Easter Sermon April 4, 2021 by David Hodgson

Easter Is Awesome!

Don’t be so surprised! …He isn’t here!  He has come back to life! 

[He] is going ahead of you to Galilee.  You will see him there!    

Mark 16:6-7 TLB

Easter is Awesome!  It was a cosmic event in the center of earth’s unfolding drama every bit as amazing as creation itself!

 It was God doing re-creation ~ interrupting the monotonous rhythms of history with a miracle so profound that the mind cannot explain it, the heart cannot contain it, and the spirit cannot ignore it!    It was divinity breaking into humanity with Plan B ~ God infusing humanity with Spirit of the Christ Life to save us from our overwhelming tendency to choose human depravity rather than human nobility; and there is no more appropriate response than to be in AWE!

You’ll soon learn that I wonder about the strangest things when it comes to my relationship to the scriptures, and that is, by the way, an excellent approach to the Bible.  Assume that the Bible is a two-thousand-year-old book filled with ancient notions and irrelevant values, and the Bible will never be anything more than that for you.    But approach the Bible with awe and amazement, trusting that the God who inspired those words to be written is still able to inspire those who read it, and it changes everything! 

The One who inspired the Bible comes to those who read in faith to inspire, to interpret, to engage the heart, mind and soul of the reader, and that book will the manual for living, the best resource for personal creativity, the most effective moral compass, and the secret to spiritual vitality!

Therefore, I wonder when I read God’s best-selling book, and God seems to enjoy my curiosity too.  So, this morning I find myself wondering how the angel was chosen for empty tomb duty on Easter morning.  It clearly had nothing to do with his sensitivity training in glory or his brilliant way with earth’s vocabulary, yet this angel was sent to announce to the disciples and to the ages the wonder of Easter morning!

Don’t be so surprised!, he blurted out to those who came to the tomb to prepare the Lord’s body for burial.  Do not be surprised?  The whole point of God’s interruption of history was to waken amazement in all of humankind!  I like the use of the word “surprise” in the Living Bible.  Most translations say “afraid” but that evokes negative connotations that are not intended.  They were shocked into wonderment and confusion by divine grace!  How’s that for “surprise.”

Then he made four announcements in rapid-fire succession that leave even the most seasoned among us feeling absolutely amazed:  He isn’t here!  He has come back to life!  He is going ahead of you to Galilee! and You will see him there!  (And Oh, by the way, do not be surprised.)

So, there you have it, at the center of Gospel gladness and the splendor of Easter morning, an angel who is underwhelmed by the wonders of heaven unfolding in the routines of life on earth! (I imagine God in glory just shaking His head in puzzlement!)

Easter is all about being surprised!   Surprised by life beyond the grave!  Surprised by love undeterred by the darkest hour of human history!  Surprised by the discovery that discipleship that once meant following an earthly figure now means following an immortal life into the experiences of every-day life.

Easter is all about being surprised whenever the goodness of God surpasses our expectations with experiences of glory beyond all deserving!  Being surprised whenever God’s love reaches sacrificial proportions in shared life with us, never stopping to count the cost until we stand in awe of it!  Being surprised by faith whenever it rises up in the midst of fear to lift us to new levels of maturity! 

Easter is all about being surprised whenever the first rays of hope dawn upon a world darkened by despair and usher in a grace and glory unattainable on our own!  All of these and so many more:  God’s way of startling us with the glorious experience of Easter morning; and in all of these God is trying to surprise us with experiences of heaven’s glory!

Let us take a quick look at the angel’s announcements to the disciples and to the ages, and dare to stand in awe of them, in spite of the cynicism and indifference of the present age!

He isn’t here! declared the angel.  And we are finding it so.  We learned this week that less than fifty percent of America now belong to temples, churches and mosques.  In a country where the influence of those with faith in God was clearly in a majority, now far too many have turned away.  And those seeking a community inspired by faith are now hearing the whispered voice of an angel saying, “He is not here.”

He has come back to life! declared the angel.  And we too know what it’s like to discover his life elsewhere:  in the midst of some human struggle, on the frontier of some golden opportunity, in the throes of social disorientation, when the human spirit fails.  It’s different every time, but the touch of Spirit Hand is ever the same and a personal relationship with the Lord of life begins.  Yes, He lives!  He lives indeed!

He is going ahead of you to Galilee! said the angel.  So much for stopping to ask an angel directions?  Where in Galilee?  Why in Galilee?   Here’s my take on it.  It was in Galilee that he taught them on the hillsides.  It was by the Galilean Sea where He called them to discipleship.  It was in Galilee where he performed his miracles and commissioned them for sacred purpose.  He had asked them to live in remembrance of him, and I believe he led them back to Galilee to help them to remember ~ and to remember from a resurrection perspective!  Even so He goes before me to the memories where my faith was fashioned to show me where He touched my life in meaningful ways.

You will see him there! promised the angel.  Surely you’ve heard phrases such as these to describe our experience of him:  He goes behind me for encouragement, in front of me for leadership, beneath me for support, above me for protection. All that surely is true, but those images are all impersonal meaningless …until we live with a vision of him daily in each and every present moment!  He lives that we might live also, and only in the present moment can he be seen with the eyes of the soul.

The loss of wonder in our time is a tragedy beyond measure, for where there is no sense of wonder ~ of being in awe ~ there can be no reverence.  And without reverence we cannot see God!

But stand for long before an empty tomb, and fathom the mystery of life beyond the grave ~ beyond the old familiar answers and old familiar answers ~ and those old familiar answers have a way of surrendering to bold new questions, and minds once closed by convictions held too tightly open once more to the glorious splendor of an Easter morning!

Christ is Risen!  Wow!!  Utterly Awesome!!!  Thanks be to God for the wonder of God’s ways with us in the here and now, and forever more!  Happy Easter everyone!

David Hodgson, First Presbyterian Church of Peoria, April 4, 2021