In the name of the God the Creator, Jesus the Liberator, and the Holy Spirit the Sustainer. AMEN.
Is Easter becoming too common place for us? Sure it only happens once a year, but still how does it effect us? As the central event in salvation does it command the attention it should? Or is it only special in that we see lots of people we don’t usually see in Church? Is it only special because a school holiday surrounds it? Certainly it was not common on that first Easter morning.
Utter confusion reigned that first Easter morning. People were running around trying to figure out what in the world was going on. It was not the dazed confusion you might see if you come upon an accident where people may be wandering around confused and not sure what has happened. It is the chaotic confusion that might surround that frenzied attempted to get a pregnant wife to the hospital when the baby is coming fast and furious. It is the panicked confusion of a child lost at the fair.
It was bad enough that Jesus has been killed, now his body was missing! It was definitely not the smooth celebrations that we have now. People were not sitting around singing songs of praise and worship. There were no lengthy prayers, no worshipful service, no attention being paid to an inspiring sunrise or a beautiful setting. There were no beautiful floral arrangements. No sermons trying to explain the truth of what the empty tomb meant. There was absolute confusion and chaos.
One thing that has not changed from that first Easter Sunday though is what it means to people. The message of Easter is new beginnings. The message of Easter is that no matter who you are, no matter what you have done – Jesus offers new beginnings. Very soon after all the turmoil of that first Easter morning, Jesus’ closest followers knew this and it changed their lives. But it was also known before that first Easter morning by the many people whose lives has been touched by Jesus.
On the cross Jesus offered new beginnings. Jesus offered them freely to everyone around him. He offered new beginnings to the thief who hung there next to him when he told him that he would join Jesus in paradise. In the midst of Jesus’ pain and suffering he reached out to another. He offered new beginnings to those who were cruelly killing him when he prayed for God to forgive them. He demonstrated a love and compassion incomprehensible to me. He offered new beginnings when he freely laid down his life on the cross for each and every one of us here today. No matter who you are, no matter what you have done – Jesus offers new beginnings.
After his resurrection he offered new beginnings to the apostles who had fled and betrayed him. His closest confidants – those who knew him best, those who had seen the power of God in him and yet they fled. In his post resurrection appearances Jesus was not keeping score. He did not chastise those who had abandoned him. He did not try and make them feel guilty or unworthy. He reached out in love and compassion.
Even before his death Jesus was offering new beginnings. He offered new beginnings to tax collectors, the hated collaborators of the Jewish race. He offered new beginnings to Samaritans, the hated heretics because they worshipped in the wrong place. Jesus offered new beginnings to Gentiles, those despised because they were not the chosen ones. He offered them to the man blind from birth, despised because he was not physically perfect. He offered new beginnings to the woman caught in adultery, despised because of her sin. He offered them to the woman at the well. He offered them to the sick and the infirm. He offered it to Lazarus. He offered new beginnings to children when the disciples wanted to keep them away. Jesus was there for anyone who approached him. He was there for the powerful Centurion and he was there for the powerless woman who touched the hem of his garment. No matter who you are, no matter what you have done – Jesus offers new beginnings.
Throughout the centuries Jesus has offered new beginnings to all who come to him. He offers them freely. He offers them when we are confused and questioning. He offers them when we have failed him. He offers new life to the high and low of our society. He offers new beginnings to prisoners. He offers new beginnings to mothers. He offers new beginnings to fathers. Jesus offers them to children. He offers new beginnings to us all. He offers them to those in our society who are despised because as heretics, as collaborators, as imperfect, even those despised just because they are sinners.
Remember as we celebrate once again the opportunity for new life in Christ this Easter morning that no matter who you are, no matter what you have done – Jesus offers new beginnings.