Thursday, April 4, 2013

Easter is our Defining Story

We had a wonderful Easter at Chain of Lakes.  For me Easter worship is a year unto itself. This year Kristel Peters, the fabulous Music Director at Chain of Lakes, and I poured over our Easter service.  We edited it a number of times.  When we evaluated the service this past week we looked at it like detectives looking at a scene from every angle. 
Since Easter I have continued to reflect on what it means to have the Resurrection be our defining story.  The following is an excerpt from the Easter sermon I shared about the difference between having our lives by Good Friday and Easter.  To watch the complete sermon go to:

At our small group this past week we talked about the idea of a defining story.  Adam Hamilton talked about how a defining story is the root narrative that shapes the way we look at the world.  The idea of a defining story is not unique to him.  A Defining story forms our response to the situations of our life—how we handle success and failure.   It shapes how we handle adversity and how we reach out to people who are suffering. 
The question I’d like all of us to reflect upon this week is this.  Do we want our defining story to be Good Friday or Easter? 
Good Friday is a very special day for me.  This past Friday morning I got up with my wife, Amy, and we went to pray at 7:00 a.m. at a prayer vigil at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church where she works.  Next year I want to have a prayer vigil at Chain of Lakes Church.  This past Friday I was singing the spiritual, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord” throughout the day.”  It’s a special song for a special day.

(During the sermon I went ahead at this point and sang a verse of "Were you there")
But let’s be clear.  Good Friday is not our defining story.  For if the story of Jesus had ended on the cross, you and I wouldn’t worship on Easter.    
Jesus’ sacrifice was one of the greatest sacrifices in the history of the world, but it’s not a unique sacrifice.  Many leaders throughout history have given their lives for a cause.  If the story ended there we would remember Jesus, but we wouldn’t come awake to all that is possible. 
If Good Friday was our defining story, we would accept the world as it is.  .
If Good Friday was our defining story Robbie and Alissa Parker [parents of Emilie Parker who was killed in the Newtown shootings] wouldn’t have met with Peter Lanza, father of Adam Lanza
If Good Friday was our defining story you and I wouldn’t work so hard to build a new faith community.  We would be content with strangers remaining strangers. 
Yesterday we had an Easter egg hunt, and it was a big success.  We started something yesterday that can continue.  You know what the forecast was for yesterday morning?  Rain.  I was awakened at 4:00 in the morning to the loud clap of thunder.  I had my doubts about whether we should do the Easter egg hunt.  Who wants to take their kids to an Easter egg hunt in the rain?  A Good Friday person gives in to doubts.  We aren’t Good Friday people. 
Because of the encouragement of others on the Chain of Lakes Steering Committee we went ahead with the Easter egg hunt.  A lot of people came.  The Easter bunny, who I discovered is very cool, came.  The Steering Committee organized the event.  When the Easter egg hunt was over we all gathered in a circle to pray and we couldn’t help but say, “Yay God.”
If Good Friday was our defining story we would give in.  We would give in to cancer, Mental Illness, even evil, and death.  We would say that this is how life is meant to be and we can’t do anything about it.  To accept Good Friday as our final story is to accept fatalism.
If Good Friday was our defining story we wouldn’t be hearing Mary or Peter’s story today.
But we are—hearing their story.  We’re hearing their story because of 17 words.  They are the 17 words that the angels said to Mary and the other women who understandably thought that Jesus’ death was the end of the story.  The 17 words are a short phrase that describe the resurrection.
 “Why do you look for the living among the dead.  He is not here.  He is risen.”
These words are our defining story.  Through them we come awake. 
Coming awake means we aren’t afraid of our own death.  Death doesn’t frighten or really concern us because we know that death is not the end.  When we die we have an entire eternity to enjoy with God. 
Coming awake means when the doctor tells us we have cancer or another disease we aren’t ultimately overwhelmed.  We certainly have difficult moments.  But we will do everything we can to live and if we don’t live, we know our disease won’t have the final word on our lives.   
Coming awake means that when our difficult family relationships inevitably erupt we don’t accept that this is how it has to be.  Instead we will do everything we can to repair relationships, reaching out in love even when we don’t have a clue how it will turn out. 
Coming awake means we never give in to the skeptics who say that people in 2013 aren’t interested in God or the church.  Or even to Presbyterian skeptics who don’t believe a new Presbyterian church can thrive.  Instead we believe that God wants and is calling vital churches to exist who at their core believe in the resurrection and whose defining story is shaped by these 17 words. 
May Chain of Lakes Church and every church always be a community whose defining story is shaped by the resurrection!

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