Easter Sunday B


EASTER SUNDAY 2012 (APRIL 8, 2012) JOHN 20: 1-9

First Reading: Acts 10: 34, 37-43
Second Reading: Colossians 3: 1-4
Gospel: John 20: 1-9
Anecdotes

1) The phoenix: The late Catholic Archbishop of Hartford, John Whealon, who had undergone cancer surgery resulting in a permanent colostomy, wrote these very personal words in one of his last Easter messages: "I am now a member of an association of people who have been wounded by cancer. That association has as its symbol the phoenix, a bird of Egyptian mythology. When the bird felt its death was near, every 500 to 1,461 years, it would fly off to Phoenicia, build a nest of aromatic wood and set itself on fire. When the bird was consumed by the flames, a new phoenix sprang forth from the ashes. Thus, the phoenix symbolizes immortality, resurrection, and life after death. It was one of the earliest symbols of the risen Christ. In the same way, any person who has survived a struggle with cancer is considered phoenix-like, having risen from the ashes of disease and been given a new lease on life. Suddenly life becomes more precious to that person. Each hour is lived more fully. Each friend seems much more real. The sky seems more blue, the sunshine more beautiful, and the colors more vivid. Even dull and ordinary things are causes for gratitude to God.” Archbishop John Whealon could have lived in a gloomy tomb of self-pity, hopeless defeat, and chronic sadness, but his faith in the resurrected Lord opened his eyes to new visions of life.
2) “He is not here.” Egyptian pyramids are world-famous as one of the “seven Wonders” of the world. But they are actually gigantic tombs containing the mummified bodies of Egyptian Pharaohs. Westminster Abby is famous, and thousands visit it, because the dead bodies of famous writers, philosophers and politicians are entombed there. But there is a Shrine of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, and pilgrims from all over the world visit a tomb there which is empty with a note at its entrance which says, “He is not here.” It is famous because Jesus Christ, who was once buried there, rose from the dead, leaving an empty tomb as he had told his disciples he would. Thus, he worked the most important miracle in his life, defying the laws of nature and proving that he is God. We rejoice at this great and unique event by celebrating Easter. (Fr. J P) 
3) "C. MORETZ IS ALIVE. PASS IT ON. THANK YOU” The message was painted on the roof of a splintered and sunken house in Waveland, Mississippi. “C. Moretz is alive. Pass it on.” The message included a Tucson, Ariz., phone number of his brother. Chris Moretz, 36, said he had decided to ride out the hurricane. “I was optimistic, naive, curious, and dumb.” He said he was in his house when water poured in. It went from ankle deep to hip deep in five minutes. When it got waist deep on the second floor he swam out a window to a neighbor's boat and sheltered himself with an engine cover. He left the rooftop message so his Tucson, AZ family would know he was alive. It worked. Also included was the phone number of Chris's brother, Gerard who was anxiously waiting for a call from his brother for 36 hours. But then Chris' rooftop message was shown on TV and posted on some web sites. Chris' family began getting phone calls from all over the country telling them Chris was alive. For the early church, the message was the same: "JESUS IS ALIVE. PASS IT ON." For us Christians on this Easter day, the message is the same, "JESUS IS ALIVE. PASS IT ON." (http://www.preachingpoints.com/2009/08/still-alive-pass-it-on/).
Introduction

Significance of Easter: Easter is the greatest and the most important feast in the Church. It marks the birthday of our eternal hope. "Easter" literally means "the feast of fresh flowers." We celebrate it with pride and jubilation for three reasons.
1) The resurrection of Christ is the basis of our Christian faith. The Resurrection is the greatest of the miracles -- it proves that Jesus is God. That is why St. Paul writes: “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain; and your faith is in vain… And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is a delusion and you are still lost in your sins… But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep” (I Cor 15: 14, 17, 20). If Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead, then the Church is a fraud and faith is a sham. But if he really did rise from the dead, his message is true! Without the Resurrection, Jesus would have remained forever a good person who met a tragic end. People would remember some of his teachings, and a handful of people might try to live according to them. All the basic doctrines of Christianity are founded on the truth of the Resurrection. “Jesus is Lord; he is risen” (Rom 10: 9) was the central theme of the kerygma (or 'preaching'), of the apostles. There is a story of two women who stood before Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. One asked, "Why can't we build structures like this anymore?" Her friend answered, "The people who built this had faith. Today we have only opinions. And you can't build a cathedral with opinions."
2) Easter is the guarantee of our own resurrection. Jesus assured Martha at the tomb of Lazarus: “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me will live even though he dies” (Jn 11: 25-26). Christ will raise us up on the last day, but it is also true, in a sense, that we have already risen with Christ. By virtue of the Holy Spirit, our Christian life is already a participation in the death and Resurrection of Christ (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1002, #1003, p. 261). 

