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Sunday’s Coming

Acts 10:34–43
Matthew 28:1–10

Easter Sunday

Delivered by Rev Ron Coughlin 

Prayer

O God, you are the one who brought order out of chaos and caused worlds to be.
You are the one who brought Jesus again to life from the dead.
You are the one who has the will and the power to begin again, start anew.
So we bid you, start here, start now, start with us.
Bring life to us now.
Give us your mercy, your justice, your compassion, your peace.
Give us ears to hear and eyes to see.

Amen.

There was a Sunday School teacher who had just finished telling the children about how Jesus was crucified and placed in a tomb with a great stone sealing off the only way in or out. Then, wanting to share the excitement of the resurrection, and the surprise of Easter morning, she asked: “And what do you think were Jesus’ first words when he came bursting out of that tomb alive.”

A hand shot up into the air from the rear of the classroom. It belonged to a most excited little girl. Leaping out of her chair she shouted out excitedly, “I know, I know, I know.”  “Good,” said the teacher, “Tell us.”  Extending her arms high in the air she sang out: “TA – DA!”

Now we know that Jesus’ first words were not Ta-Da!, but before we get there, we need to live the experience of Good Friday.

I want you to remember this: at the center of our Christian faith is a Friday, a Saturday, and Sunday.  Friday is the day of the pit; the day of death; the day of hopelessness.  Saturday is the time in-between, the time of meanwhile, the time of waiting.  Sunday is the day of new life, of resurrection, of hope.

Friday is about death.  I know quite a bit about death.  I have come to that Jordan River often, as a person and as a minister, and I have cast a wistful eye to the other side. A number of times I have arrived at the bedside, just in time to be with the family as the person died.  I remember my first funeral, many years ago, when I buried a man who was my own age.  That was one of my most difficult funerals, because no one, it seemed to me, died at my age.

Yes, I have experienced death first hand, with the death of my mother when I was just 25 years old and then the death of my father twenty years later.  Yes, for many of us, these memories of loss well up in the soul at Easter time.

One of the challenging aspects of being a minister, is the expectation that the minister fill a place no human is sufficient to fill.  I have tried to be the intermediary between death and life at a time of grief and loss.  But I have to confess to you this morning that I could not conduct funeral or memorial services, if I did not believe that there is a promised land on the other side of this life.  I could not be the presence needed at that moment if I did not believe that the words of Jesus are true and that the experience of the first disciples is true.

When we celebrate the Jesus who said, “I am the resurrection and the life,”[1] we celebrate those who have gone before us.  We can rejoice and let the heart cry out, “He is risen!”  Yes, I am glad for this Sunday, when we celebrate the God who loves us so much, that he gives us the assurance that what meets us on the other side of death is a loving and caring God who wraps us round in blankets of love and care.

But, you see, I do not think of Easter as applying only to the moment when we bid farewell to someone we love, or to the moment when we ourselves cross over to the world to come.  No, I see Easter as a continuing fact of life right here, right now, every day.

You see, when the Gospel writers tried to talk about resurrection, they were limited by their language.  How do you describe the indescribable?  How do you tell the story of the impossible?

Matthew tried.  I think that is why Matthew says that, when the first Easter happened, the whole earth shook.  Easter is an earthquake with doors shaken off tombs, and the huge stone that once sealed the entrance to the tomb rolled away, with a defiant angel sitting on it.  I like that touch in the story.  It appeals to the rebel in me.  Did you notice that little detail in the story?  Only Matthew has it.  The angel rolls back the large stone, and sits on it.  I love that little note of ridicule directed at all the futile efforts of Jesus’ enemies to keep him locked up in the tomb.

Yes, Matthew says Easter is an earthquake that shook the whole world.  Some people try to explain the resurrection.  There are many theories out there, from Jesus being only in a drugged coma and waking up, to the disciples who got so worked up in their grief that they fantasized the whole thing.  But you know something – you cannot explain the resurrection.

Resurrection explains us!  The disciples were confused.  Not one of them expected Easter, or even saw it as a possibility.  They knew all about death and defeat.  When the end came, the disciples sleep, betray, desert and deny.  Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

But you see, Easter turns the world upside down.  The unexpected happens.  It is a story of faith.  When you think about it, resurrection is not so much about Jesus, as it is about God.  Jesus did not raise himself.  God did!  Just when you think you have it all worked out.  God will come along and the unexpected happens.

This is the story of Easter.  It is the story that most of you have come to hear.  It is the story whose meaning we seek in our lives.  It is the story that has sustained the church for over 2000 years of life and witness.  But it is not just a story of the experience of others, it is and can be our own story.

