Sermon: Sunrise Message

08 April 2007

Rev. Jennifer Whipple
Sunrise Message - Ecumenical Service
Easter Sunday
April 8, 2007

“But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared.  They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body.  While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them.  The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here, but has risen.  Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’  Then they remembered his words and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest.  Now it was Mary Magdelene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles.  But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.  But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.”

                                                                        -Luke 24:1-12

Will you pray with me?
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, our Strength and our Redeemer.  Amen.

Good morning to you all on this Easter Sunday!  It is wonderful to have you all here with us to celebrate the amazing miracle of this day, the resurrection of Jesus Christ who brought Salvation for us all!

As a pastor I feel like we spend much of the year preparing for this day.  We spend months upon months planning what Lent and Holy Week will look like, preaching about Salvation, and trying to figure out what it is that we will say on this most blessed of days.  So I found it quite amusing that all of my major insight for this sunrise message came to me just yesterday! 

You see, each year for as long as I can remember my family has had “DeBisschop Family Egg Decorating Day.”  We all get together and decorate the Easter eggs that later will turn into breakfast or lunch, into egg salad or salad toppings.  Each year we get the newest egg decorating kit and try to one-up ourselves from the year before.  (Yesterday’s new adventure was tie-dye eggs.)  This family tradition took on all new meaning and significance when my now six-year-old nephew, James, was born.  And this year it was more significant yet again being the first year that the DeBisschop triplets have been a part of the festivities.  I now am blessed with four nephews, three of whom were born only a month ago.  So the new life we focus on as Christians at Easter each year quite literally means new life in our family on this Easter Sunday. 

So as we were waiting to decorate eggs yesterday, James asked a pretty insightful question for a 6-year-old.  He said to my mom, “So Jesus is born at Christmas.  He died on the cross yesterday, and he is going to rise from the dead tomorrow.  But, Grandma…what happens the rest of the year?” 

When I thought about my answer to James’s question I came up with a few things.  I thought about the emotion with which James asked the question.  Happy understanding at what it means to see a new baby born, sadness at Jesus’ death on the cross, excitement at the resurrection, and perhaps a bit of confusion at the fact that even we tend only to celebrate this good news, the news of New Life, during Advent and Easter. 

New life comes with so many mixed emotions.  We are thankful for the blessings.  We are happy when we see new people become part of our family or when we think about Jesus’ victory over death in his rising from the tomb.  When we listen to the Easter account in the gospel of Luke today we hear that the women were perplexed, then terrified, and then comforted by their remembrance of Jesus’ words of hope and promise.  When they told the disciples this news, however, the disciples were unbelieving.  And when he had proof that what the women had said was true, Peter was amazed!  We too are perplexed at the amazing miracle of Jesus’ resurrection.  We are terrified at times of what it means to us…of our forgiveness and the call to grow as Christians, to be better more faithful people in our relationships and in our world.  We too are disbelieving at first perhaps, because it truly does take a miracle the likes of which we do not see often in this day in age.  And we are amazed at the gift, the blessing that Jesus afforded us by giving his life for us, by following God’s plan despite his own fear and trembling.  It is all those emotions, all the questions, all the celebration that we have the chance to gather together and experience together today!

New life is surely something that excites us.  We spend time decorating eggs and preparing our family celebrations for Easter.  We take special measures to prepare ourselves for the coming of new members of our family.  We take special measures to be there for new parents, to provide fun gifts—little clothes, diapers with cartoon characters, bibs that have fun sayings on them.  But what happens after that first push?  “What happens the rest of the year?” James asked. 

The truth is that the responsibility does not end there.  We do not get to celebrate new life for only a day or a week.  We must celebrate new life through the ups and downs for the rest of our lives.  And it is the same way with our faith in the risen Christ. 

We have a special opportunity to celebrate with one another today in this beautiful setting.  We gather as brothers and sisters in Christ from all different congregations and denominations celebrating our common bond in the sacrifice and miracle of Jesus Christ.  And yet our responsibility to our faith does not end when we are done with church and family celebrations today.  Our responsibility continues on. 

Jesus did not instruct his disciples in the ways of faith, in the ways of love and justice, so that they would celebrate the miracle of his new life just for a day, but rather that they would shout out throughout the world about the teachings and love of Christ.  That they would create communities of believers who would live by a different code: a code of faith, of peace, of love, of justice, of care for one another both within the community and beyond their walls.  That they would reach out to those they were closest to, but also to those whom they knew in their hearts needed to know the love of Christ whether they wanted to believe or not.  It is that responsibility that we continue to carry with us today as we leave this mountain top experience and go out into the rest of the year. 

Just as the clothing and feeding and teaching continue throughout the lives of the newest members of our families, so too the testimony, the proclamation of our faith, the sharing of the love and care we learn from the lessons and examples of Jesus Christ must be carried on in dealing with the rest of our family, our family of God’s creation. 

So that is truly what we celebrate today.  We celebrate that Christ has risen.  And in his rising he has called us to a renewal of faith and responsibility.  Christ has called us to share that faith and spread his love to all those whom we encounter.  We celebrate today that Christ knows us so well in our hearts that he would forgive us, see our potential, and allow us to carry on his lessons and his stories throughout the generations.  Today we celebrate the amazing new life and continual calling we have received through his resurrection.  Christ is risen!   Christ is risen indeed!   Alleluia!  Amen.


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