Summary: We often talk about Easter Gifts but what about the Gifts of Easter, this follows the Good Friday Message the Cost of Good Friday
We sometimes refer to the gift of Easter, and when some folks think of Easter gifts they think of new clothes and chocolate. And while those might be Easter gifts they aren’t the gifts we are talking about today.
And this message really started on Friday because there couldn’t be a Sunday without a Friday. Easter Sunday couldn’t and wouldn’t exist without Good Friday. Because every gift, at least every gift that is truly a gift cost somebody something. It might be time, it might be money but there is a cost there. And so before Jesus could be raised from the dead he had to die, before we can accept the gift of salvation a debt has to be paid, in order for a sacrifice to be acceptable there has to be a cost to the person making the sacrifice. Without a cost it might be a nice gesture but it wouldn’t be a sacrifice.
And that was my Message two days ago, what Good Friday Cost, and we looked at what it cost for the Father, the Son, Peter and the People of Jerusalem.
But that was Friday and today is Sunday.
And this is not only Easter Sunday it’s also the first week of Money Month at Cornerstone. And that always makes it a little awkward, so a little background as we go ahead.
For the past thirteen years Cornerstone has treated Stewardship differently than we did for the first seven years that we existed. For the first seven we treated money the way most churches do. We prepared a budget each year, which actually is probably more responsible than a lot of churches, but the budget really wasn’t based on reality. It was more of a wish list than a budget.
And then I would preach on money whenever money became an issue. Which unfortunately probably came across as scolding or begging. In 2002 the leadership team decided that wasn’t working and so we moved in a different direction. Each year in the month of April I focus on the theology of giving at Cornerstone and so for three or four or five weeks, depending on the April and Easter, I preach on money, how we make it and how we use it. And then at the end of April we ask those who make Cornerstone their church home to make a commitment of what they intend to give weekly for the next 12 months and that is what we base our budget on. In a very real sense the people of Cornerstone determine what type of church they would like to have.
Normally when Easter falls in April we take a pass on stewardship that week, but this year we have Easter on the first Sunday of April and our Anniversary Service on the second Sunday. So we will at least introduce the theme for the next four weeks, and that is “A Generous Church”.
Two days before, the world was dark as Pontius Pilate the Roman Governor, who ruled Palestine at the direction of the emperor had Jesus Christ the Son of God crucified. And the crime of Jesus? He had displeased the religious rulers of the day, he had threatened the status quo with his talk of grace and forgiveness and how people could have a personal relationship with God.
And when Jesus died on the cross the hopes and dreams of those who followed him died as well. For three years they had followed him and held unto to every word he said, in him they saw the promise of a better world. But on Friday their dreams died with Jesus.
But that was Friday and this is Sunday. In the scripture that was read for us earlier we read Mark’s account of what happened early on Sunday morning. And the scholars tell us that Mark was writing Peter’s account of what happened.
If we go back to Friday you may recall that Jesus’ body was taken down from the cross and laid in the tomb of Joseph at the end of the day. And because the end of Friday signified the beginning of the Sabbath there was no time to take care of the body of Jesus. And so now we see three woman returning to the tomb as soon as was practical to give their final gift to their friend. They were there to wash his body and anoint it with the burial spices that custom dictated. It is interesting to note that one of the gospel accounts names some of the spices that were brought, and one of them was myrrh. You might recall the first time we see myrrh mentioned in the gospel accounts was when the Magi presented their gifts to the new born Christ. And so it seems that myrrh was destined to be both the first and last gift given to Jesus.