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Sermon; Easter Day 2018

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

The Lord is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!

This is the day we celebrate Christ's resurrection. This is the day we celebrate his crossing over from death to life. This is the Passover of Christ where we celebrate and share in his victory over death.

Now, technically, every Sunday is a celebration of that event. Every Sunday we proclaim in some fashion, “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.” Every Sunday is a feast day – which is why Sundays are not counted as part of the days of Lent. But only this Sunday, Easter Day, do we make such a big deal out of it.

So again, welcome to all of you who have come to join us in this celebration of life over death. Welcome to visitors from near and far who have come to join the party. Welcome to young and old alike as we celebrate the ultimate victory of Christ. Welcome to the traveler and the settled as we join in the feast.

Today didn't start out this way of course. That first Easter followed on the heels of a betrayal, arrest, execution, and burial. It followed a day of uncertainty and loneliness.

The actual first Easter was one of fear, terror, unbelief, sadness, and confusion. Matthew tells us that the women left the tomb with fear and joy, and that when the disciples saw Christ, some worshiped while dome doubted. Luke records that the women were perplexed and that the disciples thought their story to be an idle tale. John tells us that Mary was incredibly distraught and confused, while John and Peter did not understand. And Mark tells us that the women were so terrified that they initially said nothing to anyone.

Of course, nobody knows when this event actually occurred. People have been trying to pin down a date for ages. You would think that for such an important event the disciples would certainly have included it in what they told their eventual followers. And as far as Luke goes, God love him . . . but for someone who begins his gospel by saying that he wanted to “set down an orderly account of the events,” he certainly missed the boat on this one. Add to all of this the differences between Jewish, Julian, and Gregorian calendars, and the actual date of the Resurrection is a mystery.

I want to believe that today is the day of Resurrection. Obviously. Let me rephrase that: I want to believe that today, this very date, April 1st of whatever year it was, was the Day of Resurrection. Right now, at this moment, I want that to be the case more than anything.

You are all probably wondering why that is. I'm glad you asked.

We have just come through Holy Week – the most holy and stressful time of the entire year. On Maundy Thursday we shared a meal, betrayed Jesus, and sentenced him to death. On Good Friday that sentence was carried out and we had him executed. On Saturday all creation held its breath. And today . . . today we go to the tomb.

These events are fresh in our minds. Today we go to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus and pay our final respects. But he is not there. The body is gone.

We have no idea what happened. All we know is that Jesus is dead and buried, and that dead men don't move. Dead men don't up and disappear.

But then there's Jesus, popping out from behind some bush or tree or . . . stone: “HA!” he says. “April Fool! I'm here and I'm alive!”

And we, like the women, stare in stunned silence.

I can see Jesus now, laughing hysterically. “You should see the look on your face!” he roars with laughter.

Best. Joke. Ever.

And so we proclaim, “Christ has died. April Fool!”

Well, not really.

What really did happen was that four different accounts tell a story with four different points of view and four different points of emphasis. But it's not their differences that we focus on – it's their telling of a story that is capital T True.

That story tells us that Christ died, executed by worldly powers. That story tells us that women were the first to experience the resurrected Christ and that those women were the first apostles. That story tells us that Christ is alive. From these varying accounts comes this truthful acclamation: Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. And that acclamation became the source of a weekly remembrance and a glorious and grand annual celebration we call Easter.

On this day, the women go to the tomb to anoint the dead body of Jesus and to finish the burial ceremony. On this day the women go to the tomb expecting to see what we would all expect to see when visiting a grave or a morgue. But on this day the tomb is empty. Jesus is not here. Christ is alive. April Fool.

But that April Fool joke to beat all April Fools jokes is not on us. He who got fooled was death. Worldly powers and death thought they had won. When Jesus died on that cross, death and the powers of the world thought it was finished. But they were wrong. It isn't finished, it is just beginning.

And what is beginning is the reign of life over death. What is beginning is an end to fear. We no longer fear death. He has bestowed on us the gift of eternal life. He is calling us to enter into the joy of his kingdom. He is calling us to the banquet feast. So on this day when death has been fooled and Christ reigns victorious, we make our proclamation

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

The Lord is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!

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