3) Easter is a feast which gives us hope and encouragement in this world of pain, sorrows and tears. It reminds us that life is worth living. It is our belief in the real presence of the risen Jesus that gives meaning to our personal, as well as to our common, prayers. Our trust in the all-pervading presence of the risen Lord gives us strength to fight against temptations and freedom from unnecessary worries and fears. The prayer of St. Patrick, the Apostle of Ireland reads: “Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ within me, never to part.”
Exegesis

The resurrection of Jesus had certain special features. First, Jesus prophesied it as a sign of his divinity. “Tear down this temple and in three days I will build it again” (Jn 2: 19). Second, the founder of no other religion has an empty tomb as Jesus has. We see the fulfillment of Christ's promise in the empty cross and the empty tomb. The angel said to the women at Jesus’ tomb: “Why are you looking among the dead for one who is alive? He is not here: he has been raised” (Luke 24: 5-6). The third special feature is the initial disbelief of Jesus’ own disciples in his resurrection, in spite of his repeated apparitions. This serves as a strong proof of his resurrection. It explains why the apostles started preaching the resurrected Christ only after receiving the anointing of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. Proclamation and witness-bearing are the main themes of today’s readings. In the first reading, St. Peter shares his own experience of Christ’s resurrection and its joy with the newly baptized members of Cornelius’ family. In the second reading, St. Paul bears witness to his experience of the risen Lord on the Damascus road which converted him from a persecuting Pharisee into a zealous apostle of Jesus. Today’s gospel explains the empty-tomb resurrection experience of Mary Magdalene, Peter and John. Mary Magdalene proclaims her personal experience: “I have seen the Lord.”

Life messages :

1) We are to be resurrection people: Easter, the feast of the resurrection, gives us the joyful message that we are a “resurrection people.” This means that we are not supposed to lie buried in the tomb of our sins, evil habits and dangerous addictions. It gives us the good news that no tomb can hold us down anymore - not the tomb of despair, discouragement, doubt nor death. Instead, we are expected to live a joyful and peaceful life, constantly experiencing the real presence of the resurrected Lord in all the events of our lives. “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad” (Psalm 118:24). 

2) We need to seek our peace and joy in the Risen Jesus: The living presence of the resurrected Lord gives us lasting peace and celestial joy amid the boredom, suffering, pain and tensions of our day-to-day life. “Peace be with you” was his salutation to his disciples at all post-resurrection appearances. For the true Christian, every day must be an Easter Day lived joyfully in the close company of the Risen Lord.

3) We are to be transparent Christians: We are called to be transparent Christians, showing others, through our lives of love, mercy, compassion and self-sacrificing service, that the risen Jesus is living in our hearts. 

4) We need to live new, disciplined lives in the Risen Jesus: Our awareness of the all-pervading presence of the risen Lord in and around us, and the strong conviction of our own coming resurrection, help us control our thoughts, desires, words and behavior. This salutary thought inspires us to honor our bodies, keeping them holy, pure and free from evil habits and addictions. Our conviction about the presence of the risen Lord in our neighbors, and in all those with whom we come into contact, should encourage us to respect them, and to render them loving, humble and selfless service.

5) We need to remember Easter in our Good Fridays: Easter reminds us that every Good Friday in our lives will have an Easter Sunday, and that Jesus will let us share the power of his resurrection. Each time we display our love of others, we share in the resurrection. Each time we face a betrayal of trust, we share in the resurrection of Jesus. Each time we fail in our attempts to ward off temptations – but keep on trying to overcome them – we share in the resurrection. Each time we continue to hope – even when our hope seems unanswered – we share in the power of Jesus’ resurrection. In short, the message of Easter is that nothing can destroy us – not pain, sin, rejection or death – because Christ has conquered all these, and we too can conquer them if we put our faith in Him. 

6) We are to be bearers of the good news of resurrection power. Resurrection is good news, but at the same time, it’s sometimes painful because it involves death. Before the power of the resurrection can take hold in our own lives, we’re called to die to sin, to die to self. We may even have to die to our own dreams, so that God can do what He wants to do with our lives. Resurrection is about seeing our world in a new way. Early that Easter morning, Mary did not find what she was looking for, the dead body of Jesus. But she found something better than she could have imagined: the risen Jesus. Sometimes, the things we think we want most are not granted to us. What we get instead is an experience of God’s new ways of working in the world. That’s the power of the resurrection. When those moments come, we must spread the news--just as Mary did: We have seen the Lord!
Additional Anecdotes

1) "The Godfather of Fitness.” You may recall years ago when fitness legend Jack LaLanne celebrated his seventieth birthday by towing 70 boats containing 70 people for a mile across Long Beach Harbor. Amazing! But wait. He did it by holding the rope in his teeth. Why? Well, he was handcuffed and wearing leg shackles! Unbelievable! LaLanne was still going strong in his nineties. But friends, this "The Godfather of Fitness” died on Jan 24, 2011 proving that this world is not our final destination. It is but a prelude to a grander production. This world is a preparatory school. Without the resurrection, it is simply impossible to explain a world in which people suffer and die. But the resurrection is real. Christ rose from the dead. Christ is still alive and he is available in our world today.
2) The greatest comeback in history: In its November 12, 2001 issue, Sports Illustrated ranked the 10 greatest comebacks in world history. Among those making the list, the following names are to be specially noted.

