We preachers find Easter sermons hard to preach. You wouldn’t think so. Packed house. Good music. Easter lilies everywhere. And it would seem that we egomaniacs that inhabit the pulpits would just be itching for the day to come. Captive audience!
Not so. We preachers sit down and try to figure out how you get your hands or heart around this watershed in Christian history. It isn’t easy. Even the Scriptures don’t find it easy. Weeping women. Simon Peter peeking into the Open Tomb and no Jesus. He was terrified. Even days later the followers found themselves in an upper room with the doors locked. Still scared.
I know the rest of the story just like you. But if we are too understand the real Easter we have to start with disciples on the road to Emmaus saying, “We had hoped he was the one too redeem Israel.” There are no sadder words than we had hoped.
And yet the dawn really did come and the Tomb really was empty. And disciples who had been scared and foolish would come back days later with wonder in their eyes. Four of them would write the story in their own words and each had a different slant. But how in the world could any sermon do this day of days justice?
I keep in my office a framed picture that captures Easter for me. I tore it out of a magazine years ago and framed it. Some days when I am planning for a funeral and just burdened with the injustices of so much—I see the picture and once again I remember.
The picture is a photograph of a young hispanic boy. He must be say, ten years old. The photo is black and white and he is running carrying in his arms an Easter lily. He’s looking up and he seems proud and glad and wonder-filled. He is surrounded by the projects in the city. There is graffiti on the brick walls behind him. Trash is piled up in the corner. The concrete under his feet is broken. But he is oblivious to his surroundings. It’s Easter and he holds in his arms that Easter flower. And he is glad.
That’s about as good a description of Easter that I know. The first Easter was set down in a world of cruelty, injustice, poverty and tears. And yet Easter came. The Church has not given up on this day despite the chaos of so much then and now.
That little boy with his olive skin reminds me that Easter is for everybody. We live in a world where Syrian refugees hunker in broken down buildings. The lucky ones have fled for their lives. And they live in tents and know the meaning hunger. This little boy reminds me of all the Hispanics in our own country scared today. Parents separated from children. Wives and husbands torn from each other and one of them sent back. Many of them do not have smiles on their faces this Easter. Like the disciples long ago they must also say: “We had hoped…”
This Easter is set down amid great cruelty. Millions losing their health care. If the present program is dismantled as many as 24 million could be without health care. Some elderly women with big hats on worry this Easter about their Medicare and Medicaid. And across the aisle some grown man or some husband wonders about what is going to happen to Mother in that nursing home.
There is much hopelessness out there. People who have lived here for generations look around and the landmarks seem to have disappeared. They mutter: “What kind of a world are we leaving to our grandchildren?
Easter morning came with the rising of the sun. And that sun touched not the few but everyone. For Easter light says everybody is important and every person should find the hope this day promises for us all.
If I had my way every child today—here and everywhere—would have the kind of smile on their faces I see in that little boy’s photograph. The angel said, over and over, “Do not be afraid.” And the task of all of us is to help make that the old Biblical promise come true“”…They shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid.” (MIcah 4.4)