Sermon
April 4, 1999 - Easter Sunday ( 9:00AM Service )
Rev. Virnette Hamilton
First Congregational Church, New Milford, CT  06776
Write to Rev. Hamilton

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Communion Service

Scripture: Matthew 28: 1-10

Colossians 3:1-4

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Sermon - "This one's for you"

Birthdays were never a big thing when I was growing up, especially - my

birthday - but, it always seemed like my brother's birthday was a very big

deal. You see, he was born in July. I was born in January, 15 days after

Christmas and to make matters even worse, the day after my mother's

birthday. Plus, January 10 is just about the time all of the Christmas

bills would begin to arrive. Now I was pretty smart about all of this, so

I knew that if I wanted Something Big, I had better ask for it for Christmas

- It was the only was to ensure that I would get it. But one year, when I

was turning 13, I discovered right after Christmas that all of my friends

had gotten ice skates for Christmas and they were all meeting every day after

school to ice skate on a frozen pond that was near my house. Only I didn't

have skates. Believe me, it was with great hesitation that I asked for Ice

skates for my birthday. I wasn't sure that I wanted to face the

disappointment that seemed inevitable if I didn't get them. The morning of

my birthday I was just filled with fear. What would my life be like if there

were no ice skates? All of my friends would be out having fun and I would be

excluded - when it finally came time for me to open my gifts I was so excited

to see a gift box just the right size for ice skates that I couldn't bear to

open it. I just sat there, staring at it until my mother in her excitement

blurted out, "hurry up, and open your skates." It was a heavenly

birthday.

Now that I am a grown woman, I would ask for a different kind of gift. I

imagine that you would too. As I thought about it I decided I might ask for

something like peace, for the world, for my family and friends, for our

town, our country, for all those who are living with pain and illness, for

those who are living with grief, struggling with addictions or trying to

mend relationships.

I realized last week, as I tried to explain Easter to our family's

international student, that , despite our tradition of giving gifts at

Christmas, Easter as our highest holy day, is our celebration of God's

greatest gift to us - the gift of new life - of resurrection. Yet in the

middle of the spring time, with glory of the rebirth of the earth all around

us, it is easy to become busy and forget that this celebration of the gift is

about the ways that God is bringing us back to life.

Our Gospel account of the resurrection from Matthew is one of my favorites.

It certainly has all of the elements of a good movie -earthquakes and angels.

But that is not the part that grabs me. The human Jesus that Matthew

portrays haunts me. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary knew right away that

it was Jesus, his appearance wasn't a mystical event, like the angels. They

grab hold of his feet, maybe to try to hang onto him, like a lifeline - to

keep him there - and they worship him. And Jesus gives them important

information - directions for the future.

Jesus says to them, "tell my disciples to go to Galilee; tell them that

they will see me there."

Go to Galilee - Galilee, Remember, at the beginning of Jesus' ministry,

right after his baptism and his time in the wilderness, Jesus returns to

Galilee. He was walking along, beside the Lake of Galilee when he was two

brothers, Simon and Andrew. And he called them to follow him. Then he saw

James and John. He called to them, and they left their father and their

boat at once and followed him.

That first Easter morning, Jesus was telling all of the disciples to "go home

to Galilee, and I will meet you there" Go home. Go back to your life.

You will find me right in the midst of your life."

And in fact, those meetings in the midst of life are reported in all 4

gospels:

Mark reports that Jesus appeared to the disciples as they were gathered at

the table.

Luke tells us that Jesus appeared on the road to Emmaus.

And in , Jesus appears while the disciples were fishing.

 

Jesus appears right in the middle of their lives…. a living reminder of the

ways in which God's grace is continually providing all that we need to go

forward.

 

When we lose the person that is closest to our hearts, our grief does not

overwhelm us. We know that someday our hearts will be full, we will smile

and laugh.

When our lives are missing all meaning, God brings us the strength and

courage to make whatever changes are necessary.

In the midst of our despair over the decisions our loved ones make, we find

ourselves in the middle of unexpected joy.

In our deepest darkness, when we can't begin to imagine that life can ever

be worth the pain, our blessings can flourish, until we have no doubt that

God is with us.

Jesus didn't say, I will only meet you on the mountaintop, or I will meet

you in heaven, Jesus said, meet me - soon, in the middle of your life -

I will be there. The promise of presence. Remember John 14, "I will not

leave you orphaned, I shall come to you. Because I live, you also will

live."

Just as these scriptures serve as the testament to what happened that first

Easter, so are our lives a testament to the possibility and power of

resurrection. We have faced death, despair, even destruction and we have

seen God lift us up. We have been drawn back into life and love and joy.

That is what lifts the sting of death that is why we believe, that is what

we celebrate today. The gift of new life.

Jesus concludes that passage in John 14 with this promise, "peace I leave

with you, My peace I give to you."

Jesus said, I will be with you and you will have peace. The promise of

presence - the gift of peace. That same peace that we seek, for ourselves,

for our families, our friends, for our world. What an incredible gift we

have been given.

Remember those ice skates? Well, I still have them - to remind me of

something very important. Everytime I see them I remember the day that the

impossible happened.

Just as the church celebrates this sacrament of Holy Communion - It is a

reminder - not just of a day long ago, Not a reminder of a dark night, but

a reminder of the joy that we have known in our lives, a reminder of the Son

rise. This is not the meal of death and despair, but rather a meal of

celebration. - Our memory of the times we were lifted out of confusion and

despair, loneliness and hopelessness. When our faces glowed with joy, when

our lives turned around, when hope abounded, when we knew that the

resurrection promised was ours, to touch, to feel, to claim. Today. And

Yesterday and Tomorrow. A reminder of the day when the impossible happened.

On the Road to Emmaus, by the sea shore, at the table. Christ revealed

himself and was recognized in the breaking of the bread.

Come; Celebrate this meal of memory and hope. May you see the Risen Christ,

the Son of God, our lord and savior, Jesus - with his hands held out,

saying, "this is for you - this bread and this cup. Remember me, I have

been with you all along, I will not leave you." And as the bread and the

cup burn in your mouth, may your heart open - May you find yourself with a

smile on your face and joy in your heart - as you remember - in the midst of

your daily life those undeniable moments when your life was lifted up, turned

around, resurrected. - This table is open to all who wish to know the

presence of Jesus Christ in their lives. Come, to this table, not because

you must, but because you may. But most of all come, because you hear the

gracious invitation of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Amen.

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