Faith Without Control

I hope you all had a WONDERFUL Easter!  Here is yesterday’s sermon …

***

Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
April 20, 2014

John 20:1-18
Colossians 3:1-4

Faith Without Control

The weather was absolutely beautiful last Saturday, wasn’t it? Sunny, blue skies and blissfully warm temperatures. I drove to church with my sunglasses on and my windows open. I wore flip flops! My friends and I pulled out their patio furniture and fired up the grill for the first time this year. Daffodils were starting to open around town. I vividly remember backing into my driveway, looking at my bright green lawn and thinking to myself how nice it was that spring was here and that we could finally say with absolute certainty that we were definitely, without a doubt, done with snow for the year.

So then it snowed on Tuesday night.

That was great.

As I sat in my car on Wednesday morning waiting for the half an inch of ice to melt off of my windshield because I was refusing to pull out my scraper out of sheer protest, I could not help but laugh.

Because if there is one thing a mid-April snowstorm will teach you it is that we really are not in control.

How fitting to be reminded of this four days before Easter. Because – let’s face it – the Easter story is also a great reminder to us that we really are not in control.

It is actually kind of difficult to preach on the Easter story, because it just sort of speaks for itself. The death and resurrection of Jesus is one of the single most powerful stories in the history of the world, certainly of our faith. Resurrection. Salvation. God’s grace unfolded in a completely miraculous, yet completely realistically spectacular way. It is truly remarkable.

But here is the thing about this story: No one – no human, anyway – could control the outcome of that first Easter. Not the people who betrayed Jesus. Not the people who put Jesus on trial and who mocked him. Not the people who crucified Jesus. No – they were not in control of that first Easter. Jesus rose from the dead! Proof to all of us that God was in control of that first Easter.

And over the past 2,000 years, that has never changed. God has always remained in control.

As we relive the Easter story, we are reminded that living a life of faith – believing in this Easter story, walking as a disciple of Christ and submitting yourself to the mystery of the resurrection – means letting go of control. It means letting go of control of the things that you understand and – perhaps more importantly – the things that you do not understand. It means letting go of the need to control the people around you. It means letting go of the question, “why?” and instead just focusing on the journey ahead. It means seeking out God instead of seeking out answers.

It means trusting that no matter what happens in this world and in your life – good or bad, joyful or heartbreaking – you are never alone. God is always with you.

This does not mean that bad things will not happen. In fact, as we remembered Jesus’ final days and death on the cross this past week, we were poignantly reminded of just how imperfect our world is. Bad things do happen – many of which we cannot control.

So I think we just have to stop trying. And I think that we have to believe that within the midst of the chaos and the confusion of life, God is working with us and within us.

The Christian Faith is not about rules and dogmas, it is about a moment in time when God stepped in and revealed his glory to us. It always has been and it always will be.

And I think that if we just try to let go of our control in our lives and in our faith, we may see God’s glory revealed to us in a new way.

You know, it is a good thing that humans were not in control of that first Easter. Because think about what might have happened if they were. Jesus would have remained in that tomb; he never would have risen to new life. We would have never been given proof that God’s love is stronger than human imperfection.

Let me put something on the table right now. I will never be able to explain the resurrection. I will never be able to show you proof that Jesus physically rose from the dead. But I believe that in some way, shape or form – some way, shape or form that is completely out of my control – it happened and it was real and the world changed because of it. I HAVE to believe that. Because without the resurrection, the crucifixion would have had the final word. Without God’s grace giving us new life, death would have had the final word. Without God’s love, hate would have the final word.

And that is not the world that I want to live in.

Not only did that mid-April snowstorm teach us that we really are not in control, but – for those of us who put away our plows and shovels and started planting things in our yard and garden – it also taught us that maybe – just maybe – we should stop trying to be in control as well.

When we embrace a faith without control, we are embracing a faith of resurrection, not crucifixion; we are embracing a faith of new life and not death; and we are embracing a faith of love and not hate.

