Lost! That’s what many believe has happened to Easter. The full pews, the thrilling music - are gone.
The lilies are beginning to get brown around the edges and the hyacinths are showing signs of shriveling up; the Easter candy has been eaten or what’s left might be melting; the plastic eggs and decorated baskets are on sale, and displays of Easter outfits have been replaced with summer wear. Easter is lost until next year.
Yes, that kind of Easter is lost, but there is another kind of Easter that is waiting to be found. The Easter that was found by the disciples huddled together in that upper room where Jesus had eaten with them before it all ended on Good Friday. There they were, behind locked doors, fearing they’d be hunted down and raised on a cross. There they were thinking they had lost all hope when they lost their Lord to death by crucifixion.
But then Jesus appeared and ate and spoke with them, and their lost hope was found.
One of the prescribed daily Scripture readings for Easter Monday is the first four verses in the opening lines of Genesis: “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth…” so that Christians will remember that day before was just the beginning, followed by 49 more days to celebrate Easter, fifty days in all to explore the new found life beyond the empty tomb and carry those discoveries forward into every day.
Small children were asked to bring plastic eggs filled with a candy treat or a small trinket for an egg hunt – like the one on our cemetery today. The eggs were scattered and then the children ran to find and collect them and open them to see the treats inside each egg. But one egg was empty, prompting an adult to hold it up and ask, “Who brought this?” A boy answered, “I did.” and when questioned, he answered, “It’s empty, like Jesus’ tomb."
For the first Christians it was a time to discover the Easter Jesus of the empty tomb intended to be found by them, to change them and resurrect them to a new way of living which Luke described as: Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common.
As an old Sunday school song has us singing:
I serve a risen Savior, He’s in the world today…
He lives, He lives, He lives within my heart!
The first-century Christian community thought it was a matter of time – days or months or many be a few years until God would suddenly appear and complete Christ’s resurrection by making all things new and restore the Garden of Eden on earth.
When one century after another passed and Christians saw God’s hoped-for rule was delayed, they soon realized they were to be a small preview of that day. Even pagans who scoffed at them had Tertullian, a Roman turned Christian, saying in response, “Look . . . how they love one another.” or in Luke’s words, the Easter community was “of one heart and soul.”
To remind them of that calling, Jesus’ Easter blessing became their by-word: “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” The “you” is plural, making “Peace” Christ’s assignment to be His community that works to learn to live at peace with one another, the hard work of a Christian congregation which continues to this day, here among us, where we pray we will always be alert to the potential for controversy and work at listening to one another with an open mind and heart and, when not able to resolve differences, agree to disagree out of respect for one another.
“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”- also meant to be heard as a very personal blessing, first for Peter, who was not-at-peace with himself, torn apart by his denial of his Lord as he warmed his hands over the fire while Jesus was on trial, denying not once but three times, that he ever knew that Man.
At the empty tomb an Easter messenger said, “Tell Peter also…that he is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see him.” (Mark 16:7) Jesus singled him out to show He still accepted, loved, and forgave Peter even though Peter had turned against Him. Peter’s lost hope was found.
When Thomas was absent – for some reason or another – on Easter night and refused to accept the others’ report that Jesus was with them, maintaining disbelief until he had tangible proof, Jesus went out of His way to invite him a week later to touch and see to convince him and dismiss his disbelief. Thomas’s lost hope was found!
First it was Peter and then Thomas, and now us. The Risen Christ has not stopped going out of His way to answer our every question with His Easter words which come to us though the Easter Gospel for this Sunday:
Do you feel afraid? Jesus says ‘peace be with you’
Do you feel you’ve let God down? Jesus says ‘peace be with you’
Do you hear God calling you? Jesus says ‘I am sending you’
Do you feel empty or inadequate? Jesus says ‘receive the Holy Spirit’
Have you been shutting God out of your life? Jesus says ‘peace be with you’
Do you want to know that Jesus is real? Jesus says ‘touch,
taste and receive me in the bread and the wine’
Do you believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God?
Jesus says ‘blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe’. (Quote from: Bryony Taylor bryonytaylor.com/.../easter-sermon-john-2019-31-peace-be-with-you-as...Apr 7, 2013, Assistant Curate at St Michael and All Angels, Houghton Le Spring, Durham Diocese. UK
A visitor who was accustomed to seeing a cross that is a crucifix, showing the dying Christ,
looked at our empty cross, and asked, “Where is Jesus?”
I gave the Easter answer,
“He is free to move among us.” –
and our lost hope is found.
Jesus, among us, blessings us with His “Peace be with you.” that
has us repeating what comes between the song’s opening line:
“I serve a risen Savior”
and the refrain’s closing words,
“He lives, He lives. He lives within my heart” with:
I serve a risen Savior, He's in the world today;
I know that He is living whatever men may say;
I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer,
And just the time I need Him, He's always near.
Refrain: He lives, He lives,
Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me
Along life's narrow way.
He lives, He lives,
Salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives?
He lives within my heart.
All because the Risen Christ is finding ways to spread His Easter words:
“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me,
so I send you.”-
blessing each of us to be a blessing. Amen.