1. Michael Jordan, 1995. Quits basketball to make his first triumphant comeback.
5. Muhammad Ali, 1974. Seven years after being stripped of his title and his boxing license, defeats George Foreman in Zaire to win back the belt.
8. Japan and Germany, 1950s. They were the former Axis Powers which rose from the ashes of World War II to become industrial superpowers.
10. Jesus Christ, 33 A.D. Defies Jewish critics and stuns the Romans with his resurrection. It was the greatest comeback of all time. And He’s been specializing in comebacks ever since. 
3) He is risen indeed: You probably do not remember the name Nikolai Ivanovich Bukharin. Many years ago he was one of the most powerful men on earth. A Russian Communist leader, he took part in the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. He was the editor of the Soviet newspaper Pravda, and was a full member of the Politburo. His works on economics and political science are still read today. There is a story told about a journey he took from Moscow to Kiev in 1930 to address a huge assembly of Communists. The subject was atheism. Addressing the crowd, he attacked Christianity, hurling insults and arguments against it. When he had finished, he looked out at the audience. "Are there any questions?" he demanded. Deafening silence filled the auditorium. Then one man stood up, approached the platform and mounted the lectern. After surveying the crowd, he shouted the ancient greeting of the Russian Orthodox Church: "CHRIST IS RISEN!" The crowd stood up and shouted in a thundering voice: "HE IS RISEN INDEED!" Amazed and dejected, Bukharin left the stage in silence. Finally, he had learned the lesson that faith in Christ’s resurrection was deeply rooted in his Russian Orthodox communist followers!
4) “We believe you.” There is a beautiful story told recently about a woman named Rosemary who works in the Alzheimer’s Unit of a nursing home. Rosemary and a colleague named Arlene brought the residents of the home together one Good Friday afternoon to view Franco Zeffirelli’s acclaimed production Jesus of Nazareth. They wondered whether these elderly Alzheimer’s patients would even know what was going on, but they thought it might be worth the effort. When they finally succeeded in getting everyone into position, they started the video. Rosemary was pleasantly surprised at the quiet attention being paid to the screen. At last came the scene where Mary Magdalene comes upon the empty tomb and sees Jesus’ body not there. An unknown man, in reality the risen Christ, asks Mary why she is looking for the living among the dead. Mary runs as fast as she can back to the disciples and tells Peter and the rest with breathless excitement, “He’s alive! I saw Him, I tell you! He’s alive.” The doubt in their eyes causes Mary to pull back. “You don’t believe me . . . You don’t believe me!” From somewhere in the crowd of Alzheimer’s patients came the clear, resolute voice of Esther, one of the patients. “WE BELIEVE YOU,” she said, “WE BELIEVE YOU!” [Rosemary Kadrmas in Jeff Cavins, et.al, Amazing Grace for the Catholic Heart (West Chester, PA: Ascension Press, LLC, 2003), pp. 211-212.]
5) The killers asked her if there was anyone [in the classroom] who had faith in Christ. A day after the terrible tragedy at Columbine High, CNN journalist Larry King did a live interview with a teenage girl named Mickie Cain, a student who had witnessed the massacre. Mickie was having a difficult time maintaining her composure and was able to blurt out only a few words before lapsing into uncontrollable sobs. Larry King was patient and gave her plenty of time to regain her composure. Mickie recounted the chilling story: “Let me tell you about my friend Cassie,” she said. “[Cassie] was amazing . . . She completely stood up for God when the killers asked her if there was anyone [in the classroom] who had faith in Christ. She spoke up [and said she did] and they shot her for it.” [Franklin Graham, The Name (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2002), pp. 14-15]. Such a testimony as Cassie made that day makes our witness look pretty pathetic, doesn’t it? The critical question is, would you make such a sacrifice for something that you knew was patently untrue? Of course not. And neither would those early disciples of Christ. They had met Christ risen from the grave, and they would not testify otherwise, even while being tortured. The witnesses are so credible, the change in their lives so dramatic, that their testimony cannot be disregarded.