Let us embrace that faith.

Let us allow God to open our eyes to see new things. Let us turn to God for comfort in our moments of fear, anger and sadness. Let us use God’s light to illuminate the path ahead of us.

On this beautiful Easter morning, as we remember a story that rocked a community, changed the world and gave new life to generations upon generations of believers, let us embrace a faith without control. Let us – in the infamous words of Elsa from Frozen – let it go and let God take care of the rest.

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

Easter Sunrise Benediction

I was putting together our Easter Sunrise Service bulletin yesterday and came across a benediction that I “wrote” in 2012 and used last year as well.  I use quotations around the word “wrote” because it’s not particularly eloquent and doesn’t have new insight into the Easter story.  But it does work well on the shores of the Rehoboth Reservoir. :) Feel free to use!

Benediction | Easter Sunday
Sarah E. Weaver (c) 2012

What have we heard?
We have heard the Good News!
What have we seen?
We have seen the Good News!
What have we shouted?
We have shouted the Good News!
What have we sung?
We have sung the Good News!
Now what do we do?
Now we go out and live the Good News!
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

Different Journeys; One Christ

My Easter sermon.  Interactive with the choir!

Happy Easter, friends!  Christ is Risen!

***

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
John 20:1-18

Different Journeys, One Christ

Guess what?

Choir: What?!

This morning I bring you Good News!

Choir: What is the Good News that you bring?

When Mary found the stone rolled away from the tomb, they found that it was empty! Christ has risen from the dead! Christ is Risen!

Choir: He is Risen, indeed!

And because Christ lives, we, too, are given eternal life. We are given a second chance at redemption, both here on earth and in heaven.

Choir: That is Good News!

A few weeks ago I logged into a webinar given by my graduate school preaching professor, Tom Long. He was talking about preaching the Easter sermon. He reminded us that the Easter sermon is a small part of a much bigger picture – and encouraged us to let the story – the Good News! – do a majority of the preaching. He said, “When it comes to preaching, no news is bad preaching.”

This morning I bring you Good News. Three days ago, Jesus died on a cross and now he lives again. And because he lives again, we, too are given eternal life! And over the past 2,000 years, because of this Good News, millions of lives have been transformed. Individuals have been changed. People have been called and led to do great things. More Good News has been revealed through the lives and ministries of Jesus’ followers. Christ’s message has spread throughout the world.

The Good News did not end with the resurrection; it began with it.

It is interesting to look at how the different characters in the resurrection story reacted to the Good News. We heard the account of the resurrection this morning from the Gospel of John. John records that Mary Magdalene first saw that the tomb was empty. She ran to get Simon Peter and the other disciple whom Jesus loved and they ran to the tomb. The other disciple ran ahead of Simon Peter, saw the linen wrappings lying there and immediately knew what had happened. “Then the other disciple,” John records, “who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed.”

This disciple just knew; belief came very naturally to him. He did not need to see the Risen Christ to know that it was true. He just believed.

And that was how one of the disciples experienced the Good News.

The story goes on; Mary sat outside the tomb crying when Jesus appeared behind her. He said, “Mary!” – and that was when she knew! All Mary Magdalene needed was a single encounter with the Risen Christ in order for her to believe. She did not need any further explanation. She simply knew that it was Jesus that stood before her.

And that was how Mary experienced the Good News.

The story goes on further than we read this morning.

Jesus appeared to the disciples next. He entered a house where they were all staying, showed them his hands and his side and said to them, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And then they believed. The disciples needed more than simply seeing Jesus in front of them and hearing him speak. They needed to see his wounds and hear his message. But then they believed.

And that was how those disciples experienced the Good News.

Thomas was next in line to experience the Risen Christ. He is known as “Doubting Thomas” because – well – he doubted. He was not with the disciples when Jesus appeared to them and when they tried to tell him what had happened he demanded proof. “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side,” Thomas said to the other disciples, “I will not believe.”

