Easter Day 2019

Rev. Dr. Kathy Dunagan

Isaiah 65:17-25

Acts 10:34-43

Luke 24:1-12


Alleluia, Christ is risen!

There is a story about an Easter pageant at a Christian school. The little boy had just one line in the play it was “He’s not here, he is risen.”  He must have been playing one of the angels depending on which version they were doing. But the little boy was nervous and excited and not sure he could remember his line and the teacher and his mom were there helping him. So the little boy practiced, and practiced, “He’s not here, he is risen,” “He’s not here, he is risen,” and just before the performance of their play he said he felt confident he could do it and so they started. But, when they got to his line he froze. He got out the first part - “He’s not here,” but then he just froze. So his mom was whispering his line to him from the wings, “He’s not here, he is risen.” And she said it again, “He is risen.” And finally the boy came to himself and he said, “Oh yeah,” and then he said loudly, “He’s not here, he’s in prison!”

So, we have been telling our story all of Holy Week.  We have been reading lots of scripture passages aloud in order to relive the Christian story in an experiential way.  And for those who came to all these Holy Week services, we’ve covered more than 20 scripture readings outlining our Christian story. And, well, sometimes that story can get a bit confusing.  Which is why we spend so much time in church studying and talking about this story.

Come and see.  Go and Tell.

I’ve noticed that we have lots of lovely cherry trees in Radford. Their blooms were spectacular this year and I’m a bit sad to see them go as they’ve begun to fade this week.

There is a Cherry Blossom festival in the early spring in Macon GA. When Kate and I lived there we enjoyed this two week festival with streets closed off downtown and filled with venders and music and hot air balloons and all that goes with such festivals.

It was started by a man named William Fickling who was a realtor in Macon about 50 years ago. Mr. Fickling visited Washington D.C. and was so taken by the cherry trees there that he started a program in his home town of Macon to grow more cherry trees.  It worked.  Within 10 years nearly every yard in town had at least one cherry tree in it. Today the cherry blossoms in Macon will take your breath away when they are in full bloom. So Mr. Fickling is a local hero down there.

School Children in Macon are well versed in all things Georgia.  They have to take a test on their state’s history in middle school and start studying for this in elementary school.  In Macon they also grill their children to know this story of how the Cherry Blossom Festival had been started and all about Mr. Fickling.

A few years ago, a couple I knew was attending Easter Sunday services in Macon. They were busy people and they’d been a bit slack on their church attendance that year.  In fact, on their way to church that Easter when talking about this they realized that they had not attended services since Christmas.  Just too busy, or too tired on Sunday mornings, perhaps they had the best intentions of attending more regularly, but for whatever reason, this young couple was behind in their Christian homework. Now, these folks were Baptist, so you understand the pressure they must have suddenly faced. They became aware that their child, now about 7 years old might embarrass them in Sunday School from his lack of Biblical knowledge so they decided to prep him real quick.  Turning to her son in the back seat the mom said, “Son, you do know what Easter is all about, right?”  And the boy quickly responded, “Sure mom.  That’s when Mr. Fickling rose from the dead!”

Telling our story is important. If we are just watching from the sidelines we might get confused about who we really are.  So, the best way to tell the story of Easter is to live into the story. Our best Christian practice is to live into the story of how Jesus of Nazareth taught, loved and led his disciples for three years and then was crucified and then rose from the dead.

The best way to learn this is to live it.

Come and see.  Go and Tell.

We do this in the church in several ways.

One way is that we understand our baptism as dying unto Christ and rising again with him.  That is part of the experiential sacrament of Baptism.  We talked about that last Sunday when we baptized a baby boy here.

Another way we learn about our story is through the practice of the Holy Eucharist.  We take communion almost every time we get together.  We experience the risen Lord in water, wine and bread.

One of my favorite Yoga Berra quotes is this: “You can observe a lot of things just by looking.”

I’d one up him with the idea that you can learn a lot by experience.

When the women want to the tomb on that first Easter morning it was to do dirty work. They expected to find the smell of death, the sight of blood and the difficult work of cleaning the body of a man who had violently died three days prior. This was not going to be easy.  And what made it more difficult was that it was the body of their friend, their teacher, their lord.

But they went any way, out of duty, out of love for him.

But this broken, bloody body wasn’t there.

What they found instead was terrifying. Angels and an empty tomb and the horrible thought that the body of their beloved had been stolen, maybe mutilated.

But what they found out instead was incomprehensible. 

He has risen.

Come and see.  Go and Tell.

I love this minute moment in the story.  For a heart beat or two these women were letting this news sink in.

“Don’t you remember what he told you?”

“Why do you look for the living among the dead?”

They must have felt like fools when it dawned on them.

And when it did dawn on them.  They ran.  They did not run away they ran to the other disciples.  They ran and told and the story has been passed on like fire ever since.

So, what we need in the church these days is not just attendance, it’s not just study of the word, it’s not just caring for each other.  WE do all that really well here at Grace Church.

But what we need more of in the church these days is the telling of the story.  The living out of the story in our lives as examples of the love of Christ.

He is not here.

He is risen.

Let that sink in.

Then turn and run and do your telling.

How will you tell it?

Whom will you tell?

Come and see.  Go and Tell.

Alleluia, Christ is risen!