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SO WHAT WAS THE SERMON ABOUT?
April 8, 2004
 
Easter sermons will be easy to preach, you think when you start out. I mean, Easter: there'll be lots of things to say. But you find them difficult, and not just because you know there will be lots of people in church whom you don't see except on Easter Sunday. Writing your Easter sermon is hard for you. You don't understand the resurrection, don't know what happened.

The children's sermon is a snap: Jesus was dead and God brought him back from being dead, you will say, and the little ones will stare at you, some nodding, one raising his hand to tell you that his grandmother died, one just opening and closing the clasps of her tiny Easter handbag until it's time to go back to her pew.

It's the adults who will watch you pleasantly as you climb the stairs to the pulpit. They're waiting for you to say something that they will still remember by the time you get to the end of the Creed, remember when they get home. You want them to be able to answer if someone asks them what the sermon was about. Your nightmare: someone asks them what the sermon was about and they say "Oh, just Easter, you know. Nothing, really. I don't remember."

Nothing, really.

Holy Week has gone pretty well. You talked about "The Passion of the Christ" once, and about the Eucharist once. When the ecumenical clergy gathered to outpreach one another on The Seven Last Words, yours was "I Thirst," and you talked about water in desert countries, about refugee migration being primarily a search for drinking water, about Jesus' presence in human suffering wherever and whenever it occurs.

Your other nightmare: after the service is over, someone comes through the receiving line, shakes your hand heartily and says "Thank you for your words."

We won't understand the resurrection. We won't be able to explain it to them because we don't understand it ourselves. An explanation will not be part of the Easter sermon. We have this in common with those who first beheld the risen Christ and didn't know who He was. Like them, we are not convinced by the evidence: we must approach the resurrection by looking at our lives to see where Christ lives in them, by examining our longings to see where He might be in our futures, by contemplating our own deaths and allowing ourselves to wonder about what lies beyond them.

In some ways, the whole of the Christian life is a preparation for death, a learning of confidence in the power of God to transcend it, the crafting of a life that can let go when it is time to let go because it has been completely lived, regardless of how long a life it has been. God holds our lives in His hand and holds us throughout them. Holds us in our deaths and welcomes us home when we have come through them.

Those who have lost someone they love will listen intently. Those whose losses are recent may blink back tears. Those who have not yet lost someone without whom they thought they could not live may or may not listen to you: it depends on what else is going on in their lives.

That's all right. This will not be their last chance to hear of a love that lives beyond the grave. You'll tell them again.
Copyright © 2018 Barbara Crafton
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