And that was how Thomas experienced the Good News.

I find it interesting that the gospel records four different accounts of individual experiences with the Risen Christ – and no two are the same. Each character in this narrative experienced Jesus, experienced the work that God was doing in the world, in a unique and different way. Some simply believed, some needed proof and some doubted.

But they did not have to believe in the Good News the same way in order to believe that is was true.

And we do not have to either.

We spend a lot of time in our world today trying to convince other people to believe what we believe. Social media has exacerbated this problem; it is very easy to have a voice and to make that voice heard. It is probable that we will – at one point during the day – read or see something that we do not agree with. And all it takes is a few words typed and a click of the “submit” button in order to make our disagreement known.

And this is not a bad thing; we should have a voice and we should be able to let our voices be heard. We would not be able to share our thoughts and our faith if we were not able to use our voices.

But I think we also need to remember that even the earliest Christian believers – those who were actually there to witness the resurrection – did not see and understand the same way. They came into their faith through different roads.

But all of those roads led to the Good News.

The resurrection narrative – the Easter story told to us in the gospel of John – ends with the following narrative:

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. {John 20:30-31}

How will you experience the Risen Christ on this Easter morning? How will you come to believe in the Good News? What will your road like? Where will it take you along your journey through life?

There are many different types of Christians in the world. There are those who grow up believing and know no other way of life. There are those who spend their lives doubting; asking questions and seeking answers. There are those who have one profound experience or encounter with God, one that gives them enthusiasm and clarity. There are people who enjoy traditions and there are people who want to live a more contemporary faith. There are Protestants and Catholics, spiritual and religious, conservative and liberal.

And that is okay.

The Christian story needs diversity in order for it to be alive and vibrant. The Body of Christ needs us – all of us, wherever we are on our journey of faith – to be who we are and who God calls us to be.

The resurrection story reminds us that even 2,000 years ago, as the Christian story was unfolding here on earth, individuals were experiencing the Risen Christ in different ways. They were shouting “Hallelujah” for different reasons. They were embracing their faith because of different experiences; they were expressing their faith and their belief in different ways. They were living out the Good News in a way that was unique to them.

Different journeys; one Christ.

On this Easter morning, I invite you all to celebrate the unique way that you are experiencing the Good News. Embrace the different ways that we are all journeying towards Christ. Rather than praying that we all might be of one mind, let us pray that we might all simply be of one body. The Body of Christ.

Different journeys; one Christ.

This is the good news that brings us new life.

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

Proclaiming The Resurrection Today

My meditation from the Easter Sunrise service.  The Confirmation led the service and did an amazing job!

Enjoy!

Easter Sunrise 2013

Proclaiming The Resurrection Today

On a still and quiet morning about 2,000 years ago, a few women went to the tomb where Jesus had been buried and found that the stone had been rolled away. When they realized what had happened, they ran from the tomb, shouting, “Christ is Risen!”

Confirmands: Christ is Risen, Indeed! {NOISE MAKERS}

Today we remember that moment; we gather together on this still and quiet morning, grateful for the sacrifice that Jesus made, for the foundation of our faith that has been set for us and for the Body of Christ that unites us as one. We, too, want to run and shout, “Christ is Risen!”

Confirmands: Christ is Risen, Indeed! {NOISE MAKERS}

Think about this: Christianity would not have spread if the people who witnessed the resurrection, those individuals who saw and believed that Jesus had risen, hadn’t told that story to the people around them. Christianity would not have grown throughout the years if millions of people throughout history hadn’t experienced the risen Christ in their own lives – and then shared their stories with the people around them. Christianity would cease to exist today if others had not shouted throughout their lives, “Christ is Risen!”

