So many folks don’t get it. Heck, I gotta be honest. Sometimes, I don’t get it. I don’t get what this whole day is about. Do you get it? In case you don’t, I’m going to show you a few things to help you. So, let’s start with this one. Can anyone tell me who this guy is? Yep, that’s Donald J. Trump. And what position does he hold right now. He’s the President of the United States. Now, whether you voted for the guy or not, that’s the facts of the situation, right? That ain’t fake news.
Ok, just to ease the tension a bit, let me throw something else up.It’s the first picture of a BlackHole. Now up until this picture (that it took eight telescopes working simultaneously around the world to even get) we were 99.9% certain these things existed, but now we know for sure. That black hole you see up there lies 55 million light years away from us. It is larger than our entire solar system. And it is six and a half billion times heavier than our sun. Six and a half billion! That is amazing.
And this one, I didn’t want to believe was true. Almost everyone in the world wished that. But it happened. Notre Dame, the magnificent church that has stood at the center of Paris for 900 years, went up in flames. Miraculously, much of it survived. But what an awful sight.
Why do I show you these pictures? It’s because until you understand that each one of these pictures shares a crucial thing in common with the words you’re about to hear, you won’t really get the power of Easter. But when you do understand it will change everything about how you see yourself, how you see others, and how you see this world. So how do these pictures connect to Easter? In these words, God shows you the way. Let’s listen and hear what God has to say.
Do you get what Easter is? Do you really get it? Easter is news. It just as much news as Trump getting elected or Notre Dame burning. And until you get that, until you get that God is telling you something that actually happened, you’ll never get the power that Easter holds.
That’s why Paul uses the words he uses. Do you see that word “proclaimed” as in “the good news that I proclaimed to you?” That word proclaim is in Greek, Kerosso. And it has a very specific meaning. It’s what a kerox did, a herald. They proclaimed, they kerossoed, so to speak.
You see. In the ancient world, they didn’t have CNN or Fox or MSNBC. They had heralds. Heralds moved through the cities proclaiming the news. And by news, I don’t mean 10 ways to reduce worry or what folks are wearing in Rome. I mean news of wars won, emperors crowned, taxes raised, stuff that affected everyone, news that shifted history.
And that same word for herald, Paul uses here. All the early followers of Jesus used it. They made it clear. We are heralds. We bring you news, news so momentous it has shifted everything forever. That’s why they used the euangelion too, here translated as good news. Greek speakers didn’t use Euangelion for just any good news. They used it for specific news, typically news of a victory over an enemy. And that word, euangelion, tells you how momentous Easter news is. In Jesus, God has won a victory. No God has won the victory; over everything that separates you from God, even death. God isn’t giving you some inspirational story. God isn’t giving you a philosophy of life. God is giving you news, something that actually happened.
Why do you think Paul talks about all these witnesses? Paul is telling you. Check my story out. Ask the witnesses. Most are still around. After all, Paul is writing just twenty years after Jesus’ resurrection. That’s about as recent as 9-11.
And if Easter means that, if it is news, then that news, it changes everything. If God has defeated death, it means anything is possible, anything. It means from nothing, even the nothingness of death, God can bring everything. It makes what Jackie Pullinger has done make sense.
Do you know that story? Jackie Pullinger, a twenty-something English woman showed up in Hong Kong in 1966 with less than twenty bucks in her pocket, wanting to be a missionary. She had talked to some pastor who told her. Book a ticket to the furthest place you can afford and get off there. So, she did just that. That’s how she ended up in Hong Kong, in Kowloon the Walled City, so awful a place its Chinese name was just one word, Darkness. And there working in a mission school, she started reaching out to hard-core heroin and opium addicts. Inspired by her own experience of God’s Spirit coming upon her, she told them. If they prayed with her for four hours every day, God would give them the strength to overcome their addiction. Since no one else was giving them any hope, they tried it. And it worked. As they prayed, God’s Spirit came. Women and men whose drug use had reduced them to a living death, rose up and became free. Her success became so stunning that the Hong Kong government even gave her land to build her own center to expand the work. And so, the St. Stephen’s Society was born Over 50 years later, thousands, thousands have become drug free through her work.
Now how can praying four hours a day free someone from a brutal addiction, I have no idea. But it’s happened, again and again and again. And that’s not fake news. You can look it up. Google it. It happened. It’s happening even as I speak. Why?
Because in Jesus, God did something amazing, incredible, world-changing. God defeated death. And if God has done that, God can do anything. From nothing, God brings something. Heck, from nothing, God can even bring everything. And that’s good because two weeks ago on a Monday evening, that’s all we had, nothing.
Two weeks ago, our church came together with 1400 others for a big assembly to change some things in our county. We had made progress. The new sheriff was coming. We were pretty sure, he was going to say yes to what we were asking. But on the big ask, we had nothing. We had learned. If you were seriously mentally ill, you needed supportive housing. With supportive housing you live independently, but people check in on you, make sure you take your meds, go to therapy, stuff like that. And this sort of housing saves lives, saves money even. Yet in spite of that, over 200 people were still on the waiting list to get it. We wanted that changed. So, we went to a county commissioner to get it done. And well, we didn’t get it done. She gave us something, but something so low, it was really nothing. And forget about her showing up at the assembly. She wasn’t going to do that.
