|April 4, 1999 - Easter Sunday ( 9:00AM Service )|
|Rev. Virnette Hamilton|
|First Congregational Church, New Milford, CT 06776|
to Rev. Hamilton
Scripture: Matthew 28: 1-10
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
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
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
Mark reports that Jesus appeared to the disciples as they were gathered at
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
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
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
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
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.
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