Confirmands: Christ is Risen, Indeed! {NOISE MAKERS}

So one day a year, we remember the Easter story. But what about the other days? How will we keep this tradition alive? Shouldn’t the lives that we lead be tangible expressions of our faith, of the Christian message, of this Easter story? How can we, every single day throughout our lives, run and shout, “Christ is Risen!”

Confirmands: Christ is Risen, Indeed! {NOISE MAKERS}

We can gather together as a community of faith. We can worship together, learn together, serve together and grow together. We can push one another, show grace towards one another and guide one another. We can embrace our differences and celebrate the diversity of the Body of Christ. And then we, too, can shout, “Christ is Risen!”

Confirmands: Christ is Risen, Indeed! {NOISE MAKERS}

We can reach out our hands to serve throughout the year – in our churches, in our schools and in the community. We can volunteer for and with our children. We can help the elderly who spent their lives helping others. We can make small sacrifices that may have large impacts around us. And when someone asks us why we serve, we can shout with hope and confidence, “because Christ is Risen!”

Confirmands: Christ is Risen, Indeed! {NOISE MAKERS}

We can break bread together. We can welcome new people into our lives and into our communities. We can find new and innovative ways to experience and live out our faith. We can find meaning both inside and outside the walls of the church. We can embrace new traditions, while still be touched by old ones. And every morning, we can wake up and shout, “Christ is Risen!”

Confirmands: Christ is Risen, Indeed! {NOISE MAKERS}

There is no better way to celebrate the resurrection of Christ than on the peaceful shore of this reservoir. The water that flows reminds us that the water of baptism unites us all. The sun that rises slowly reminds us that the light of God shines in all of us. The voices that sing as one remind us that we are strongest when we come together. The prayers that we say in unison remind us that we should praise God – always. The flowers that adorn the cross remind us of the new life that Christ gives us through this Easter season – and throughout our lives! The beauty that surrounds us reminds us of the truth in our lives, that “Christ is Risen!”

Confirmands: Christ is Risen, Indeed! {NOISE MAKERS}

We are the Body of Christ, coming together to celebrate the most sacred time in the Christian year. We are the Body of Christ, surrounded by the beauty of creation on this blessed and holy Easter morning. We are the Body of Christ, united by God’s grace and love for each and every one of us. We are the Body of Christ, ready to shout, “Christ is Risen!”

Confirmands: Christ is Risen, Indeed! {NOISE MAKERS}

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

Understanding By Call

Happy Easter!  I haven’t preached in a couple of weeks, so I was itching to get behind the pulpit again. :) I decided to some fun (it is Easter, after all!) so at the end of the sermon Bruce and I set off confetti (me from the pulpit and him from the choir loft) while our Music Director played “Christ The Lord Is Risen Today” on the organ.  Everyone started cheering.  What fun!

I love my job!  Here’s my sermon.  You’ll have to imagine the confetti, ha!

John 20:1-18

Understanding By Call

My mom sent me an email early this week. The subject of the email was, “I need …” and the email read, “Snappy openers for two Easter sermons.” I read her email and smiled. I smiled for a few reasons. First of all, I grew up listening to her Easter sermons. They always had some sort of “shtick” to them to get people hooked. My mom has given Easter sermons in a Phillies hat, a UCONN shirt and with a stethoscope around her neck. Her congregation has grown to expect something, well, snappy. I also smiled because, let’s be honest, I needed the same thing this week.

So considering the fact that at the time I was no closer than she was to having any sort of sermon direction, I hit reply, typed the sentence, “It should involve tap dancing” and hit send.

She never responded. I guess that means I was not helpful.

Here is what I have been wondering, though. Why do preachers have to have snappy openers on Easter morning? The first Easter morning was far from snappy. In fact, it was quiet—and dark. In the Gospel account that we read this morning, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb very early and saw that the stone had been moved and the tomb was empty. But she did not sing, “Christ the Lord is Risen Today, Hallelujah!” Instead, she went and told the disciples that the tomb was empty. After they confirmed that Jesus was – in fact – not in the tomb they returned to their homes and Mary stood outside of the tomb and cried.

