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Easter18Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they came to the tomb. They were saying to each other, “Who’s going to roll the stone away from the entrance for us?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away. (And it was a very large stone!) Going into the tomb, they saw a young man in a white robe seated on the right side; and they were startled. But he said to them, “Don’t be alarmed! You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised. He isn’t here. Look, here’s the place where they laid him. Go, tell his disciples, especially Peter, that he is going ahead of you into Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you.” Overcome with terror and dread, they fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid. (Mark 16: 2-8 CEB)

If you’re like me, Easter was probably pretty exciting when you were a kid. It wasn’t as exciting as Christmas, for sure, but it was still fun. There was the promise of lots of candy, and maybe a present or two in your Easter Basket. In addition it was one of the only couple of days when our whole extended family would go to church, and I thought that was pretty awesome.

Now if you’re not like me and you didn’t grow up in a Christian house, maybe you didn’t even think much about Easter until you became a Christian. Many churches, including mine, receive new members and new Christians on Easter, inviting them to participate fully in the life of the church. People get excited about the promise of eternal life, the fact that there is something for us after we die.

But what happens after you grow up? What happens after you’ve been fully involved in the church for a number of years and the newness of baptism or confirmation has faded?

Maybe more importantly, what happens today as we look around at the broken state of our world, either on the news or in our very own cities?

Can we still be excited about Easter?

I think a lot of us might say yes, that of course we can be because of it what it means for after we die. Yes, that is absolutely something to be excited about, but it’s only part of the story.

When Jesus finally appeared to his disciples after the resurrection he didn’t collect them all, tell them how awesome heaven was, and let them pack their bags for a one way trip to paradise. No, he had something else in mind.

And they didn’t know what to make of any of it just at first! The verses I cited above are the original ending of Mark’s Gospel. It is the earliest gospel to be written and one of the earliest Christian documents. Look at the final words:

Overcome with terror and dread, they fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

Dread? Terror?

I don’t know, what would you feel?

Later Jesus appeared to the 11 after the women had brought them the message. What would they have felt? Afraid? Yeah I’m sure. If someone I had watched die stood there in front of me talking I’d be pretty freaked out. Did you notice how the verses above instruct the women to tell the disciples and especially Peter? I identify with Peter a lot and my guess is that knowing that he had betrayed Jesus, a part of him was petrified (no pun intended) to see him show up.

But Jesus sets their minds at ease. He tells them to be at peace, and there’s even a little physical demonstration for Thomas (hey I can’t blame him). They probably grew at ease back in the presence of their friend and teacher.

But…what’s next? That’s where it gets exciting.

The good news of the Kingdom of God is here! Jesus is risen, and all the disciples got to go tell all the world about it. If this happened to you, if you were there in that room, how could you help but to run into the streets shouting it?!

This is indeed good news, and yes, we can (and should) still get excited about it! Our message has changed the course of human history. Our message STILL CHANGES THE MINDS AND HEALS THE  HEARTS of people today. I promise you it does. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.

I’ve seen people weep when Christians have done something nice for them.

I’ve seen Christians fight for, and make a difference for, all kinds of people from prisoners on death row to poor and homeless people the world over, to migrant families and refugees fleeing war torn regions.

And there is so much more. There is so much more we have done and so much more we have left to do. There are still people who are hurting. There are still people who are suffering, and as long as that’s the case we still are charged to take our message of Christ’s unconditional love and amazing grace to them wherever they are.

God loves everyone. Period.

I don’t care what you’ve done.

I don’t care what you haven’t done.

I don’t care if you’re male, female, gay, straight, trans, queer, bisexual, rich, poor, middle, class, democrat, republican, city slicker, country boy, black, white, brown, bald, hairy, short, tall, fat, thin, able bodied, disabled, sad, happy, mad, in love, lonely or any combination of those things.

Christ Is Risen and he is constantly seeking you, reaching out to you in his love and grace. All you need to do is say yes.

And don’t wait. Do it now, say yes now. I’m not asking you to do that because you might die and miss out on heaven. To me that’s the just the destination. I’m asking you to say yes so you can be a part of this exciting work that God is doing. You can be a part of taking the good news to others. You can be a part of feeding people, loving people, healing people, and encouraging people. The power of the resurrected, living Christ is at our fingertips and I know that with it we can change the world.

And that is definitely something to be excited about!

From my family to yours, have a happy and blessed Easter!