Sermon for Easter Sunday, Year A

Based on Matt. 28:1-10

By Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

"Resurrection Joy"

James Hewett tells the following story:"A three-year-old girl, Nicole, was as anxious for Easter to come as she had been for Christmas to come. One day as Nicole and her father stopped at a store to buy her a new pair of shoes…she once again said, "I can't wait for Easter Daddy!" Her dad asked, "Do you know what Easter means, honey?" She replied, "Yes." "Well, what does Easter mean?" In her own sweet three-year-old way, with arms raised, a smile on her face, and at the top of her voice she said, "Surprise!"

What better word could sum up the meaning of Easter! Surprise, death! Surprise, sin! Surprise, mourning disciples! Surprise, modern-day people! He's alive!" Surprise, powers of evil! Christ is risen! He's won the victory!

In Matthew's account of the resurrection, we are told that the guards as well as the women WERE SURPRISED when they learned that Jesus had risen from the dead. The women had come in deep sorrow to Christ's grave, expecting and believing that he lay dead in his grave. The women however, experienced THE GREATEST SURPRISE OF THEIR LIVES! Christ was no longer dead, HE WAS ALIVE! Closely related to the women's surprise was their JOY. Matthew tells us in verse 8: "So (the women) departed quickly from the tomb with fear and GREAT JOY, and RAN TO TELL HIS DISCIPLES." They were SURPRISED BY JOY with Christ's resurrection. Their sorrow, darkness and despair were defeated by the SURPRISING, JOYFUL news of the resurrection.

We too have been SURPRISED BY JOY with Christ's resurrection. Our sorrow, darkness and despair have been defeated by the SURPRISING, JOYFUL NEWS OF THE RESURRECTION. This happens in many different ways for each one of us throughout our lifetime. For example, it happens whenever an impossible situation is transformed into a possible situation. It happens when we expect the worst, but with God's help, we receive the best. The surprising joy of Christ's is experienced whenever: a sick person is healed of their illness; an atheist is given the gift of faith; enemies are reconciled with each other; the enslaved are given a new freedom; there is a song in our hearts, which cannot be crushed, even by life's greatest sorrows. These are but a few among the many surprising joys of Christ's resurrection that we experience in a lifetime.

A second quality or characteristic of the women's joy is mentioned by Matthew in verse 9: "And behold, Jesus met them and said, "Hail!" And they came up and took hold of his feet AND WORSHIPPED HIM." The joy we are given by our risen Lord leads us to respond by worshipping him.

Francis Gay tells the following story: "The stirring music of Handel's "Messiah" never fails to move us with its beauty and majesty. On one occasion, a person was asked by a musician if they had ever noticed in which part of the Messiah the highest note occurs? The person didn't know, but they guessed that it would be in one of the great choruses such as, "And the glory of the Lord;" or maybe the magnificent "Hallelujah" chorus itself. "No" answered the musician. The most exalted note of all occurs in the aria: "I know that my Redeemer liveth" and is reached on the word "risen."

"The more you think about it, the more you realize it was not put there by mere chance. For Handel knew that this one word is the secret of the Easter miracle." It's a joy, which led Handel, the women on that first Easter, and people today to respond by worshipping Christ. If we are truly joyful, we shall surely WANT TO RESPOND TO THE RESURRECTED CHRIST BY WORSHIPPING HIM. When we gather here every Sunday, we are celebrating his resurrection presence among us.

A third quality or characteristic of the Easter joy is that IT IS MEANT TO BE SHARED WITH OTHERS. In Matthew's account, the angel and Jesus instruct the women to: "GO AND TELL." The message of Christ's resurrection is not meant to be the Church's best-kept secret or conspiracy--rather, it is meant to be PREACHED, PROCLAIMED, SHOUTED, SUNG AND LIVED throughout the WHOLE WORLD!

This instruction to "GO AND TELL" was not only given to the women and to the disciples--IT'S AN INSTRUCTION FOR EACH ONE OF US TOO. We are called to share the Good News with JOY AND CONFIDENCE that God's marvellous saving action through Christ's resurrection HAS WON THE VICTORY OVER SIN, EVIL, AND DEATH. May we, like the women, like three-year-old Nicole, like the composer Handel, be so filled with the joy and enthusiasm of Christ's resurrection that we too just have to share this GOOD NEWS WITH THE WHOLE WORLD!

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