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Easter Sunday 2024

Updated: Apr 8

Happy Easter everyone! It’s so great to be here with you all today. Especially if this is your first time with us in a while, welcome back. We know that some of you might be here only semi-voluntarily because Easter is a family holiday, not just a church one, and Mom or Dad, or Gramma said you were coming to church and here you are! 

We have kids too. And we gave them their own issues over the years. We may have scarred our kids. We have two sons who are now 17 and 20 years old. We are so proud of them and all they have accomplished, but they also grew up with two pastors for parents. We think we may have scarred them, but not in the same way that you usually think of with pastor kids. We never wanted them to be perfect. We never pretended that we had it all together or asked them to pretend they had it all together. 

There is this one thing: they had a lot of exposure to death, or at least the idea of death, when they were young because of our jobs. Some of it we just did and hoped they wouldn’t remember. Once when our youngest son was a baby he needed to nurse. We were at a funeral home between the funeral and the burial, so we couldn’t leave. The only available place for him to nurse was in between two caskets (parents of the year). 

Then there were the funerals they saw and the conversations they overheard. We thought maybe they didn’t really pick up on what was happening. But then one day we overheard our 5 year old son singing a song in the bath, and the end of the song was “and then he began to die.” Yikes.

Another time we noticed the other son looking slightly horrified at dinner at our parent’s house. His eyes were huge as he looked at the row of decorative, empty urns on the shelves. He whispered to us “are those all of our dead relatives?” There may have been a little scarring.

It had to have been strange growing up around death so much. But  . . . what if there was also an upside to it? Most of us as adults don’t talk about death much, at least not in casual conversations. If you ever try to, it will probably be met with some uncomfortable silence from the people around you. It’s like this scene in the Barbie movie: 

To be fair, we come by this avoidance of death honestly. It’s hard. Most of us as adults have had some firsthand experience by this point. You have probably lost someone you love. We have too. Grief is the worst. We get it. It’s impossibly hard to lose someone. 

Maybe it’s our grief that keeps us from talking about death, or maybe we are afraid. Maybe we are just uncomfortable.  Maybe we tried to talk about it once and it went about as well as it did for Barbie. So we stop talking about it, we stop thinking about it, and we replace our awareness of mortality with busyness and distractions. 

Scientists have even found that there are biological mechanisms in our brains that keep us from really thinking about our own mortality. As a species, we tend to think of death as something that only happens to other people. 

That’s okay. We probably shouldn't live everyday staring death in the face. But what if we have gone too far? What if we are living in such complete denial that we miss out on what really matters in life, because we think we have all the time we’ll need? 

We may have scarred our kids. But there is one significant upside that happens when we live as people who know the truth - that one day, each of us, will die. The upside is that it wakes us up. It reminds us how to live. 

There’s a prayer we pray at almost every funeral we officiate here at the church. One of our favorite parts says "Help us to live as those who are prepared to die. And when our days here are accomplished, enable us to die as those who go forth to live, so that living or dying, our life may be in you, and that nothing in life or in death will be able to separate us from your great love in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Help us to live as those who are prepared to die. 

And enable us to die as those who go forth to live.

That prayer is what we’d like to talk about today. 

Happy Easter?

But this is something we see in the Easter story. It’s what we see in the way Jesus lived, and in the way he died. It points to a new way we can live, and to the hope we have in the empty tomb. Help us to live as those who are prepared to die.

Frederick Buechner writes “Intellectually we all know that we will die, but we do not really know it in the sense that the knowledge becomes part of us. We do not really know it in the sense of living as though it were true. On the contrary, we tend to live as though our lives would go on forever.” 

This description from Buechner is exactly how a lot of us live. But it’s not how Jesus lived. Jesus lived his life knowing, even as the Son of God, that he would die. So he lived as someone who knew life was limited. 

Jesus invested in his relationships. He taught people everything he could. He met them where they were and loved them. He tried to avoid getting caught up in the things that didn’t matter. 

He taught people about God and grace and compassion and righteousness.

He left the places and the people he encountered better than when he found them.

He changed people’s lives not only by doing miracles but by just loving them.

He challenged the status quo and refused to believe that things couldn’t be better.

He lived with purpose and used every moment that he could but he was also never too busy to stop and be with the people who needed him most.

He even had some fun along the way, turning water into wine at a party. 

He lived as someone prepared to die, because he didn’t waste the time he had here. That doesn’t mean he was eager to go. Toward the end of his life he prays “take this cup from me.” Being prepared to die and wanting to die are not the same.  Jesus was prepared because he knew that this life mattered. But he also knew that death was not the end. This is the second part of our prayer.  Let us die as those who go forth to live.