Not exactly that happiest, most cheerful, confetti-flying-through-the-air kind of way to start off the very first Easter morning.

In a way, Easter Sunday is kind of ironic. It is probably the highest attended Sunday worship service of the year. The music is loud, the flowers are gorgeous, the clothes are bright and the murmur of excited voices in the sanctuary can barely be contained. And yet, there is a mystery to all of it. Because if you think about it, we really are still unclear as to what, exactly, we are celebrating. Yes, Christ rose from the dead, but how? Where? When? These are unanswerable questions. The greatest celebration of the Christian faith is also the greatest mystery of the Christian faith. We do not know what happened. No one witnessed the resurrection. They just found the empty tomb.

I have often thought that the Easter story would have packed a bit more of a punch if Mary Magdalene had found the empty tomb, ran to tell the disciples, a big blast of confetti had gone shooting through the air and everyone shouted and praised God that, ‘Christ had risen, he had risen indeed!’ But that is not what happened. Mary Magdalene found the empty tomb and was confused; upset that someone had moved Jesus’ body. The disciples saw the empty tomb and went home; they did not understand that Jesus had risen, that the scripture had been fulfilled.

They did not understand. No one understood what had actually happened.

In fact, it was not until Jesus called to Mary that she understood that Jesus arose from the dead. Jesus said to Mary several times, “Woman, why are you weeping?” and “Who are you looking for?” and yet it was not until Jesus said to her, “Mary!” – it was not until Jesus called Marry and said to her, “Go to my brothers and [tell them that you have seen me and that I have risen.]” – that Mary understood what had happened.

It was not until Jesus called Mary that she understood.

I think many of us can relate to this. There is an inherent mystery to the Christian faith, one that we will never understand. At the core of the Christian faith is some sort of belief in Christ’s resurrection and yet, let’s be honest, no one really knows what happened when Jesus rose – no one was there to witness it. I think to some extent, at one point in all of our lives we have moments of doubt, moments of confusion, moments where we do not understand what it is that we really believe. We do not always understand this mystery.

These are the moments when Jesus calls us by name. These are the moments when Jesus calls us to believe that he is real, when Jesus calls us to believe in the mystery of the faith, when Jesus calls us to be in ministry and when Jesus calls us to follow him.

And these are the moments when we begin to understand the mystery of the Christian faith.

Mary did not understand until Jesus called her. Mary did not understand what had happened and what she was supposed to do next until Jesus said, “Mary!” Maybe we are not supposed to understand until Jesus calls us, either.

Is Easter morning a time to shout, “Christ is risen, he is risen, indeed!”? Yes! Is it a time to celebrate the fact that Christ rose and gave us new life? Yes! But I think we have so much more to celebrate than that. I think we are supposed to celebrate not just the moment that Mary found the empty tomb; I think we are also supposed to celebrate the moment that she turned around and saw Jesus standing in front of her calling her to spread the good news that he had risen.

And I think we are also supposed to celebrate the moments in our lives, those unexpected moments, when we turn around and feel Jesus calling us to follow him, to share the message of the Gospel with those around us and to live it out as well.

How beautiful is the living metaphor of Easter and spring in this part of the world? Spring is a time of new beginnings; a time of new growth, new life and new possibilities. Easter is also a time of new beginnings; a time of new growth, new life and new possibilities. It is a time when we re-experience those first Christian moments again, a time when we think about the ways in which Jesus is calling each one of us by name.

What is Jesus calling you to do in this church? Is he calling you to do mission work? Is he calling you to teach? Is he calling you to preach? Is he calling you to sing or share another one of your other gifts? Is he calling you to lead? Is he calling you to follow? Is he calling you to try something you have never done before?