6) Cape of Good Hope: You may remember a geography lesson from elementary school in which you learned that the southernmost point of Africa is a point which for centuries has experienced tremendous storms. For many years no one knew what lay beyond that cape, for no ship attempting to round that point had ever returned to tell the tale. Among the ancients it was known as the "Cape of Storms," and for good reason. But then a Portuguese explorer in the sixteenth century, Vasco De Gama, successfully sailed around that very point and found beyond the wild raging storms, a great calm sea, and beyond that, the shores of India. The name of that cape was changed from the Cape of Storms to the Cape of Good Hope. Until Jesus Christ rose from the dead, death had been the 'cape of storms' on which all hopes of life beyond had been wrecked. No one knew what lay beyond that point until, on Easter morning, Jesus arose. The ancient visions of Isaiah became the victory of Jesus over our last great enemy. Like those sixteenth century explorers, we can see beyond human death to the hope of heaven and eternal life with the Father. More than that, we dare to believe that we shall experience in our own human lives exactly what the Son of God experienced in His, for the risen Christ says to us, "Because I live, you shall live also." This is the heart of our faith.
7) “I choose death....by old age." Long ago there was an exceedingly clever court jester at the court of the Caliph of Baghdad. For years he'd never failed to amuse the court whenever they called him. But one day, in a split second of carelessness, he offended the caliph who ordered him put to death. "However," said the caliph, "in consideration of your many years of fine and faithful service, I'll let you choose how you wish to die." "Oh mighty Caliph," replied the jester. "I thank you for your great kindness. I choose death....by old age." Wouldn't we all! But that just delays the big question: Then what? What comes after you finally die at the age of 110 on the tennis court? Only Jesus has the answer. He says, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, even though he die, will live with me forever." (Msgr. D. Clarke)
8) He always whistled: Have you heard the story of the man whose hobby was growing roses? When he worked in his rose garden, he always whistled. It seemed to everyone that he was whistling much louder than was needed for his own enjoyment. One day a neighbor asked him why it was that he always whistled so loudly. The man then took the neighbor into his home to meet his wife. The woman was not only an invalid, but was completely blind as well. The man, you see, was whistling, not for his benefit, but rather for the benefit of his wife. He wanted his blind wife to know that he was nearby, and that she was not alone. That story is a wonderful illustration of the significance of Easter Day. The affirmation, "Christ is risen!" suggests that God is near, and the experiencing of his presence strengthens us in our weakness. (Living the Easter Faith, Donald William Dotterer)..
9) And so the Iron Lady wept. Several years ago, when Margaret Thatcher was prime minister of Britain, a terrorist's bomb exploded in the conference room where many of the government meetings were held. Margaret Thatcher survived this blast, but some of her cabinet members were killed. The following Sunday, Margaret Thatcher went to church as she always did. But that particular Sunday seemed different. As Margaret Thatcher sang the hymns, listened to the message, saw the candles upon the altar and the sunshine streaming through the stained-glass windows, she began to weep. She wept because everything around her had been changed by the loss of her friends. The familiar had now become strange. The goodness and beauty of the world around her seemed almost too much to bear. She knew she would not only miss her friends, but also the wonderful times they had had together. And so the Iron Lady wept. If we can relate to Maggie Thatcher's grief, maybe we can relate to the grief of Jesus' disciples and friends on that first Easter morning.
10) “I want to see your resurrection!” Father Basil Pennington, a Catholic monk, tells of an encounter he once had with a teacher of Zen. Pennington was at a retreat. As part of the retreat, each person met privately with this Zen teacher. Pennington says that at his meeting the Zen teacher sat there before him smiling from ear to ear and rocking gleefully back and forth. Finally the teacher said: “I like Christianity. But I would not like Christianity without the resurrection. I want to see your resurrection!” Pennington notes that, “With his directness, the teacher was saying what everyone else implicitly says to Christians: You are a Christian. You are risen with Christ. Show me (what this means for you in your life) and I will believe.” (http://www.stjohnslaverne.org/SermonReadingArchive/OmernickEasterSundaySermon20 06.rtf.) Marilyn Omernick. That is how people know if the resurrection is true or not. Does it affect how we live?
11) “Do you mean like Elvis?” A father was explaining to his five-year-old son how Jesus died and then, on the third day, rose from the dead. “That’s what we believe,” the father said. “That’s how we know Jesus is the Son of God, because He came back from the dead just as He said He would.” “Do you mean like Elvis?” the boy replied. Well, no. Not exactly like Elvis. This is a new world. People nowadays believe just about everything, except that which is most true. We have to work a little bit harder in this new world to help people
12) From the empty tomb: It was a hot summer afternoon. The famous Hollywood film director Cecil B. DeMille was drifting in a canoe on a lake in Maine, reading a book. He looked away from the book momentarily, down to the lake. There a bunch of water beetles were at play. Suddenly one of the beetles began to crawl up the side of the canoe. When it got halfway up, it attached the talons of its legs to the wooden side of the canoe and died. DeMille watched for a minute; then he turned back to his book. About three hours later, DeMille looked down at the dead beetle again. What he saw amazed him. The Beetle had dried up, and its back was starting to crack open. As he watched, something began to emerge from the opening: first a moist head, then wings. It was a beautiful dragonfly. DeMille sat there in awe. Then the dragonfly began to move its wings. It hovered gracefully over the water where the other beetles were at play. But they didn’t recognize the dragonfly. They didn’t realize that it was the same beetle they had played with three hours earlier. DeMille took his finger and nudged the dried-out shell of the beetle. It was like an empty tomb. Mark Link in ‘Sunday Homilies’