After Jesus died, he rose from the dead. That’s what we celebrate on Easter. That God loved us enough to come and be here, as a human. Jesus had to choose how to live and then, at the end, just like we do, he died. This is one of the most strange and amazing parts of our faith. God chose to be here, with us and to be human, to live and experience human life the way we do, and even to be willing to die like we do. That is the choice God made for us. But death wasn’t the end of his story. After Jesus died, he rose from the dead and conquered for him and for us sin and death, once and for all.  Jesus died knowing he would rise, that he would go on to live. So do we. Because of Jesus, after we die, we go on to live. We know that death is not the end of everything. It’s the end of this life but not the end of what God has planned for us. After death we have the hope of the resurrection that God has promised. This means even though we live knowing death will come, we also die knowing life is on the other side. Dying to go forth to live. Living as one prepared to die. 

This is the way Jesus lived and the way he died. This is the way those closest to him did too. 

Take a look at our Scripture passage for this morning from Luke 24:

"But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body.While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’ Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened."

The women are the first to come to the empty tomb. They are the very first to share the news that Jesus has risen. They run to tell the other disciples but no one believes them. But something in Peter must have trusted the women. Peter still had hope. He doesn’t walk slowly to the tomb, sulking. He takes off at a run toward the tomb. He gets to the tomb where they had put Jesus after he died, and he stoops down to look inside . . . and it’s empty.

We’ve been looking at Peter’s story for several weeks. He has had some amazing experiences with Jesus, and he has also had some huge failures. He has times of tremendous faith, but just as many times of doubt and uncertainty.  There is a lot of Peter in each of us, because his story is hardly consistent or linear. One day he is a spiritual giant, the next he is denying Jesus to anyone who asks. Peter is a mess as much as  he is a hero. 

But Jesus’ death wakes him up. The same Peter who denied Jesus goes on after the resurrection to preach to crowds of people. He goes from living in fear to leading with courage. He starts doing whatever it took to live as someone who knew his time was a limited resource. He can’t hide anymore because his life mattered. He’s not going to waste it on things that didn’t matter, or by giving into fear. 

He, like Jesus, lived as someone prepared to die.

Then, at the end of his life, Peter knew that the tomb was empty. He knew that Jesus had risen and what that meant for him. So he died as someone prepared to live. 

You don’t have to be just like Jesus, or even like Peter. You don’t have to have every day be full of purpose. You will get distracted by things that don’t matter. The whole point of grace is that we are never going to get things right all the time. But you can try to live your life differently.

You can focus on your relationships. You can follow Jesus' example by loving the people in your life with compassion, and forgiveness. You could invest in them in a way that shows the love of God. 

You can live with a feeling of purpose. You can seek God's will for your life and try to find meaning in what you do.  You can see past all the superficial stuff that wants your attention and think about why your life is important, because it is. 

You can leave a legacy that matters. You can refuse to settle for the way things are. You can stand up for justice instead of thinking this is the best we can do. You can work to make the world a little better than the way you found it. You don’t have to quit your job or stop doing your laundry or run away to some village in Italy to live like this. It’s a shift in perspective, to see your life the way God sees it.

Living as those who are prepared to die isn’t another way to say do whatever you want whenever you want, it means living for the people who will outlive you. Investing in them. Loving them. Teaching them to do the same for others. Just like Jesus did. 

Then, at the end of your life, you can face death with the hope of resurrection. Not because you want to die, but because you know that even in death, you don’t have to be afraid. Jesus died and rose from the dead. Jesus had a lot to say about what the resurrection means, and what it doesn’t. In a couple of weeks we’ll be starting a sermon series on exactly what Jesus did and didn’t say about heaven, because it may not be what you think. 

But for today, let the truth of death and resurrection wake you up to really live, and also comfort you in hope. In Jesus' death and resurrection, we see life's most important paradox: that endings are also beginnings, and that in loss, we find the promise of eternal gain. So we're called not to a life of fear or denial, but to one of real purpose, and deep, comforting hope.  It reminds us to embrace each and every day, and each and every person with the love that Jesus modeled, knowing that our journeys on earth, with all their highs and lows, and all the moments in between, are all wrapped up together. We are all a part of God's story of life, death and resurrection. 

Live as one who is prepared to die.

And one day, die knowing that you go forth to live. 

Christ is risen, He is risen indeed.

This is your chance to live like it. 



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