding Easter.
Do you remember the family in Bethany that found Easter before the resurrection of Jesus. John tells the story of Jesus speaking with Martha, sister of Lazarus, after her brother’s death. She spoke of believing the resurrection. And, Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life.” In John’s story, Jesus calls Lazarus to come forth from the tomb by calling his name: “Lazarus, come forth.” It was after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead that the Sanhedrin started plotting to kill Jesus. John tells us Jesus no longer moved openly among his people after he raised Lazarus from the grave.
It was legal for Jesus to teach the resurrection. The Pharisees affirmed the resurrection as the experience that happens to a person after death. In other words, they taught that God gives new life in the ‘there and then.’ However, Jesus’ resurrection of Lazarus and God’s resurrection of Jesus turned this idea on its head. For, Jesus’ resurrection of Lazarus and God’s resurrection of Jesus took place on the earth – in the ‘here and now.’
Friends, today, we celebrate the reality that the resurrection of Jesus happened in the ‘here and now’ to give new life, abundant life, and eternal life to his followers in the here and now. Just as we celebrate Christmas as more than a historical event of the ‘there and then;’ we receive the birth of Jesus as an event that transforms our everyday lives in the here and now. We celebrate Easter as more than a historical event of the ‘there and then;’ we receive the resurrection of Jesus as an event that transforms our daily lives in the ‘here and now.’
Since we are living the resurrection life in the here and now, we should be maturing in our identity and ministry as followers of Jesus. However, we sometimes need to be renewed along the journey. We can become caught up in life-affirming, Christ-honoring efforts but our hearts are no longer engaged. Here are two ways to encourage you to keep on keeping on.
First, be encouraged by the ways you serve in the world as the body of Christ.
A few years ago, a friend spoke about the excitement in their church on Easter and then he noted, “By Memorial Day, though, I was asking myself, ‘whatever became of Easter?’ ‘Where did Easter go?’” In other words, he was ‘Looking for Easter.’
Please do me a favor; look in the Pew Bibles in front of you by turning carefully to Matthew 25:31-40, on page 27 of the Christian Scriptures. I am grateful to Charlie Harper, who serves as chair of our Missions Resource Team for creating this card for you. He and some others hid these over the weekend so you could find them today.
Notice three things about this colorful information:
- St. John’s invested more than $170,000 in mission efforts during 2015.
- Look at what all St. John’s does in active faithfulness throughout the year.
- If you are Looking for Easter, this is where you may find it; by investing yourself in the mission of God by continuing the ministry of Jesus.
Second, be encouraged by taking note of who is following you ‘Looking for Easter.’
Your influence has impact. You offer joy to others. Your commitments have substance. New life emerges in you as you allow Jesus’ resurrection shape to you in the ‘here and now.’
Some people you influence are like a child on an egg hunt looking again behind the same tree – and this time, finding what was there all along. They are like Mary Magdalene at the tomb taking another glance to see what they missed earlier. Your influence of living the resurrection life every day is making a difference. Make a list of people you know who are ‘Looking for Easter.’ Pray for them. Just keep relating with them by name; eventually, they will stop seeing the gardener, teacher, lawyer, neighbor, friend or parent and see Jesus through you.
Friends, you are living the resurrection in the world every day in the ‘here and now.’ Go forth in the power of Easter to minister to persons walking through grief, people searching for community, persons looking for new beginnings. Go forth with the message of Easter; NO FORM OF DEATH CAN ENTOMB THE LIFE OF GOD! Amen and AMEN!