13) Easter: surprising or amazing? There is an old story about Noah Webster, who wrote the famous dictionary that bears his name. As you can imagine, he was a stickler for the precise use of language. He was also something of a womanizer. One day he was in the pantry kissing the maid when Mrs. Webster walked in on them. Mrs. Webster said, "Why, Noah, I'm surprised." Noah said, "No, my dear. We're surprised. You're amazed." (Mark Trotter, "Do You Amaze Anybody?", May 22, 1988). I think the story is apocryphal. I'm sure Mr. Webster was a stickler for the right word, but when you look in his own Webster's Dictionary he says surprise is a synonym for amaze. Amaze is the stronger word. Easter is both surprising and amazing. Here is God's ultimate act of love and power. It is an act of love that has gone to its limit in Jesus' gift of Himself on the cross. It is an act of power that burst the tomb, and announces to the world that love is stronger than hate. Good prevails over evil, and life is triumphant over death.
14)“Suppose he isn't in there!" Two famous Broadway producers were pallbearers at the funeral of the great escape artist, Harry Houdini. As they lifted the beautiful and heavy casket to their shoulders, one of them turned and whispered to the other, "Suppose he isn't in there!" He was, of course. Only one man in human history has conquered the grave, and it is He whom we call, Lord. "Christ has been raised from the dead," writes St. Paul, "The first fruits of those who have fallen asleep." (I Corinthians 15: 20) What deliriously good news that is! No wonder our church is full on Easter Sunday. That is news that turns the world upside down. Jesus Christ is risen!

SYNOPSIS EASTER SUNDAY (APRIL 8, 2012) JOHN 20: 1-9

Introduction

Significance of Easter: Easter is the greatest and the most important feast in the Church for three reasons.

1) The resurrection of Christ is the basis of our Christian faith. It is the greatest of the miracles, proving that Jesus is God. That is why St. Paul writes: “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain; and your faith is in vain” (I Cor 15: 14). “Jesus is Lord, he is risen” (Rom 10: 9), was the central theme of the kerygma (or 'preaching'), of the apostles because Jesus prophesied it as a sign of his divinity: “Tear down this temple and in three days I will build it again” (Jn 2: 19). The founder of no other religion has an empty tomb as Jesus has.

2) Easter is the guarantee of our own resurrection. Jesus assured Martha at the tomb of Lazarus: “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me will live even though he dies” (Jn 11: 25-26). 3) Easter is a feast which gives us hope and encouragement in this world of pain, sorrows and tears. It reminds us that life is worth living. It is our belief in the real presence of the risen Jesus that gives meaning to our personal as well as our communal prayer, strength to fight against temptations and freedom from unnecessary worries and fears.

Scripture Lessons

Life Messages

1) Let us live the lives of resurrection people: Easter gives us the joyful message that we are a “resurrection people.” This means that we are not supposed to lie buried in the tomb of our sins, evil habits, dangerous addictions, despair, discouragement or doubts. Instead, we are expected to live a joyful and peaceful life, constantly experiencing the real presence of the resurrected Lord in all the events of our lives and amid the boredom, suffering, pain and tensions of our day-to-day life. 
2) We need to live new, disciplined lives in the Risen Jesus. Our awareness of the all-pervading presence of the risen Lord in and around us, and the strong conviction of our own resurrection, help us to control our thoughts, desires, words and behavior. This salutary thought inspires us to honor our bodies, keeping them holy, pure and free from evil habits and addictions. Our conviction about the presence of the risen Lord in our neighbors and in all those with whom we come into contact should encourage us to respect them, and to render them loving, humble and selfless service.
3) We need to become transparent Christians: We are called to be transparent Christians, showing others through our lives the love, mercy, compassion and spirit of self-sacrificing service of the risen Jesus living in our hearts. 
4) We need to live lives of love in the power of Jesus’ resurrection: Let us recall that each time we try to practice Christian charity, mercy and forgiveness and each time we fight against temptations we share in the resurrection of Jesus. L/12
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Sermons for Easter

John 20:1-9 - "Why I Believe in The Resurrection"

Mark 16:1-8 - "Be Hatched or Go Bad" by Leonard Sweet

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You probably do not remember the name Nikolai Ivanovich Bukharin. During his day he was as powerful a man as there was on earth. A Russian Communist leader he took part in the Bolshevik Revolution 1917, was editor of the Soviet newspaper Pravda (which by the way means truth), and was a full member of the Politburo. His works on economics and political science are still read today. There is a story told about a journey he took from Moscow to Kiev in 1930 to address a huge assembly on the subject of atheism. Addressing the crowd he aimed his heavy artillery at Christianity hurling insult, argument, and proof against it.

