So here we are again. We’re all dolled up in our fanciest clothes and the candles are out and flowers are back. We have the trumpet sounding and the children singing and the timpanis ready to thunder as we raise glorious shouts of “Hallelujah” to the heavens. Easter is here and so are we. But does any of it really matter?
Why are we here? Why do we come back here every year to celebrate? Do we come here because it’s nice chance to see old friends? Do we gather with our families today because it’s a great reason to cook a ham or turkey or whatever other feast we may plan? Do we get our children excited about Easter because chocolate is yummy and Easter egg hunts are fun? Well, yeah. We do all of those things. But is there more? Does Easter really matter?
For Christians, Easter should be the most important day of the year. The day when we commemorate that our Savior defied the odds, bested the Roman Empire, and that his message has survived all these years of oppression and opposition. Easter is the day when we declare that the leader of our church, the head of our faith, the One whom we follow was triumphant over evil and inequality; victorious over even death itself.
And so we tell the miraculous story of a man who came back from the dead. But in our skeptical world, being intelligent people, surrounded by science … well, maybe we don’t quite believe it. Maybe it’s easier for us to explain it away, saying that it’s all just a metaphor – you know, a “his message lived on, even though he died” kinda thing. Because people don’t really come back from the dead. But it’s alright if it didn’t really happen, we tell ourselves. It doesn’t really matter anyway.
But it does matter. It matters that this man was persecuted, tortured, humiliated, and was crucified. It matters that he felt pain and sorrow and suffered. It matters that Jesus was dead and then was alive.
It matters because his story changes our story. Because his resurrection kicks open the gates of heaven for us and for everyone. It matters because his second chance at life means we get more chances than we can even count, maybe more chances than we even deserve.
Jesus’ story is all about us. In only three years, his ministry was able to name all of the ways that we humans get life wrong. He showed us that we spend too much time away from God, too much time thinking only about ourselves, too much time blaming others. Jesus tried to show us how easy we find it to condemn others, how easy it is for us to say that the poor and the sick must have done something wrong to deserve what happened to them, how easy it is to blame someone else for the violence of the world, how easy it is to put down others.
In order to show us that we can’t help but blame others, he allowed himself to be our target. Jesus became the ultimate innocent scapegoat – the blameless victim who we blamed for everything. And he stood there in love and took everything we could throw at him. Until finally we nailed him to a cross.
And still we said it wasn’t our fault: it was the Empire, it was the Pharisees or – the most ludicrous claim of all – it was a sacrifice that God demanded.
Jesus let us kill him so that we would see our reflection in his eyes. Jesus died to try and put an end to our violent ways. Jesus died to show just how wrong we can be. His death is all about us.
And so is His resurrection. By rising from the dead, he gives you and me another chance to do better. And when we fail at that, he gives us another chance and another chance and more and more and chances to keep trying to get it right.
Why would he do that?
Because you matter. Jesus lived and died and rose for you because you are special. Not just because you are a child of God, not just because you are a “precious snowflake” who can do no wrong – because we know that’s not true, we all mess up. You matter because you are called to be here … right now. You are called to hear the good news of Christ’s ministry, and to question it and dissect it and to try and figure it out. You are called to live out the gospel in everything you do and everything you say. You matter because you are the one who can bring God’s kingdom to fulfillment – the peaceful world of equality and justice and forgiveness that God wants us to have, the life that Jesus modeled.
With everything that Jesus did for us – living, healing, preaching, teaching, walking, talking, washing, being, hurting, dying, rising – even with all of that, the world still suffers. There is still so much work to be done. Christ didn’t fix everything.
He did a great job pointing out what needs to change. Jesus showed us that all of God’s children deserve to be treated equally, that money and power corrupt, that the Divine can be found in the poor, the sick, the hungry, the suffering. He lived a wonderful life and showed us that it is possible to change the world. But even with all of the miraculous superpowers that we give him, the truth is: Jesus couldn’t do it all himself. He made a difference in the world but our world still needs to change. We still hurt each other, we still seek vengeance when we feel we are wronged, we ignore the homeless and sick and the needy, we blame everyone else for our problems and we blame God for not making us perfect.
And that’s why we matter. We matter because Christ couldn’t do it all himself and so now it’s our responsibility. We hear the stories of the Bible and we accept them or we deny them or we question them. But when we take the time to be with the gospel and take the time to sit with the Word and try to understand what God is calling us to do through Christ’s ministry, we can begin to see that we can do it. When we have the courage to recognize the Holy Spirit within us, empowering us to work, we can go out into the world and try just a little bit harder to make a difference.
The Easter story matters. It matters that Jesus died and it matters that Christ rose from the dead. His life, death, and resurrection show us that we can make a difference. It matters because you matter.
Please pray with me.
Holy God, help us to keep Easter in our heart every day. Help us to remember Christ’s resurrection as our own and to recognize the Holy Spirit continues to live within us. Give us the courage to make a difference in a world that suffers by following your call to tend to the sick, feed the hungry, visit the captive and give voice to the silent. Help us to remember that this world needs our help, because we matter. This we pray in the holy name of Jesus, the Risen Christ, your son, our brother and our teacher. Amen.