For some 2,000 years, people have stood in pulpits and tried to explain the events that have brought us here today. For centuries theologians have been attempting to make sense of someone willing to die for those he did not even know. But since you got all dressed up and made an effort to be this morning I will add my voice to the thousands that have come before me and offer some thoughts on this Easter morning.
I have given this sermon the title, Then Came the Morning, but I want to back up a couple of days, to Good Friday. There, Jesus is hanging on the cross. He has been given a death sentence because he dared to stand up to the religious and political establishment of his day. He gave voice to those without a voice and told his followers that they were to love everyone no matter what.
So there he hangs, between two thieves, crucified like a common criminal. One of them asks Jesus to forgive him, we have no idea what he did to deserve the same sentence of death, but, he asks Jesus to forgive him. Without hesitation, Jesus forgives him and tells him that they will be together in paradise. A few moments later he looks around at those who have just carried out his death sentence, and he asks God to forgive him. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.
From the cross, the instrument of his death, he asks God to forgive those who have just killed him. The story of the crucifixion, in fact, the entire salvation story is all about forgiveness, and that story continues today.
It is always the darkest just before dawn. Jesus’ friends had seen him taken away. They followed him to the Governor’s house where the death sentence was pronounced. They saw him beaten and then saw him carry his cross to the place of his death. From far off they saw him die and his body placed in the tomb, and the stone rolled in front of it. They watched their friend and their teacher die, and they did not know what to do.
Then came the morning
After the Passover Mary, one of his followers went to the tomb. They had to bury him quickly and did not have time to prepare the body, so Mary went to finish the burial process. But, the tomb was opened, and he was gone, she was distraught, what happened, where did he go. Then, Mary saw him. At first, she did not know who he was but then, after hearing his voice, she knew it was the master.
Jesus told her to go and tell the others. In another version of this story, he told her to go and tell the others, and Peter. Jesus was offering forgiveness to Peter for his denial. He was offering forgiveness to all of them for abandoning him, but he especially granted forgiveness to Peter.
Mary raced back to tell them what had happened and became the first evangelist, the first one to preach the Easter message.
Their world would never be the same again and neither would the world.
Jesus left us with a way, a path to follow, a path of love and a path of forgiveness. A path he calls us to be the voice for those who have no voice in our world and a way that requires us, if we are to claim the title of Christian, a path of love for all, without conditions.
But he also left us with a way for forgiveness and reconciliation. God loves us so much that he sent his son to become like us, to understand us on a deeper, more intimate level and to offer us forgiveness. Yes, God loves you just the way you are. Sure, there are voices out there that will tell you differently. There are elements of the church that want to dictate who you can love and who can come to the table, but make no mistake, this church and this minister is here to proclaim to the world that God’s loves you just the way you are.
In a few moments, I will invite you to come to the table, the table of love and the table of reconciliation. This table of simple bread and cup is a symbol of unity where all are equal, and the love of God is evident to all. This table, just like God’s love, is for all and we welcome all.
The message of Easter, the message of our entire Christian way is a message and a way of love. My prayer for all of us on this day is that we truly know that God loves us and that we take that message of love from this place out into the world that is so desperate for that message and that love.