An hour later he was finished. He looked out at what seemed to be the smoldering ashes of men's faith. "Are there any questions?" Bukharin demanded. Deafening silence filled the auditorium but then one man approached the platform and mounted the lectern standing near the communist leader. He surveyed the crowd first to the left then to the right. Finally he shouted the ancient greeting known well in the Russian Orthodox Church: "CHRIST IS RISEN!" En masse the crowd arose as one man and the response came crashing like the sound of thunder: "HE IS RISEN INDEED!"

I say to you this morning: CHRIST IS RISEN! (congregational response should be: HE IS RISEN INDEED!). I am convinced! I have faith that Christ was dead and he was buried. That I believe. But, this too I accept as true: He rose from the dead and will come again in glory.

This is Easter. And to stand here on this day in this pulpit and proclaim this word. . . I cannot begin to tell you how this defines all that I am.

But, you will say to me, how do you know that the resurrection is real? How do you know that it is really valid?

 1. Because someone told me about the Resurrection

2. Because the Resurrection as stood the test of time

3. Because I have experienced the Resurrection

 The rest of this sermon can be obtained by joining http://www.sermons.com/signup

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 Christ is Risen!

 [The people respond:] He is risen indeed!

Happy Easter, everyone!

"Because I live," Jesus said in John 14:19, "you also will live."

 I wonder: how many of you are sitting out there, festooned in your Easter Sunday best, but your fingers are slightly stained? How many of you colored Easter eggs this weekend? I do think I can see some pinks, blues, greens, and purples shining on your fingers from all the Easter eggs you colored, hid, found, cracked, or consumed.

 Take comfort in this: you are not alone. Just over one billion real eggs are dipped and dyed every Easter in America. The Dudley egg dye company sells over 10 million egg dying kits every year. No wonder we are such a colorful bunch!

Yet eggs sometimes get a bad rap at Easter. Eggs are such a widely used symbolic food. Everyone from dancing druids and pagan fertility gods to - worst of all - bored kids on Halloween, have all claimed eggs as some sort of special specimen for themselves.

 The Christian use of eggs at Easter probably has roots in a host of different cultures and traditions. But there are two connections that make the "Easter egg" a powerful symbol for this miraculous morning. Jesus' final journey to Jerusalem brought him there to celebrate Pesach, Passover, in that holy city. The Last Supper was a Passover Seder. One of the ritual foods arranged on everyone's Passover plate was a hard-boiled egg, the "beitzah."

This egg symbolized the "chagigah," a ritual sacrifice made in the Temple. After the Temple was destroyed this egg also became a "mourner's" reminder. The Temple sacrifice could no longer be made, because the Temple no longer existed. In Orthodox Judaism hard boiled eggs are still offered to mourners as their first food after a funeral.

 For Christians on Easter Sunday - as Mark and all the gospels tell us - funeral rites were transformed. The women who came to the tomb early Sunday morning were focused on mourning...

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The Easter Choice

 When faced with new realities, you have at least three options for how to respond (and it is nearly certain that you will opt for one of these three possibilities). First, you can stay bewildered. You can let this event knock you flat on your back and then stay there. Second, you can engage in world-class denial. You can look at the facts and ignore them. Or third, you can, slowly perhaps, assimilate this new information. You may get knocked as flat on your back as the next person by this new realization, but eventually you pick yourself up. You embrace this new truth and then go through the long, sometimes painful, process of re-assessing life in the light of this new evidence.

 This is the Easter choice. When faced with the incredible proclamation that Jesus rose again from the dead, you can be agnostic and cynical by saying that you don't know what to make of this but then neither are you going to try. Who cares anyway? Or you can deny it. The whole thing is fiction, fantasy, a pious wish but something that never really happened. Or you can move past the shock toward acceptance. But let me caution you: if you are going to accept the truth of the bodily resurrection, you need to let it change you totally.

