Sermon Details

Are You Coming?

April 17, 2022
Wabash Avenue Presbyterian Church in Crawfordsville, IN, invites you to join us as we worship in this time of SARS-CoV-2. Today's Easter Sunday service will be led by Pastor John Van Nuys. The sermon title is "Are You Coming?" Hymns and choir led by Jennie Swick accompanied by Alan White. Thank you for joining us remotely.
(1) Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb [where they had laid Jesus] and saw that the stone had been removed. (11) Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; (12) and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. (13) They said, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said, “They have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they have laid him.” (14) When she said this, she turned and saw Jesus standing there, but she didn’t recognize him. (15) Jesus said, “Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you’ve carried him away, tell me where you’ve laid him, and I’ll take him away.” (16) Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). (17) Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (18) Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
– John 20:1, 11-18

We hear about the war on Christmas, but what about the war on Easter? If our culture focuses more on Santa than Baby Jesus, then we really do that welcoming the Easter Bunny way more than the Risen Christ. I’m not talking about celebrating with chocolate eggs, which is innocent fun. What I’m talking about is the pesky problem of a crucified God, who arose to change everything about the world and us and our beloved, blood-soaked status quo.

Jesus came, saying: Blessed are the meek, the mourners, and the merciful; the peacemakers, the pure in heart, the persecuted, the poor. Jesus blessed the wrong people. He included the ones we’ve excluded. We set things up so we’re in and they’re out. Jesus critiqued cash, power, and privilege, saying: Forget that if you want to follow me. That’s the world’s way, but a new world is coming. It’s here. It’s the Kingdom of God: Where the last are first; the lost are found; where justice prevails; and love wins.

To get that goodness, our current crud has gotta go. That’s why Jesus said: Take up your cross and follow me. Everything from what’s in your heart to what’s in the headlines has gotta change. What was our response? On Good Friday, the world said to God: “Go to hell.” Easter is God’s sublime, subversive of saying: “Been there. Done that. Bought the t-shirt. You’re not getting rid of me that easily. Now, let’s start again.”

God knows; we need a fresh start: History is tragic. The future looks bleak. Europe’s current war brings its hellish, genocidal plague of death and the threat of nuclear Armageddon. But God hasn’t seen a pharaoh or Pontius Pilate who God can’t defeat. Easter is God’s emphatic announcement that God will have the last word. That’s why when faced with the horrors of history or the sadnesses of our lives; we should echo Abraham Heschel, who said: “Against my better judgment, I am an optimist.”

When it comes to history and its tragedies, we can trust that history and evil is no match for God and Easter. And when it comes to us and our individual struggles, we can know and live this fact: Our Crucified God is with us. Our pain is his pain — just as his path is our path: Crucifixion shall become Resurrection. So, hold onto hope as you hold onto him.

We are an Easter people in a Good Friday world where bad things happen. But we belong to Christ. Christ has conquered the world, and he will not stop until Love prevails. Easter means that Day continues to dawn.

Still, the world pushes back. Even my computer does. When I typed that the Risen Jesus “appeared to many,” the spell check pushed back insisting I change it to: “Jesus appeared too many.” TOO. As in: Jesus appeared too many times; to too many people. How can you keep the world afraid, angry, and violent if people are hopeful, loving, and peaceable? Quick, eat some chocolate. Don’t think about what Easter means. Be content with cute bunnies. Don’t act to incarnate God’s Easter agenda. You’ll mess everything up! If we couldn’t keep Jesus in the grave, let’s keep him in the Bible. Leave him buried away in a book; in the past. He’ll wreck everything if he gets loose in the world — or, even worse, if he gets loose in you.

But that’s exactly what Jesus is: He’s loose. He’s in the world and in you. Jesus conquered death, and he’s gonna keep at it until everything is in sync with God: “Thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Easter means that kingdom isn’t only coming. It’s already here.

Some signs say: “Jesus is coming. Are you ready?” But Easter means: “Jesus is ready. Are you coming?” I think that’s why Jesus tells Mary: Don’t hold onto me. Don’t hold me down. I am ascending so the new creation can arise. I’m going places. You’re coming with me. Not just to heaven after you die. But you’re coming with me now on the adventure called faith to bless, share, and love.

So, too, today Jesus invites you: Don’t hold onto me. Don’t just understand me mentally; follow me daily. Let me bless you — and make you a blessing. That opportunity; that Way, Truth, and Life is here because Jesus Christ is risen today. Jesus is ready. Are you coming?

In reading this, your heart may be stirred. What you’re feeling is the Holy Spirit drawing you to Christ. To begin or renew a relationship with Jesus, just pray:

“Lord, help me receive your love. I regret the wrong I’ve done. Forgive me. Jesus, I believe you are God’s Son and the Savior of the world. Be my Savior. Save me from myself. Save me for yourself. Enter my heart. Fill me with your Holy Spirit. Help me to serve you faithfully and well. Help me to love as you love. Lead me in your Way, Truth, and Life now and forever. Continue to show me who you are and who I am in you. Amen.”

If you pray this prayer, contact a pastor. They’ll show you how to live for Christ with purpose, peace, and joy. Jesus says: “Behold, I make all things new.” That definitely includes YOU!