Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Sermon

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!


I cannot think of a better way to celebrate that than at 6 a.m. on the water with 75 church members carrying flowers to adorn the cross with.  What an incredible service!


Four brave souls showed up on kayaks!

Worship was at 6, so we came back home for a little bit to recharge and do some cooking and baking.


Breakfast was two scrambled eggs, tossed in rice, seasoned with sea salt and pepper and topped with a four-cheese blend.


It's not a pancake breakfast, but it'll do!

***
Here is my sermon for the 10:00 service - enjoy!

On Your Mark, Get Set, Go!

Matthew 28:1-10
Acts 10: 34-43

Here are some of the sermon titles that didn’t make the cut this week:
- Lace Up Your Sneakers, We Are Going To Run From The Tomb!
- Would Paul Be A Blogger If He Were Alive Today?
- Sarah’s Letter To The Rehobothians.
- Proclaiming The Good News Of The Resurrection? There’s an ‘app’ for that!
- Go And Tweet The Good News!
Actually, “Go And Tweet The Good News” almost made it to print this week. Unfortunately when I posted it as the sermon title on my actual twitter page on Wednesday afternoon for my followers to give me feedback, a friend of mine from seminary replied, “Really?”

Southerners.

When Lent started back at the beginning of March, I was asked to preach at the ecumenical Shrove Tuesday service at the Episcopal Church in my hometown in Connecticut. I started off that sermon by saying, “Technology is an amazing thing. Sometimes I wonder if Paul is looking down at us from heaven and wondering how many more people he could have reached if he had been able to podcast his letters, tweet his whereabouts and follow up with the people in the cities he had visited by friending them on facebook.”

It is kind of neat to wonder about, isn’t it? What WOULD the face of Christianity look like if the life, ministry, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ had happened in the 21st century – surrounded by the technological advances of our time?

You know what? I don’t think we have to wonder.

Sometimes I think that we come to church, we hear the Gospel stories, we read ancient prayers and we sing age-old hymns and assume that we are just believers who are pondering events that happened hundreds and hundreds of years ago. We believe in salvation because we think that it HAS happened. We pray to God because we know that he has listened before. We re-tell the story of the women that ran from the tomb proclaiming the fact that Christ had risen and we think, “I am so glad they did that!” Last week as I was watching Jesus Christ Superstar play out onstage in Woonsocket, I wondered what it would have been like to be a follower of Jesus when he walked on earth; I wondered what it would have been like to talk with him, to care for him, to worship with him and (since we were at a musical after all) to break out into song and dance with him. I wonder what it would have been like to have been a follower when it was all unfolding.

But here’s the thing that I started to realize as I pondered this all week: Christianity is still unfolding all around us.

For a couple of years when I was in high school I directed the youth choir at my church in Connecticut. One of our favorite songs – mine and theirs – was a song called “Pass It On.” The song goes:

It only takes a spark to get a fire going
And soon all those around can warm up in its glowing
That’s how it is with God’s love, once you’ve experienced it
You spread the love to everyone; you want to pass it on.

What a wondrous time is spring when all the trees are budding
The birds begin to sing, the flowers start their blooming
That’s how it is with God’s love, once you’ve experienced it;
You want to sing it’s fresh like spring, you want to pass it on.

I wish for you my friend, this happiness that I’ve found
You can depend on God, it matters not where you’re bound;
I’ll shout it from the mountaintop, I want my world to know;
The Lord of love has come to me, I want to pass it on.

I’ll shout it from the mountaintop, I want my world to know;
The Lord of love has come to me, I want to pass it on.

In a simple way, this song does a fabulous job of describing over 2,000 years of Christian evolution – from the women at the empty tomb to 21st century evangelism. Despite differences and disagreements between Christians, despite unexpected and difficult obstacles that have popped up and despite imperfect humanity that sometimes gets in the way of our quest to do the right thing, for over two millennia Christians around the world have experienced God’s love and they have lived out the Gospel message.

Christianity is still unfolding all around us.

The women ran from the tomb and proclaimed that Christ was risen right after it had happened, first generation Christians worshipped in secret in the 1st century when the Roman authorities threatened their lives, Christian martyrs laid down their lives in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th centuries, Protestant Reformers like Martin Luther reformed the church from papal corruption in the 16th century and in the 18th centuries Christians who craved autonomy and a more personal and individual faith started building Congregational Churches just like this one. I do not think that any of these people did these things because they were bored or had or have nothing else to do. I think they were experiencing God’s love in one way or another and were living out the Gospel message.

Today members of this congregation work tirelessly, around the clock and day after day to keep this church active and vibrant. You can see the fruits of their labor in this building that is kept up to date and beautiful, in the music and flowers that fill our sanctuary every week, in the compassion and pastoral care shown by the deacons and the lay shepherds, by the Christian Education, Church School and Youth Group programs that are absolutely thriving, in the care and good stewardship that are given to our budget and our finances, in the prayer shawls that are available any time you or someone you know needs one, in the volunteers that come in and help with some of the more time consuming office tasks and in the missions program that works both to nurture our community on the inside and to give back outside as well.

Now I could be wrong – but I do not think that everyone who works so tirelessly to keep this church active and vibrant do so because they are bored and have nothing else to do. I think that they do these things because they feel called to do them. I think that they do these things because are experiencing God’s love in one way or another and feel called to live out the Gospel message right here right now.

Christianity is still unfolding all around us.

What I love about this church is that members of the congregation seek to honor the histories that have shaped the church, yet still be progressive thinking towards the future. You seek to find balance between what has worked in the past and might work in the future. You want to find ways to carefully tap into a new face of Christian faith. YOU ARE the new generation of Christian evangelism – a new way to run from the empty tomb declaring, “Christ is Risen!” – beginning to take shape.

Back in February, right after the search committee called and asked me if I would come and preach a call sermon, I was on the phone with one of the members talking through some of the logistics of my transition into Rehoboth. As I looked at my calendar, I knew that the feat of coming for a call sermon, moving and planning an ordination service before Easter would be great – but I knew the end result of standing up here on Easter morning, ordained in full standing as your new settled pastor would be greater. I cannot think of a greater time to celebrate new beginnings as a congregation than by re-experiencing the new beginnings that happened on that first Easter morning.

We may not be walking, talking and worshipping with Jesus Christ as he walked on earth; we may not be running from the actual empty tomb, but Christianity is still unfolding all around us. We are hearing the Good News and we are proclaiming the Good News. It is still unfolding right here right now.

We are now challenged with the task of moving forward. Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed.

On your mark, get set, go.

Amen.

6 comments:

  1. Well done Sarah.
    Happy Easter.

    Alan

    ReplyDelete
  2. Sarah - Your congregation is so blessed to have you! I look forward to you figuring out how to podcast (audio or video) so we can all enjoy hearing your sermons in your beautiful voice. Have a great week! Lynn

    ReplyDelete
  3. Oh my! I haven't heard that song in FOREVER!!!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you for sharing your sermon. I agree that we need to be able to hear it and your voice! Love the floral cross that was "built" at the sunrise service.

    ReplyDelete

Hello and thanks for commenting! Unless I have your email address, I respond to all questions directly in the comment form. Check back if you've asked one! xo, Sarah

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