Every year when I was a preaching pastor, I felt the anxiety rise the closer we got to Easter Sunday morning.
The expectations. The crowds. The desire of the people to hear something new and meaningful.
Though I had a mentor once tell me don't sweat it, just tell the story. The problem is that everyone already knows the story: Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed. The women came to the tomb. They were afraid. They go tell the male disciples. They don't believe them. Yet, everything changes for the world on this Sunday morning. Death has been beat. New life is possible. Jesus is alive!
The last time I preached Easter in 2012, I was over the Easter hoopla. I found myself fixated on the idea that resurrection is much more complicated than super happy hymns and families coming together in a church pew. Resurrection is hard work, I said. I ended by encouraging the congregation to not choose a resurrection path unless they were ready for their lives to be turned upside down. Because we need to remember what got Jesus to Easter morning: death!
On the way home this particular Sunday, Kevin told me that my sermon was a real downer. He wanted to know: "Where was the lighthearted mood from the pulpit?" But, I stood by what I said. Sermons are always about proclamations for a moment in time and that is where I was.
This week, I've been wondering if I were preaching Easter this year, what would it be about?
I'd land a bit more on the side of pro-Easter celebratory joy this year. Not because I am any less aware of how cruel and harsh the realities of life are. And most certainly not because I've come to believe that resurrection's moments in our lives are any less work.
Rather, I would preach in this way because life is so difficult. I have come to believe that life's problems make Easter's joy so important.
For we all need days in our year (and in our liturgical calendar at church) to remember what it looks and feels like when hope comes, when grace surprises us, and as the old hymn goes "when love's redeeming work is done."
If I were preaching Easter this year, I would do so with full voice and lots of exclamation points written into my sermon manuscript.
In many ways I would be forcing upon myself a joy that isn't all there, but I would do it anyway because to follow Jesus is to claim our status as Easter people.
I would preach that we have to cling to good when it comes.
I would preach that the greatest good that ever came to the world was Jesus.
I would preach that even when we are bearing our crosses, we serve a God who can make all things new.
Most of all I would preach that love never fails. It's what sustains us all our days-- the good and the bad alike.
I would ask the congregation to rejoice. For it is the day that the Lord has given us to especially rejoice.
But because I'm not preaching in a congregation this year, I leave my Easter musings with you.
Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed! Let us be glad-- even if it is just for today. AMEN