What is Jesus calling you to do outside of this church? Is he calling you to spread the Gospel? Is he calling you to reach out to those in need, to cry out for justice and to resist evil? Is he calling you to breathe life and love into something that is failing? Is he calling you to offer encouragement to those around you? Is he calling you to love both your friends and your enemies? Is he calling you to seek forgiveness for the times when you have fallen short? Or is he calling you to extend that hand of forgiveness? Again – is he calling you to try something you have never done before?

What is Jesus calling you to do on this Easter morning? How is Jesus calling you into this Easter and spring season of new growth, new life and new possibilities?

I think when we start to listen for Jesus calling us by name we truly begin to understand the mystery of the Christian faith.

We will never know what happened that led to the empty tomb on that first Easter morning. But we will always know what happened in the moments that immediately followed the discovering of the empty tomb. Jesus came to Mary and called her to share the news that he had risen. And today – this morning – Jesus comes to us in this sanctuary and calls us to do the same.

Do you hear it? Do you feel it? Do you sense it? Jesus is here, calling each one of us by name and telling us to spread the news that he is risen, he is risen indeed.

That, my friends, is something worthy of confetti flying through the air.

So go forth into the world, in both your words and in your actions, and spread the good news. Christ is risen – he is risen, indeed!

Thanks be to God!

Amen.

Easter Sermon

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

I cannot think of a better way to celebrate that than at 6 a.m. on the water with 75 church members carrying flowers to adorn the cross with.  What an incredible service!

Four brave souls showed up on kayaks!

Worship was at 6, so we came back home for a little bit to recharge and do some cooking and baking.

Breakfast was two scrambled eggs, tossed in rice, seasoned with sea salt and pepper and topped with a four-cheese blend.

It’s not a pancake breakfast, but it’ll do!
***
Here is my sermon for the 10:00 service – enjoy!
On Your Mark, Get Set, Go!
Matthew 28:1-10
Acts 10: 34-43

Here are some of the sermon titles that didn’t make the cut this week:

Lace Up Your Sneakers, We Are Going To Run From The Tomb!
Would Paul Be A Blogger If He Were Alive Today?
Sarah’s Letter To The Rehobothians.
Proclaiming The Good News Of The Resurrection? There’s an ‘app’ for that!
Go And Tweet The Good News!

Actually, “Go And Tweet The Good News” almost made it to print this week. Unfortunately when I posted it as the sermon title on my actual twitter page on Wednesday afternoon for my followers to give me feedback, a friend of mine from seminary replied, “Really?”

Southerners.

When Lent started back at the beginning of March, I was asked to preach at the ecumenical Shrove Tuesday service at the Episcopal Church in my hometown in Connecticut. I started off that sermon by saying, “Technology is an amazing thing. Sometimes I wonder if Paul is looking down at us from heaven and wondering how many more people he could have reached if he had been able to podcast his letters, tweet his whereabouts and follow up with the people in the cities he had visited by friending them on facebook.”

It is kind of neat to wonder about, isn’t it? What WOULD the face of Christianity look like if the life, ministry, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ had happened in the 21st century – surrounded by the technological advances of our time?

You know what? I don’t think we have to wonder.

Sometimes I think that we come to church, we hear the Gospel stories, we read ancient prayers and we sing age-old hymns and assume that we are just believers who are pondering events that happened hundreds and hundreds of years ago. We believe in salvation because we think that it HAS happened. We pray to God because we know that he has listened before. We re-tell the story of the women that ran from the tomb proclaiming the fact that Christ had risen and we think, “I am so glad they did that!” Last week as I was watching Jesus Christ Superstar play out onstage in Woonsocket, I wondered what it would have been like to be a follower of Jesus when he walked on earth; I wondered what it would have been like to talk with him, to care for him, to worship with him and (since we were at a musical after all) to break out into song and dance with him. I wonder what it would have been like to have been a follower when it was all unfolding.

But here’s the thing that I started to realize as I pondered this all week: Christianity is still unfolding all around us.

