April 4, 2021 Easter Sunday Sanctuary Worship, Sermon, "We Need a Little Easter"

Apr 4th  |  The Reverend Kevin Scott Fleming |  1 Corinthians 15:1-11

 

 

Click HERE to view and download the worship bulletin.

 

     In the Broadway musical, Mame, the title character, Mame Dennis, is a flamboyant, Bohemian, Avant Garde woman of the world.  She is famous for her parties and extravagant living.  She has been left with the custody of her nephew, who is dumbstruck by his aunt and the leniency of her would-be parenting skills. 

     Early in the story, Mame suffers economic disaster when the stock market crashes.  The life she had known is gone.  Uncertainty is around every corner.

     But, in Mame’s inimitable style, she belts out one of the most memorable numbers from the show.  In the midst of despair and economic depression, Mame sings:

We need a little music,

Need a little laughter,

Need a little singing

Ringing through the rafter,

And we need a little snappy

“Happy ever after,”

Need a little Christmas now.

     Now, let me assure you that the preacher has not lost his marbles and is completely aware of today’s significance.  I know full well that we are celebrating Easter, not Christmas.

 

     But if ever we needed a “little Easter,” it’s this year. 

 

     Remember, last Easter worship was conducted on Facebook from our family’s living room.  The members of the in-person congregation that morning were Wendy, our daughters, Wendy’s mother, Judy, Lydia’s cat, Rudy, and our dog, Buckeye.  It was a friendly and receptive congregation, though rather small by Easter standards.

     But the year between then and now has been soul-crushing.  The statistics alone are mind-numbing.

Over 30 million Americans have contracted Covid-19.

Over 545,000 Americans have died from Covid-19.

Millions of jobs were lost.

Economic hardship caused hunger, evictions, and the loss of medical benefits.

Schools were closed and classes went virtual.

We remained close to home.

We could not grieve the loss of loved ones with funerals.

We knew genuine fear.

And there was little light at the end of a very long tunnel.

 

     But here we are, just a little over a year since all this began.  We are not at the end of the pandemic - not even close.  Still, in that year, effective and safe vaccines were developed and over 130 million doses have been injected and over 46 million Americans are now fully vaccinated.  Some restrictions are being lessened.  In place of fear and anxiety, there is more calm and relief.  The economic effects of the pandemic are healing.  People are heading back to work.  (All of that does not mean we can lose the masks and sit close together.  We can’t just yet.)

     After a year in a figurative tomb, “we need a little Easter.”  We need some resurrection.  We need some new life. 

 

     We can only imagine how the disciples were feeling after betraying Jesus, denying Jesus, and fleeing from Jesus.  We can only imagine how their hope had been completely obliterated.  We can only imagine how they were filled with guilt, remorse, despair, and anger. 

     So, when news of the resurrection reached them, some ran to see for themselves.  Others dismissed the news from the women as “an idle tale.”  After all, resurrection is pretty hard to believe.

     Still, people experienced Jesus as alive and among them.  In writing to the Corinthian Christians, Paul tells us:

[Jesus] appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

That’s all we are told.  There is no explanation of how Jesus appeared, what he looked like, if anything was different about him from before the crucifixion to after the resurrection. 

     But this we know: those early believers experienced Jesus Christ as someone they knew and loved and was alive and with them.  It was not a mass hallucination or an extraordinary deception.  Jesus was experienced as being present and with them and that was enough for them to go out and tell the world about him.  And in Jesus’ presence, those early believers discovered God’s forgiveness and grace. 

     Those early believers needed “a little Easter” and they got more than they could have imagined.

 

     And here we are, much in the same boat as they were.  We have carried so much through the past year.  We have been worn with worry.  We have been obsessed with keeping distance.  We have washed our hands raw.  We have nursed loved ones through sickness, risking becoming sick ourselves.  We have mourned loved ones and friends without benefit of the funerals they would have wanted.  We have spent so much time away from those who fill our lives with happiness.

     Easter comes to us with a promise.

Where there is despair, Easter brings hope.

Where there is grief, Easter brings comfort.

Where there is sickness, Easter brings healing.

Where there is stress, Easter brings calm.

Where there is anger, Easter brings joy.

Where there is guilt, Easter brings forgiveness.

Where there is brokenness, Easter brings peace.

Easter comes to us this year - perhaps more than in past years - with the offer of new life, resurrected life, restored life.  Easter comes to us this year - in what we hope are the waning days of a pandemic - setting us free from the enslavement to a virus - and opening new doors of new life. 

     As in Jesus’ resurrection God pardoned and forgave us, in this Easter celebration we are made more aware of God’s presence and blessing.  As in the resurrection, God restored the waywardness and sin of the past, in this Easter celebration God is helping us close the door on the past and move forward with God’s companionship.  As on that first Easter morning so long ago, when God raised Jesus from death and broke down the dividing walls that separated us from God and each other, so on this Easter morning, God is breaking down the walls that have held us captive for so very long and God is calling us to break down walls that prevent some from knowing the fullness and joy of life.

     So,

We need a little music,

Need a little laughter,

Need a little singing

Ringing through the rafter,

And we need a little snappy

“Happy ever after,”

Need a little Easter now.

Even though we cannot sing it, I don’t think it would be too much of a risk, while wearing a mask, to shout out an “alleluia!”  I know Presbyterians typically do not shout, except occasionally at each other, but let’s give it a try.  On three - 1-2-3: “Alleluia!”

     Alleluia!  Christ is risen and with us still!

     For now and evermore.  Amen.