Summary: Easter Baptismal Service. The sermon leads us together to the empty tomb. In it we find God’s promises revealed. We are covenanted into that promise through our baptism.

John 20:1-18

Paonia United Methodist Church

April 20, 2003

Death is an unpleasant subject.

No matter how you look at it,

There is nothing good about the idea of growing old and dying.

I think I have told you before about the day that I became an “old people.”

For those of you who have not heard this before,

It bears repeating.

I was walking across the parking lot with two children

While I was the youth pastor during seminary.

Redeemer was a very casual church,

And many of the adults as well as the youth showed up for church in jeans

And casual clothing.

However, when I began,

I dressed in a suit.

Anyway, I was walking through the parking lot with two of the kids.

Brian, a 12 year old commented…

“Man, you sure do dress up for church.”

“Well Brian,” I responded, after I have been here for a while,

maybe I won’t dress up so much.

At this point, his 8 year old sister Katie chimed in…

“Oh, that’s okay. All the old people dress up!”

So, at 23, I became an old people…

It has been down hill ever since.

It’s a great story, isn’t it?

Its I have to tell you, I love to hear people groan when I tell them I got old at 23.

But again, back to my original statement, like it or not,

Your body will eventually fail,

And the day will come that you will die.

I suspect that on this high holy day of the Christian calendar year,

That may not come as good news.

After all, how many times have you stood at the foot of the grave

And felt anything but grief?

Yet, this morning’s story is a story that is a completely unexpected graveside story.

It is a story unlike any other.

It is a story about cheating…

No… better yet…

Defeating death itself.

How fitting it is that on this great festival of Easter,

the Bible readings assigned by the church should be so powerful as they are today.

People of God, I am going to ask you to do something a little different

this morning.

As we hear the Gospel this morning…

I want you to take your shoes off…

For we are standing on holy ground.

John 20:1-18

1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!"

3So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. 8Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9(They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)

10Then the disciples went back to their homes, 11but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

13They asked her, "Woman, why are you crying?"

14"They have taken my Lord away," she said, "and I don’t know where they have put him." At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

15"Woman," he said, "why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?"

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him."

16Jesus said to her, "Mary."

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher).

17Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ’I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ "

18Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: "I have seen the Lord!" And she told them that he had said these things to her.

This is the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

People of God, we are standing on holy ground.

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