It is the story of those moments when a woman gives birth and there before her, crying and kicking, is a whole new person, a creation of God.  It is the story of sitting in a quiet chapel or in that special place in nature and knowing the presence of someone beyond ourselves.  It is the story of a young man kicked out of his home because he is gay and finds love and acceptance in a church community.  It is the story of receiving communion and knowing that somehow in the mystery of faith these elements have blessed us with the very presence of the risen Christ.  It is the story of those holy moments when a loved one passes from this life to the life to come, and we can sense the presence of the living God, holding us in our time of grief.  It is the story of those moments when we know that we are not alone, we live in God’s world.

As I said earlier, I want you to remember this: at the center of our Christian faith is a Friday, a Saturday, and Sunday.  Friday is the day of the pit; the day of death; the day of hopelessness.  Saturday is the time in-between, the time of meanwhile, the time of waiting.  But Sunday is coming.  God will act.  God will bring new life.  God will bring us out of the darkness and into the light.  God will conquer death.

The biblical writers knew this.  In the Old Testament, they did not have the language of Good Friday and Easter Sunday, but they knew of the experience.

There was Abraham and Sarah.  In their old age; no children; no heirs; no promise.  They are in despair.  But God says Sarah will have a baby, and she laughs.  They were living in a Friday world, but Sunday is coming.  And they called the baby Isaac, which means laughter.

There was Moses and his people in slavery in Egypt.  They were in bondage, in terrible conditions.  They were living in a Friday world; but Sunday is coming.  Moses says, “Let my people go”, and they cross the Red Sea.

In the wilderness, in the desert, the people doubted God, tested God.  They thought they were going to starve to death, or die of thirst.  They were living in a Friday world; but Sunday is coming.  Manna fell and water flowed.

There was David.  A young boy up against a Goliath.  It looked hopeless.  The odds uneven.  It seemed like a Friday world; but Sunday is coming.  And Goliath fell.

There was Daniel.  In the Lion’s den.  All because he would not worship an idol or break the laws of his people regarding what you should eat.  A teenager against a lion.  Who would you bet on?  It seemed like a Friday world; but Sunday is coming.  The lion lay down like a lamb.

There was Esther.  A Jew married to a Persian.  The Prime Minister wanted to kill all the Jews.  It seemed like a Friday world; but (say it with me) Sunday is coming.  And Esther saved her people.

There was Ruth.  A widow with no future.   She tried to help her mother-in-law. She gathered up the scraps of grain left behind to feed them.  They might starve to death.  It seemed like a Friday world; but Sunday is coming.  Ruth ends up marrying the wealthy landlord, Boaz.

Lazarus is dead.  “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died” say the sisters.  Dead four days.  Dead for sure.  No hope.  It seems like a Friday world; but Sunday is coming.  He came out of the tomb, new life is given.

It’s Good Friday.  Jesus is on the cross.  Mary, his mother, is beside herself with grief.  Jesus is dying.  It seemed like a Friday world; but Sunday is coming.

The apostles were really down and out.  They ran away in fear.  Jesus, their leader, was murdered by the Roman soldiers.  It seemed like a Friday world; but ….Sunday is coming.

The Devil thought he had won.  The principalities and powers were going to rule the world.  It was a Friday world; but…… Sunday is coming.

It’s Friday and evil has triumphed over good.  Jesus on the cross.  The world is turned upside down.  This should not happen.  Where is God?  But its only Friday; and……Sunday is coming.

Mary Magdelene was out of her mind with grief.  Jesus had turned her life around.  He had brought joy to her life like she had never known before, but now he is dead.  But its only Friday; and ……Sunday is coming.

The disciples were cowering with fear behind locked doors.  They were uncertain what to do Peter suggests they go back home and try to forget what has happened.  But God had another idea.  The spirit that covered the earth at creation, gave the disciples a new message.  Remember, it’s only Friday; and…… Sunday is coming.

You may be going through a difficult time.  There is loss and grief.  You feel like you are in the depths.  You feel like dry bones.  But remember, its only Friday; and…… Sunday is coming.

You have an illness.  Broken bones, cancer.  The aging process is wearing you down.  Remember, its only Friday; and……. Sunday is coming.

The story of Jesus, the truth of Easter, the promise of God’s spirit within us, all remind us of this one thing – you may be having a Friday experience; but…… SUNDAY IS COMING.[2]

And that’s the truth!


[1] John 11: 25-26

[2] This refrain “It’s Friday, but Sunday is coming” was inspired by a video sermon by the late S.M. Lockridge, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in San Diego California, still available on the internet.

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