6:30am Easter Sunrise: "The Whole Story"
Topic: The Resurrection Scripture: John 20:1–20:18
Christ is Risen!! Christ is Risen indeed!!
Please join me as we repeat these joyful words together:
Christ is Risen!! Christ is Risen indeed!!
Welcome again to our Sunrise Service. Your being here at this hour says something special!
I'm sure many of you who have attended past Sunrise Services here are disappointed that Jerry Parsons, who has led this service for more than 10 years, is not able to be here today. I am disappointed too! Many of you are aware that Jerry slipped and fell about 12 days ago, after a workout, and broke his hip, which required surgery; otherwise, he would have been here leading us this morning. Our prayers go out to Jerry and his family as he rehabilitates.
You've noticed the title of this message is “The Whole Story”, because to fully appreciate Easter and what it means, we need to know the whole story of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. We also need to live out the Easter message daily, so it becomes the focus of our whole story.
First, let's consider what comes to mind when we think about Easter.
- Well, you may have heard about the Sunday School teacher who asked the children in her class what Easter meant to them. Tommy confidently answered, “It's when Jesus arose and came out of the cave”. His teacher quickly jumped in and said “Very good Tommy". That is exactly right”, but Tommy hadn't finished his answer yet, and added: “but if he sees his shadow, he has to go back in the cave for six more weeks.
Unfortunately, Tommy didn't quite get the Easter story right, but at his young age, we know he has plenty of time for us to make sure he learns the whole story accurately.
- For many children today, Easter conjures up thoughts of Easter baskets, egg hunts, candy, and a visit to the Easter Bunny. To those of us with a few more years under our belts, we may think of Easter as the day we completed a commitment throughout Lent we made to ourselves or others, or wearing new clothes and looking extra sharp this morning. It can also mean getting family members and friends together, having a special meal, or visiting in person or by phone to let someone know we are thinking of them on this Easter day.
- I'm not going to criticize those Easter activities and traditions at all, because those I mentioned are all really good ones, and they certainly add to our celebration of Christ coming alive again. We just need to make sure those things, while supportive, are secondary.
Most importantly, we must remember Easter is really about Christ's victory over death and sin through his resurrection, which tells us that eternal life awaits all who believe in him, and that is a message we want to live each and every day.
This morning Gloria read the John Chapter 20 account of Mary and others discovering Jesus had risen from the dead. The passage describes the stone being found to have been rolled away from the tomb and conveys Mary's great joy upon realizing Jesus was indeed alive. Initially, Mary and many others were worried that the crucifixion might have been the end for Jesus, but... they didn't yet know the whole story (even though Jesus had told his disciples in advance about rising again on the third day). We certainly can understand Mary being upset and confused based on her first observations of the situation and jumping to the conclusion that someone had removed Jesus' lifeless body from the tomb. I know I am like Mary on many occasions, distracted by my first glimpse of what I see or think I see. Unfortunately, my knee-jerk judgments involve pessimistic thoughts that things have gone bad and are out of control. Those perceptions that form in my mind sometimes totally ignore that God is present in those moments too. I'm guessing that happens to you as well. Sometimes our thoughts are even more extreme, and we think life is futile, perhaps because of the death of a loved one, or hearing of a relationship that's fallen apart, or learning of tragic events, here and elsewhere, of war, terrorism, and violence.
We may feel there has been so much sorrow and loss in our lives already, that although we showed up here today, we might be expecting life will be more of the same in the future. But again, we must not let that swallow us up, and instead, we must remember the WHOLE story of our Lord and keep it continually front and center in our lives. Mary overcame her distractions and sorrow when she spoke to Jesus and realized her Savior had arisen from the dead and stood with her, and she again was assured that the hope and promise of eternal life are very much alive for all who believe! That assurance applies to us too!
Not only was Mary eventually overcome with joy, but having learned the rest of the story, Mary took action. As we heard in verse 18, she went and announced to the disciples that she had seen the Lord! We too must know that no matter how difficult life can be, our Lord stands with us always, and God wants us to joyfully share that message with others in word and deed.
Rather than dwelling on what we might see as many negatives in this world, we need to take note of and embrace all the wonderful miracles and amazing life transformations that are constantly going on with and around us, and in turn, this will help us to move closer to God. I'm not suggesting we sugar coat our view of the world and ignore the down moments, but rather we let God's light always shine through and within us regardless of what's trying to drag us down.
Ann Lamkey has lovingly educated our children during Lent of the incredible series of changes that occur from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly. (POINT TO BUTTERFLY IN SANCTUARY.) What an astounding conversion! Gloria and I recently walked through some amazing butterfly gardens in Arizona and witnessed these majestic winged creatures. Those gardens also had a viewing area where hundreds of chrysalis were hanging. If someone were not aware that from these seemingly lifeless, dark-colored little tubes, would soon emerge a gorgeous butterfly, they could easily conclude this was just the shriveled up end-stage of some insect. But not so!
Just like a butterfly's metamorphosis, we can be transformed in marvelous ways even despite major obstacles, although we adults often doubt our ability to change, and we give up too easily. Let's keep in mind the incredible life stories of two individuals who lives did change substantially:
- Albert Einstein didn't speak until age 4, and most of his early teachers considered him lazy, yet his work in physics and other areas influenced science in many groundbreaking ways.
- Helen Keller was unable to hear or see before she got to her 2nd birthday, yet she went to graduate from Radcliffe College and become a respected author, lecturer and political activist.
- When it comes to becoming renewed spiritually, with effort, we too can change and become new people who are nearer to our Lord. Although Easter never promises an easy life for us, Easter is a promise that God will never abandon us, and that the power of God that raised Jesus can raise us from our despair and that God will continue to be at work in each of us to be that new person.
Besides the distractions and challenges I've already mentioned that can derail us, I want to highlight one additional pitfall we face: Feeling we're not worthy of God's love and saving grace. There may be times when we feel that way, but nothing in our past, present or future has the power to define us or keep us from God's love. God loves each of us...no matter what.
I believe the Christian musicians who call themselves Sidewalk Prophets, do a nice job describing how God loves us despite our past failings or inadequacies in their song titled “Prodigal”. Here's an excerpt:
“Wherever you are, whatever you did
It's a page in your book, but it isn't the end.
Your Father will meet you with arms open wide.
This is where your heart belongs.
Come running like a prodigal.
Oh, let your life be made new.
As you come into view
Your Father's not waiting, no, he's running too.
He's running straight to you.”
Friends, the whole story of Easter is that Christ has risen for us, and his resurrection lets us live in the gladness and grace of Easter. Let us accept God's open arms and live our lives in a way that demonstrates that Christ is Risen Indeed!!!!
Let us pray.
Lord, we know we are called to receive the new life that you give, and to share it with the world.
Help us to always remember from beginning to end the story of your Son, who conquered death and sin, and rose again for all of us, and lives on in us.