Sermon Text: Resurrection Stories
At a time like this, we need resurrection stories. We need some Easter joy. We need to celebrate life over death. So let me tell you a couple of my favorite resurrection stories. They give me Easter joy. They are a celebration of life over death.
Both of these are true stories. The first one happened in the 1980s, although I have not been able to track it down completely. The second one happened to me in 2002.
The first is about an 8-year old boy named Stephen. Stephen had mental disabilities, and poor physical health. And his health was getting worse. But he loved Sunday school. He was in a small class with a half dozen other kids.
And in April around Easter time, their teacher asked the kids to take an Easter egg, one of these plastic ones that comes apart in two pieces. Each child was asked to hide something inside the egg, something to represent new life in springtime.
Now, the teacher was a little worried that Stephen might not catch on, and she did not want to embarrass him. So the teacher had all the children give their unlabelled eggs to her so she could be the one to open them.
The first egg had a tiny flower. The teacher said, "Oh, that's a wonderful sign of new life!" So of course the child who brought it said, "That's my egg!" The next egg had a little rock in it. This must be Stephen's, thought the teacher, Rocks don't symbolize new life. But the boy who brought it shouted that there was moss on the rock, and moss represents new life. The teacher agreed.
When the third egg was opened, a tiny butterfly flew out. All the kids said, Ooooooooh!
And a third child proudly claimed that one.
The fourth egg was empty. The teacher thought, This has to be Stephen's. She quickly reached for a fifth egg.
But Stephen spoke up: "Please don't skip mine!" "But, Stephen," the teacher said, "it's empty!" "That's right," Stephen replied, "And the tomb of Jesus
was empty, and that means new life for everyone!"
The tomb was empty, and that means new life for everyone.
Now, later that year, Stephen's health got much worse. And he died. And at his funeral, there were eight plastic eggs placed on his casket by his Sunday school class. They were all empty.
The tomb of Jesus was empty, and that means new life for everyone.
Now, let me tell you a story that belongs to me. It happened when we lived for a year in Syracuse. It happened a couple of weeks before Easter of 2002.
My wife, my daughter and I went to a production of Jesus Christ Superstar, the rock opera from the 1970s that tells the story of Christ's final week. Now, Marie, who is mentally disabled, knew all the songs. And she knew the story of the cross. Parts of that story really bother her, because she has a tender heart.
We had front-row seats. And the story came to the arrest of Jesus. The guards started roughing Jesus up on stage. Marie said, "They are just acting, right?" And she said it loudly. I saw two of the actors on stage look our way. They were playing the parts of the chief priests. As I said, we were right in the front row, and I thought we might be asked to leave.
But the story went on. It's the gospel story, of course, and Jesus was crucified and died. The show ends with sad music, but then all the actors came back onstage to take their bows.
When the applause was over, and the crowd was milling around near the stage, the actors were right in front of us. One of the chief priests who had looked our way came over to us. He spoke directly to Marie.
He said, "I could see you were upset. When I see people upset, I want to stop the show and tell them it's going to be all right at the end." And then he showed Marie that the actor who played Jesus was standing nearby, smiling and talking with people.
It was only later that I realized what had happened. This actor was an angel. He said what the angels in the Gospels say: Don't be afraid...I bring you good news...he is risen!
It's going to be all right in the end. In spite of COVID, in spite of the retirement of your rector, in spite of the dark days we so often have, it's going to be all right in the end.
Easter stories happen all the time.
Resurrection joys surprise us all the time.
Darkness and death are defeated by life and love.
And that's what the Gospel story is all about.