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From Easter worship on April 24, 2011. Includes reading the Easter Gospel with children, a song, and the sermon below.
We are among millions of people around the world who got up this morning, at the beginning of this new week, and have gathered together to celebrate that Jesus has risen. Millions are gathering around the world–many at this very moment–to shout “Alleluia” and “Christ is risen, indeed!” as we listen to the story of two women named Mary arriving at the tomb of Jesus.
It’s hard, though, to really experience it in the same way as the women did that morning. We all came out this morning knowing that Easter was here, which is not how that morning of the first day of the week began for those two women named Mary. They weren’t headed out to a festive occasion. They weren’t headed out to shout “alleluia”; they were going to a grave. They were going to a place they wish they weren’t going to. They were going to mourn, to keep vigil. To try to make sense of what had happened.
They arrive at the tomb–and then–all heaven breaks loose! The earth shakes. An angel of the Lord descends with an appearance like lightning. The stone is rolled away and they’re told “Don’t be afraid, you’re looking for Jesus; He’s not here!” Bet they didn’t see that coming, now did they?
I believe that God wants your Easter experience to be no less remarkable. God wants us to experience the living Christ today. That is the only reason we are here together right now. God wants to meet each of us in our lowest moments, just like those women going to the grave of someone they loved. That’s what Easter is all about.
When we have no strength, when we have nothing left and we can’t go on, God comes down–right where we are–and does something completely unexpected. The story that we think is going to unfold is completely changed. Because God has the final word. And that final word is “resurrection.” God’s final word for us is that Love Wins.
When you find yourself assuming that it’s over. When all is lost. When all is gone. When life is broken and it can never be put back together again. When you swear that it could never be rebuilt–hold on a minute. Because in that moment Easter has, in fact, just begun. Just as you’re arriving at the place you wish you weren’t going to–when there’s nothing left that you can do–God brings resurrection. God still has the final word that love wins. Resurrection announces that God has not given up. God has not given up on you. God has not given up on your life. God has not given up on this world.
Easter is happening right now–today–in 2011. God is once again inviting us into resurrection. God is once again pointing to a new reality–the reality God has made possible. The reality that love wins. Resurrection wants to be real on this Easter Sunday. God wants to speak that final word that love wins today.
People already gathered today, just like we are right now, in Japan. In the face of unthinkable despair, they placed hope in resurrection, because Easter says that the earthquake doesn’t win. Easter says that the Tsunami doesn’t win Easter says that nuclear radiation doesn’t win. Easter says that love wins.
People gathered by the millions across the continent of Africa and placed hope in resurrection because Easter says that AIDS doesn’t win. Easter says that Tuberculosis and Malaria don’t win. Easter says that extreme poverty doesn’t win. Easter says that love wins.
Armenian Christians are gathering today around the world, including right here in Havertown, Pennsylvania, and are remembering that today, April 24, is the anniversary of the mass murder of 1.5 million of their family members in 1915. Not their distant ancestors, but their parents, their aunts and uncles, grandparents and friends. Still, they gather shouting Alleluia–even through their tears. Because Easter says that genocide doesn’t win. Easter promises them that love wins.
To people in Libya, Sudan, Egypt and across the Middle East Easter says that corruption and violence doesn’t win. Easter says that love wins.
Right now–at this very moment–people are proclaiming Alleluia at Easter worship in Haiti. Their Alleluias that are rich with resurrection life. As one of their pastors put it: they will not be defined by rubble–they will not be defined by the earthquake. They are defined by resurrection, because Easter says that disaster doesn’t win, cholera doesn’t win. Easter says that love wins.
People from North Carolina to Oklahoma are proclaiming Alleluia right now because Easter says that tornadoes don’t win. Easter says that love wins.
To those of us trying to keep afloat in a bad economy, Easter says that the recession doesn’t win. Unemployment doesn’t win. Foreclosure doesn’t win. Uncertainty doesn’t win. Love wins.
To those in the halls of our high schools that fear for their safety and are ashamed of who they are, Easter says that it gets better because bullying doesn’t win. Love wins.
To those lying in hospital beds this morning–and to those who sit next to them hour after hour–Easter says that cancer doesn’t win. Alzheimer’s doesn’t win.
Autism doesn’t win. Chronic pain doesn’t win. What wins? Love wins!
Even to those of us who visit the graves of those we love–who would give anything to have them show up again, even for a moment. Easter invites us to proclaim alleluia because God has the final word, and death doesn’t win. What wins? Love wins!
Love wins. Whatever it is for you that seems to be blocking the light. Whatever it is that is like a stone keeping you in a tomb, Easter says that it doesn’t win. Easter says that love wins. Easter announces that God has not given up. God has not given up on you. God has not given up on your life. God has not given up on this world.
Easter tells us that God has not abandoned us. God has not abandoned this world. Something new has begun to put this world back together. Something new has begun to put your life back together. God’s Amazing Grace has entered this world and wants to change everything. God’s Amazing grace wants to set you free from anything–from everything—that gets in the way of love.
Easter wants to set you free today: set you free to live in God’s love for you, and send you to live out God’s love for the world. Because it is God’s love working in your life—It is God working through you, through us, that will bring about love’s victory. Love wins (a lot of ad lib here) when we feed the hungry. Love wins when we clothe the naked. Love wins when we help the poor. Love wins when we look at another person–no matter who they are, what they’ve done or how different they are from us–and see a child of God. Love wins as we do God’s work with our hands!
How you live your life makes a difference. You can be a part of the new reality that God is creating every day, right here in this world–this world that God will never give up on.
Love wins. That is what Easter tells us today.
Love wins. That is the good news of Easter.
Love wins. That is the promise of resurrection.
Love wins. That is why we shout Alleluia!
Love wins….That is the good news of the gospel.