For a couple of years when I was in high school I directed the youth choir at my church in Connecticut. One of our favorite songs – mine and theirs – was a song called “Pass It On.” The song goes:

It only takes a spark to get a fire going
And soon all those around can warm up in its glowing
That’s how it is with God’s love, once you’ve experienced it
You spread the love to everyone; you want to pass it on.
What a wondrous time is spring when all the trees are budding
The birds begin to sing, the flowers start their blooming
That’s how it is with God’s love, once you’ve experienced it;
You want to sing it’s fresh like spring, you want to pass it on.
I wish for you my friend, this happiness that I’ve found
You can depend on God, it matters not where you’re bound;
I’ll shout it from the mountaintop, I want my world to know;
The Lord of love has come to me, I want to pass it on.
I’ll shout it from the mountaintop, I want my world to know;
The Lord of love has come to me, I want to pass it on.

In a simple way, this song does a fabulous job of describing over 2,000 years of Christian evolution – from the women at the empty tomb to 21st century evangelism. Despite differences and disagreements between Christians, despite unexpected and difficult obstacles that have popped up and despite imperfect humanity that sometimes gets in the way of our quest to do the right thing, for over two millennia Christians around the world have experienced God’s love and they have lived out the Gospel message.

Christianity is still unfolding all around us.

The women ran from the tomb and proclaimed that Christ was risen right after it had happened, first generation Christians worshipped in secret in the 1st century when the Roman authorities threatened their lives, Christian martyrs laid down their lives in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th centuries, Protestant Reformers like Martin Luther reformed the church from papal corruption in the 16th century and in the 18th centuries Christians who craved autonomy and a more personal and individual faith started building Congregational Churches just like this one. I do not think that any of these people did these things because they were bored or had or have nothing else to do. I think they were experiencing God’s love in one way or another and were living out the Gospel message.

Today members of this congregation work tirelessly, around the clock and day after day to keep this church active and vibrant. You can see the fruits of their labor in this building that is kept up to date and beautiful, in the music and flowers that fill our sanctuary every week, in the compassion and pastoral care shown by the deacons and the lay shepherds, by the Christian Education, Church School and Youth Group programs that are absolutely thriving, in the care and good stewardship that are given to our budget and our finances, in the prayer shawls that are available any time you or someone you know needs one, in the volunteers that come in and help with some of the more time consuming office tasks and in the missions program that works both to nurture our community on the inside and to give back outside as well.

Now I could be wrong – but I do not think that everyone who works so tirelessly to keep this church active and vibrant do so because they are bored and have nothing else to do. I think that they do these things because they feel called to do them. I think that they do these things because are experiencing God’s love in one way or another and feel called to live out the Gospel message right here right now.

Christianity is still unfolding all around us.

What I love about this church is that members of the congregation seek to honor the histories that have shaped the church, yet still be progressive thinking towards the future. You seek to find balance between what has worked in the past and might work in the future. You want to find ways to carefully tap into a new face of Christian faith. YOU ARE the new generation of Christian evangelism – a new way to run from the empty tomb declaring, “Christ is Risen!” – beginning to take shape.

Back in February, right after the search committee called and asked me if I would come and preach a call sermon, I was on the phone with one of the members talking through some of the logistics of my transition into Rehoboth. As I looked at my calendar, I knew that the feat of coming for a call sermon, moving and planning an ordination service before Easter would be great – but I knew the end result of standing up here on Easter morning, ordained in full standing as your new settled pastor would be greater. I cannot think of a greater time to celebrate new beginnings as a congregation than by re-experiencing the new beginnings that happened on that first Easter morning.

We may not be walking, talking and worshipping with Jesus Christ as he walked on earth; we may not be running from the actual empty tomb, but Christianity is still unfolding all around us. We are hearing the Good News and we are proclaiming the Good News. It is still unfolding right here right now.

We are now challenged with the task of moving forward. Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed.

On your mark, get set, go.

Amen.