Summary: An Easter Sunday Sermon from 1991, based upon John 20:1-18.
What is there to say on this on this Easter Day?
There is an ancient liturgy of the Church,
a saying from our grandparents in the faith, so to speak.
The worship leader, looking out on the people
gathered for worship, would proclaim:
"The Lord is Risen!"
And the people respond: "He is risen indeed."
Let’s try that together, shall we?
(repeat several times, until the congregation is
And so, what is there to say on this day? The Lord is Risen.
(if they don’t respond, repeat until they do)
"He is risen indeed."
Ah, but there comes the question that every sermon ought to try and answer
at least in some small way:
I mean no offense,
I don’t mean to shatter anyone’s faith,
or imply that what we celebrate together today in worship is without meaning.
I simply put the question to you.
I have proclaimed: "The Lord is Risen."
You have responded to this statement of faith with: "He is risen, indeed."
And so, I again put the question to you, as well as to myself:
What does it matter to us that the Lord is Risen?
What does it mean that he is really present, today?
What does it mean ... and not in some sort of encyclopedic,
What does it mean deep down in your heart,
deep within your soul,
echoing forth some late night alone with your thoughts,
ringing down the hallways of the place where you do your life’s work,
when you hear the call of our grandparents in the faith,
calling to us across the void of time with the ancient words of
worship-- "The Lord is Risen!"
“He is risen indeed!” (if they don’t repeat the response, prompt)
How do you respond, all on your own,
when there is no preacher to prompt you,
no congregation to remind you of what to say and when to say it?
When that call comes, daily, weekly, hourly . . . .
Do you look up from your work, look away from the newspaper, and respond?
Or, like the character in the famed poem by Edgar Allen Poe,
do you look away, assuming that whatever it is, is just ....
“... the wind, and nothing more . . ." (E.A. Poe, The Raven)
It is not the wind.
Or, maybe it is.
Maybe it is the wind found at the beginning of the scriptures,
that wind which blows across the face of the waters,
that wind which is more than wind,
that wind which is the Spirit of God.
Maybe it is that wind of which Jesus speaks,
that wind which blows this way and that,
a wind which is the blowing of the Spirit of God,
blowing and working the will of God in our lives.
Maybe it is the wind which bears to us the words of our sisters and brothers,
around the world and throughout time,
as they call out to us this central affirmation of our faith
as followers of Jesus.
"The Lord is Risen."
“He is Risen indeed.”
So, what does that mean
I received a piece of E-mail this week from a friend,
a seminary student with me in days not so long ago.
He is now in Washington state, and he sent a notice to all of us who know him
that his mother had just passed away.
He is spending Easter not with his church but with his family,
at the wake and funeral for his mother.
He wrote, and as is his gift he turned a provocative phrase.
"Until today," he writes, "Easter was the most important thing in my life."
"Today, the most important thing is the resurrection."
“The Lord is Risen.”
“He is Risen indeed.”
And one of the things that may mean for some of us here
is what that means for my friend, confronted with a devastating loss.
Suddenly, the Easter parade and pageant,
the new clothes and high services,
the favorite hymns and ceremonies,
all fade in importance.
What is left is the central message of the faith.
"The Lord is Risen”
“He is risen indeed."
It is the message delivered by the Risen Lord himself that first Easter morning.
His female Disciples, confronted by the ultimate grief,
the loss of someone dearly beloved to death,
came to the tomb not in hope but because it was comforting to be in the place where he lay.
They came not because they hoped he had survived,
but because they were certain that he had not.
They came hopeless, and were further wounded to find that his body had been moved.
His body was not where they had placed it just a few days before.