But when I walked in to that assembly that night, someone came up to me. She said, the Vice-Mayor of Broward County is here. But we hadn’t invited the Vice-Mayor. We hadn’t even talked to him. But here he was. So, we asked him. Would you support the funding to get those folks off the waiting list? He said, Yes. You’ll say so publicly here? He said, yes. It’s like God said. “Why go for a county commissioner, when I can get you the vice-mayor?” And out of nothing, not only came something, but with God’s help, will come everything for those 200 in need.
That’s nice and all, but this news, this good news of Easter has to go further than that. Yes, it brings freedom from addiction. Yes, it moves public leaders to do the right thing. But on Easter, Jesus did more than defeat a drug or move a leader, Jesus defeated death. That’s the news that changed everything. But how can that be? People still die. But the news of Easter is. Death is not the end of the story. Because of Jesus, God’s love, a love that defeats even death, that is the end of the story.
Last Sunday, after reading Jayson Greene’s story, I could hardly stand. It shared news that terrifies me. Jayson shared the news of the day his beautiful 2-year-old daughter, Greta died. She was sitting on a park bench beside her grandmother outside her apartment building. Eight floors above, a brick on a windowsill came loose. It hurtled down. It struck Greta. The doctors did all they could, but Greta Greene died.
For months afterwards, Jayson, her father, writes he couldn’t go to the park to run. That had been their place. As he describes it; “The park was our place, Greta’s and mine — every tree, every leaf, every passing doggy belonged to the two of us.”
But one day, he feels compelled to go. He runs past fields full of children, eyes fixed straight ahead. But at the edge of the park something happens. “There at the park’s mouth,” he writes, "my heart stirs, and I feel a peculiar elation. I recognize her. Greta is somewhere nearby. I feel her energy, playfully expectant. Come find me, Daddy, she says. Tears spring and run freely down my face. I hear you, baby girl, I whisper. Daddy’s coming to get you."
"Elated, I enter the park and immediately spot her; she is waiting for me, hiding behind the big tree in the clearing between the Vanderbilt playground and the duck pond. She appears from behind the tree with a flourish, giggling, just like in our old game [of hide and seek]. Standing in the park, staring at her, I make a strange and primal sound, deep and rich like a belly laugh, hard and sharp like a sob. You are here. You picked the park. Good choice, baby girl."
Oblivious to the people around me, I run to her. She wiggles in anticipatory joy. Stooping down, I scoop her up under her soft armpits, her shoulder blades meeting at the pads of my fingers, and I lift her up into the sky. She is invisible to passersby — to them, there is nothing in the spot next to the tree where she stands laughing and clapping but a patch of grass, and there is nothing in my arms but air. But she is not here for them; she is here for me….I feel her presence filling up my heart, and with it comes a strange exhilaration. I feel like I’ve discovered an opening. I don’t know quite what’s behind it yet. But it is there. I have been raised secular by my parents, and I’ve never set foot in a church for more than an hour. But I will do anything for Greta, I am learning. And that includes becoming a mystic, so that I might still enjoy her company."
And as he leaves, Jayson gropes for his phone, and writes simply these words. “There will be more light upon this earth for me.”
Easter is not some inspirational story or philosophy of life. It ia news, good news, the greatest, most beautiful, most blessedly incredible news ever. And because Jesus lives, Greta lives. She lives because that empty tomb tells you. Not even death defeats God’s love.
Now you don’t have to believe that. You can choose to think that hundreds of witnesses were wrong. But if you get it, if you get that this stunning amazing thing actually happened, it changes everything. You will know. If death can’t defeat God’s love, nothing can. Everything is changed. It’s not death time. It’s new life time. It’s not Greta is gone time. It is Greta lives time. It’s not death has the last word time. It’s love has the last word time. This news tells you. It’s resurrection time. And in resurrection time, anything is possible.
Look at the miracle of Notre Dame. What looked gone will soon rise again. But it is Notre Dame. Of course, that would happen. No, you know it’s resurrection time, not because of Notre Dame. You know it because of three Black Baptist churches in Lafayette, Louisiana. 2 months ago, an arsonist burned down those churches. So, the local Baptist association put up a Go Fund Me page to raise 1.8 million dollars to help them rebuild. And a journalist named Yashar Ali saw it. And tweeted that he was giving a thousand dollars, and asked others to join in. And they did! Within three days, folks had given over 2 million. And it hasn’t stopped. Now who is Yashar Ali? He’s Iranian. He’s Gay. And he’s Catholic, devoutly so. When an Iranian Gay Catholic leads the charge for Black Baptists in Louisiana, you know what time it is. It’s resurrection time.
It’s not stand divided in hate time. It’s come together in love time. Cause, it’s not discrimination time. It’s celebration time. It’s everyone belongs in God's house time. Because, it’s not death time. It’s new life time. It’s not death has the last word time. It’s love has the last word time. Sister and brothers, what time is it? It’s resurrection time. So, go out and live this news. Practice resurrection. Together let’s make sure everyone knows the beauty and power of this news. For, it’s come together and live the love time. Because sisters and brothers, what time is it. It’s Resurrection time.