 That's the Easter choice. The problem for most of us is that we are not surprised enough by Easter to realize we face a choice. Easter is a part of the background scenery of our lives. We've never been afraid of Easter, never been bewildered by it. Believing that Jesus rose again from the dead becomes a little like believing the earth is round and that it orbits the sun. Once upon a time people didn't know that. They thought the earth was flat and that the sun orbited the earth. It caused quite a stir when this view had to be revised. But that was a long time ago and now we accept that picture of our solar system without much thought. Sure the world is round and we orbit the sun, but what does that have to do with anything? It doesn't change what I have to do at work tomorrow, does it?

 Is that what Easter becomes for us? We believe it happened but then, we've always believed that. Even Easter has somehow become part of the "routines" of this world. So why would it have much of an effect on what we do tomorrow? Easter is no longer shocking for us--it surely does not make us re-evaluate everything else we think we know. And anyway, we're not sure we want to have everything in our lives changed.

 Of course, if we can believe in the resurrection at all, it is a gift of faith granted to us by the prior gift of grace. But if we have received that grace and accept the truth that gets proclaimed from every Christian pulpit in the world each Easter Sunday morning, then we have to know that this truth changes everything. This is not some fact we can ponder just once every twelve months. This changes everything.... and on EVERY day.

 Scott Hoezee, Comments and Observations

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 What You Love Will Not Be Spared

In recent weeks, I have been reading a powerful book of poetry by Louise Glück, entitled Averno. The title Averno takes its name from a crater lake in southern Italy that during the time of ancient Rome was thought to be the entrance to the underworld. In one of Glück's most haunting poems in this collection, called October, she contemplates the season of autumn and the gradual, day-by-day dimming of light that goes along with that time of the year. Her poem is about cold winds and changing leaves, but is also, of course, about us, for we cannot escape the eventual fading of the light. In stark terms, she writes, "You will not be spared, nor will what you love be spared." When I first read those words, I had a physical reaction to them. A sharp pain squeezed my forehead, and I began to weep. I wept because these words are undeniably true, and I wept because I hate their truth. Sure, there are times when I grapple with the fact of my own mortality, but I don't ever want to be told that the people who I love will not be spared. Don't tell me that they won't survive this life--not one of them. I imagine that the sight of the empty tomb hit the three visiting women like that...what you love will not be spared.

Easter begins with fear. At least that's the way Mark tells it. It's not that Easter begins with wild panic--no, not that. Easter begins with the kind of fear that feels a lot like heart-break. It begins with the twist in your stomach that comes when the phone rings and you hear the voice of your sister. "Are you sitting down?" she asks--that kind of fear.

Early in the morning, three women approach the tomb bearing precious herbs and oils to wash the body of their Lord. They have come to comb out Jesus' hair, to sponge away the dried blood, to massage precious myrrh into his skin. They hope to engage in the ritual act (the act of care) that is traditionally done before sealing a body in the tomb. They have come to anoint the crucified one. Yet, even as they discuss how they will gain access to the cave (after all, it is closed by a massive boulder), they find that the stone has been rolled away. The tomb is empty--vacant, except for some young guy who is definitely not Jesus; and suddenly, they are afraid. They fear that their last chance to pour a little compassion on the broken body of Jesus has escaped. They fear that they are witnessing the final insult of this whole horrible affair. First, Jesus' life is stolen, and now, even his body has been taken. And, perhaps, they also fear... no, they simply must fear that death has won. Death, the ever-ravenous monster, has finally, and utterly, swallowed up their beloved friend.

Scott Black Johnston, Deadly Things

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 Ongoing Easter

 Ongoing Easter gets us finally home at last, for life is not an endless circle but life is moving to an end point. The crowning achievement of the risen Lord is to bring us finally home together with the whole family of God in that transition from time into eternity. It is a great privilege to witness that transition in the lives of people and I think of one this Easter day. Her name was Augusta. She lived 100 years, raised in the prairies of South Dakota, faced every manner of hardship and heartache, but was buoyant and lived on the resurrection side of the cross, raised a family. In the last hour of her life standing with her daughters around her in the hospital room, I heard her bless her daughters. Being a mother to the very end and with a twinkle in her eye, looked at the faces of her daughters around her and pointed to them each one and said, "Too much lipstick," and then closed her eyes in peaceful death.

That is the goal toward which the ongoing Easter draws us and transforms our dark, gloomy mornings into a shining doxology. We say with all the faithful of all of the ages, blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. By His great mercy, we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to an inheritance that is imperishable, unfailing and undefiled, kept in heaven for you. Though you must go through various trials, all this is so that your faith may redound to the praise, glory and honor of Jesus Christ. Without having seen Him, we love Him, and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy. The outcome of your faith is the salvation of your souls.

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The Legend of the Touchstone

 Do you remember the Legend of the Touchstone? It's a great story to recall on Easter Sunday morning. According to that ancient legend, if you could find the touchstone on the coast of the Black Sea and hold it in your hand, everything you touched would turn to gold. You could recognize the touchstone by its warmth. The other stones would feel cold, but when you picked up the touchstone, it would turn warm in your hand.

