Easter Sunday – March 31, 2024

Posted on April 2, 2024, Pastor: Pastor Lara Forbes

Sermons are preached within the context of a particular worship service, and are most meaningful when experienced in that way. We encourage you to view or listen to the entire worship service. 

March 31, 2024

Resurrection of Our Lord, Easter Day

Mark 16:1-18
Psalm 118:21-27

Worship Service Video Sermon Video Sermon  Audio

Sermon Text:

Grace to you and peace from our risen Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

All through the news last week were reports about civil unrest in Haiti; incidents of gun violence in the U.S.; Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu canceling a trip to the U.S. because the U.N. finally called for a ceasefire in Gaza; U.S. troops getting ready for a potential armed conflict with China – and those were just some of the headlines.

It seems like we put a great deal of time and energy into outdoing each other when it comes to devising different ways to kill, maim, and destroy people and buildings and even the planet itself. And instead of achieving the peace that we claim we want, we end up creating more pain and fear, and the spiral continues.

When I preach on Christmas Eve, I often talk about how God didn’t wait for the world to be perfect before coming to us as Jesus. That the world was just as violent and chaotic then as it is today. And it was. It just looked different. People lived in fear for many reasons. Political officials were corrupt. And the divisions and the violence were still there.

The world wasn’t perfect on the first Easter, either.

Mark’s gospel tells us that the women, the first witnesses of the resurrection, fled the empty tomb because terror and amazement had seized them. And that they said nothing to anyone because they were afraid.

There was a lot to be afraid of. Jesus’ death was still fresh in their memory. And the Roman government wasn’t known for its kindness and generosity. But at some point, the women found their voice and told the disciples that Jesus had been raised from the dead. And even though the fear and the violence didn’t magically disappear, the whole world had changed.

When Mark wrote his account of Jesus’ life and ministry, he knew that most of the people that were going to read it or hear it were already believers. They didn’t see Jesus in their lifetime or hear him speak, but they didn’t need to be convinced about the truth of his resurrection because they already believed it.

But they were living under the reign of emperor Nero, who was one of the most ruthless persecutors of Christians that ever lived. Peter and Paul were both executed under his reign; and many of the people in Mark’s community were facing the same possibility.

So, they were genuinely wondering whether to stay together and keep practicing their faith, or to disband and walk away from it for their own survival. Mark recognized their dilemma.

He knew they needed to remember that Jesus not only went ahead of them through the trials and sufferings and death, but also that Jesus was right there with them as they continued to follow him in the midst of what they were facing.

To be reminded of all of that assured them that they were right to continue to hold onto their faith and follow him. Even as the world tried to convince them otherwise.

Having that assurance gave them the courage to continue doing what Jesus called them to, so that they didn’t just tell the story about the resurrection but actually live it.

[1]Because Christ’s resurrection is a story of hope that’s lived in the midst of fear, and transformation in the midst of oppression. It’s a story of people living in a new way, without letting fear or hatred take over their lives. It’s a story about the power of God overcoming the things that lead to death in our world with the promise of life.

[2]Yesterday, I listened to the Easter Vigil for Gaza that was hosted by the Churches for Middle East Peace. It’s available on YouTube if you have a chance to listen.

The sermon was given by the Rev. Dr. Munther Isaac, pastor of Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem – a Palestinian Christian community. Christmas Lutheran is the church that had Christ in the Rubble for their nativity scene during Advent last year. The rubble is still in place as a reminder of the ongoing destruction in Gaza. But the manger has been replaced by a cross.

As of today, March 31st, it has been 176 days since Hamas terrorists breached the border with Israel, and the genocide in Gaza began. And it is genocide.

As he spoke, Rev Isaac reminded his people – and us – that Christianity is a faith that hopes. And that hope, to have hope, is not to deny reality. But [that because of the hope we have] we must refuse to let corruption and evil be the last word. Because when we declare that Christ is risen, we declare that the final word belongs to God. That the empty tomb is our hope, and the final word is life.

Knowing that, knowing that God has the final word, and that God’s word is life, helps us find our voice and tell the resurrection story. Not just as it relates to the “big things” in the world like bringing an end to war and genocide, but to the big and also the mundane things in our lives. To the people and places that are familiar to us who need to know of its hope.

The story of Christ’s resurrection isn’t one that’s told by attending church on Easter morning with shouts of praise and singing and then going home. It’s a story that’s told by embodying the hope of its promise in the midst of fear and trusting that God overcomes the things that lead to death with the power of life.

It’s the power that opens our hearts to the places and people that need healing, even when it’s painful. It keeps us engaged when we would rather walk away. It’s the power that moves us forward when life completely falls apart and we have to start over. It’s the power that gives us hope through the people who help us when we ourselves are suffering and need it the most.

The world still isn’t perfect. Christ’s resurrection doesn’t take away the things in this world that terrify or bewilder us to the point that we sometimes just freeze. And those things are real. But they don’t have the final word. Life does. Christ’s resurrection is the story of that life, that hope. It’s our source of hope.

That’s the story we tell when we leave here today. Because it’s the story of the promise that Christ is risen. Alleluia! Amen.

[1] https://apearldownunder.blogspot.com.au/2018/03/ecumenical-easter-sunrise.html

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gd6hw77ms-4