Easter Sunday – April 9, 2023

  “Because of Sunday!”

(Matthew 28:1-10)

Acts 10:34-43:
Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.  You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ–he is Lord of all.  That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.  We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.  He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead.  All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.

Matthew 28:1-10:

After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.  His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.  For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men.  But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified.  He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.  Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.”  So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 
Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him.  Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”      

     For approximately 3o years from the mid 1970s through the mid 2000s, radio personality Paul Harvey hosted a nightly broadcast for ABC Media called “The Rest of the Story.”  In each installment of his series, Harvey would share the deeper, often unknown or long-forgotten, details about a well-known person or historical event.  Each night, Harvey’s signature line, “And now you know…the rest of the story” would signal the end of his broadcast.  These interesting factoids Paul Harvey would share informed his listeners that there was more to a particular story than they either remembered or that was made publicly accessible to them.  And what I remember about these news briefs is that they were most often not only interesting or amusing, but also positive and uplifting.  Listeners could enter into these stories and arrive at a hopeful destination at the end of the journey.  These stories made Paul Harvey both a household name and a media icon of his time.  After all, who couldn’t use a good and informative news story during the course of the usual business that forms their day? 

     Big public news stories are often most remembered for the eyebrow raising dynamic components of the events, but these, as Paul Harvey’s years of “The Rest of the Story” broadcasts revealed, are not necessarily the places where the gems of greatest value can be found.  This is also true of some of the most famous stories of the Bible, and perhaps the greatest example for us is the Easter Story.  It most certainly is a dynamic story that moves us from the mountain top of Jesus’ Palm Sunday of glory into the deep valley of his suffering and death, death upon a cross as a common criminal of his time.  All of this, dear friends, unfolds within the very same week! The triumphant hopes and dreams of a better and brighter future in the here and now for the Israelites with Jesus that had begun the week, turned into the despair of a lost cause, and the loss of their leader to enhance their grief and loss.  Yet, Jesus hadn’t promised the road would be easy, or the path straight.  He openly spoke the truth to his Disciples when he said to them “In the world you will have tribulation.”  Tribulation means trouble, and for sure the events of Jesus’ Passion week were filled with tribulation.   The Jewish leaders, and even the crowds that had only days before sung his praises, had all turned against Jesus.  They falsified charges and convicted Jesus of Blasphemy deserving death.   In dread fear for their own lives and safety, the Disciples deserted him and scattered away in defeat.  All hope was Lost.  Jesus, who had done so much for the sake others, failed to save himself.  That is how it was on Friday, when Jesus’ body was taken down from the cross and laid in a tomb hewn within a bed of rock.  It was another sad and drama-filled story that ended in death, despair, and unrealized dreams for the Jewish people.  That was Friday.

    That first Good Friday was, for sure, a dark and dismal day.  Our District Superintendent, Rev, Angela Lewis, is quick to remind her churches, however, that just as Paul Harvey noted to his listeners on so many occasions, there is much, much more to the Easter Story.  “Brothers and sisters, aren’t you glad that the story doesn’t end with “Friday?” It does not end with Jesus being put in a tomb which seemed like defeat”, she proclaims in her Easter message to us.  Then she continues, “Sunday morning comes bringing the victory over what happened on Friday. Sunday morning comes with victory over sin and death! Sunday morning comes bringing power and authority. Sunday morning comes with hope. Sunday morning comes [with] the relationship of God and humanity restored/reconciled!”  To that I say “Alleluia”!  It is Easter morning, so you can all say Alleluia, which means “Praise the lord,” with me—Alleluia!  Christ is risen indeed, just as he promised us.  We say we are restored, but I believe renewed is even closer to the truth about God’s love for us revealed in Christ Jesus, and we are overjoyed and in awe.  Everything is a good as new, as good as it was in the beginning, when God created us and called us “good”!

     Our Bishop, Rev. Tracy Malone, also shared an Easter message of hope and praise this week.  She reminded us of three simple truths and critical takeaways we have from the Easter Story.  “Love wins! Life matters! Faith overcomes! To God be all glory, honor, and praise, she exclaims!  In essence, church, the rest of this story is a message that reminds us that Sunday came!  Everything that Jesus said would happen came true, just as he promised us.  We can trust him and believe in him for our salvation.  As the words to one of our favorite Hymns, “Because He Lives” reveal, “He lived and died to buy my pardon, an empty gave is there to prove my Savior lives.”  And because he lives, we live, and we can face all of our tomorrows, whatever curveballs life may bring our way, because we know with confidence who it is that holds the future.  Yes, indeed, Love wins, and life matters because Jesus won life, abundant and eternal life back for us.  Even though we often find ourselves in what Bishop Malone describes as a “Good Friday World” of difficulty, because he lives, we live, and it is all because of Sunday!  A blessed happy Easter to all.  Let God’s people, again, say Alleluia!  Amen.