Once a man sold everything he had and went to the coast of the Black Sea in search of the touchstone. He began immediately to walk along the shoreline picking up one stone after another in his diligent and intentional search for the touchstone. He was consumed with this dream. He wanted desperately to find this miraculous stone. However, after several days had passed, he suddenly realized that he was picking up the same stones again and again. So he devised a plan... pick up a stone; if it's cold, throw it into the sea. This he did for weeks and weeks.

Then one morning he went out to continue his search for the touchstone. He picked up a stone; it was cold... he threw it into the sea. He picked up another stone - cold! He threw it into the sea. He picked up another stone... it turned warm in his hand, and before he realized what he was doing... he threw it into the sea!

That's a good parable for Easter, isn't it? Because that can so easily happen to us. We can come upon a miraculous moment like Easter... we can feel it turn warm in our hands... but then (so dulled by the routine) before we realize what we are doing... we throw it away. Absentmindedly, mechanically, nonchalantly... we toss it aside and miss the miracle of Easter.

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Humor: The Gospel Has Been Proclaimed

 A first year student in a Catholic seminary was told by the dean that he should plan to preach the sermon in chapel the following day. He had never preached a sermon before, he was nervous and afraid, and he stayed up all night, but in the morning, he didn't have a sermon. He stood in the pulpit, looked out at his classmates and said "Do you know what I am going to say?" All of them shook their heads "no" and he said "Neither do I. The service has ended. Go in peace."

The dean was not happy. "I'll give you another chance tomorrow, and you had better have a sermon." Again he stayed up all night; and again he couldn't come up with a sermon. Next morning, he stood in the pulpit and asked "Do you know what I am going to say?" The students all nodded their heads "yes." "Then there is no reason to tell you" he said. "The service has ended. Go in peace."

Now the dean was angry. "I'll give you one more chance; if you don't have a sermon tomorrow, you will be asked to leave the seminary." Again, no sermon came. He stood in the pulpit the next day and asked "Do you know what I am going to say?" Half of the students nodded "yes" and the other half shook their heads "no." The student preacher then announced "Those who know, tell those who don't know. The service has ended. Go in peace."

The seminary dean walked over to the student, put his arm over the student's shoulders, and said "Those who know, tell those who don't know. Today, the gospel has been proclaimed."

Steven Molin
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Old Clothes

When I was a girl, I spent a lot of time in the woods, which were full of treasures for me. At night I lined them up on my bed: fat flakes of mica, buckeyes bigger than shooter marbles, blue jay feathers, bird bones and -- if I was lucky -- a cicada shell, one of those dry brown bug bodies you can find on tree trunks when the 17-year locusts come out of the ground. I liked them for at least two reasons.

First, because they were horrible looking, with their huge empty eye sockets and their six sharp little claws. By hanging them on my sweater or -- better yet -- in my hair, I could usually get the prettier, more popular girls at school to run screaming away from me, which somehow evened the score.

I also liked them because they were evidence that a miracle had occurred. They looked dead, but they weren't. They were just shells. Every one of them had a neat slit down its back, where the living creature inside of it had escaped, pulling new legs, new eyes, new wings out of that dry brown body and taking flight. At night I could hear them singing their high song in the trees. If you had asked them, I'll bet none of them could have told you where they left their old clothes.

That is all the disciples saw when they got to the tomb on that first morning --two piles of old clothes.

Barbara Brown Taylor, "Escape From the Tomb," article in The Christian Century, April 1, 1998, page 339.
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 When Is Easter This Year?

In an article in The Christian Century, history professor Steve Ware asks the question, "When Is Easter this year?"

For those of you who didn't learn this in confirmation class, the date of Easter corresponds to the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. Seriously.

In his article, Ware explains how this came to be. Here's the short version of the story: In 325 A.D., Constantine, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, convened the Council of Nicea. Among the business before the council was to establish a uniform date for Easter. Out of the discussion and debate came the "Easter Rule," setting Easter, as I said, on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. As is often the case with church councils, the decision was not unanimous. The Eastern bishops wanted to schedule Easter in conjunction with the Jewish Festival of Passover since, after all, Jesus went to Jerusalem, in the first place, to celebrate Passover. The Western bishops preferred a date corresponding with the beginning of spring, because that was the time already established for a lot of pagan celebrations, and they figured to capitalize on the momentum. This is why, to this day, we have such things as the Easter Bunny and colored eggs associated with Easter. Well, on this, and other issues, the church eventually split. To this day, we, who are descendents of the Western line of Christendom, use a different calendar than the Eastern Orthodox churches. Sometimes our celebration of Easter falls on the same day, and sometimes it varies by as much as five weeks!