Easter – 2023 LSB #470 v.1-4 & 9
Text – 1 Peter 1:3
Blessed be the God & Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead
Now that the lights are on, let’s stop & look around. Isn’t the church beautiful? Look at all the flowers, so brilliant & fragrant, what a sight! And how about the entrance song, wasn’t it wonderful to hear the “Alleluia” again? And that resounding hymn, “Jesus Christ is Risen Today,” it practically lifts us right out of our seats. Do any of you get goose bumps?
Easter almost explodes with hope. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Take a moment to savor this experience. [inhale deeply as though enjoying the scene & the smell of the lilies. Then after a few seconds] That’s it. Amen.
[leave the pulpit & sit down for a moment before continuing] Did some of you think, “What do you mean, that’s it? I got up this morning & came to church for that!” Others thought, “That’s the best sermon I’ve heard him preach – short & to the point. And the best part is – we might get out of here early! Yes!”
What if that was the end of Easter? For some, it is. It’s about smelling the flowers & taking in the goose bumps of the day. After that, Easter doesn’t matter too much. On the other hand, if Easter is about some profound, eternal truth then this worship service really does matter.
But how much does Easter matter for you? How much does our celebration of Easter matter for the people we encounter in our day-to-day life? We’re living in a time when people are fond of saying, “You have your truth; I have mine. Maybe Easter celebration turns you on, but don’t tell me it is God’s truth,” they say.
“Jesus? Buddha? Mohammed? Didn’t Pilate ask, ‘What is truth?’ Truth is whatever I
& my friends make it out to be.” That’s how many people look at it today. Easter & Jesus may be “true” for you, but not for everyone. To address that viewpoint, we first have to ask ourselves a basic question. How much does Easter matter to us? How much does Easter impact you & me? Will our celebration of it matter for anyone else?
If I go there, this is going to be a longer sermon! St. Peter wrote, “Blessed be the God & Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (1 Peter 1:3 ESV)
We couldn’t agree more! In fact, it’s because Jesus did die & rise for us, that we can be assured that our sins are forgiven & we truly do have eternal life. For you & me Jesus allowed Himself to be beaten & flogged, tortured & taunted. For us, Jesus allowed a crown of thorns to be pounded into His head.
Most important of all, it was for each of us personally that Jesus laid down on a fateful Friday, allowing His hands & feet to be nailed to a wooden cross. Bang. Bang. Bang. At any time, the Son of God could have said, “That’s it! I’ve had enough. I’m out of here!” But for you, for you, for me, Jesus not only endured the cross – He died there.
He died to pay for all of our sins. He was then laid in a tomb, & just when it looked like everything was lost, just when it looked like this Messiah was only a cruel joke, just when it looked like – that was it – then it happened. Jesus rose from the dead. St. Peter wrote:
“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed… but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through Him you believe in God, who raised Him from the dead & glorified Him, & so your faith & hope are in God.” (1 Peter 1:18-21 NIV)
Yes, Easter matters… to you… to you… to me! As followers of Jesus, we believe this is the truth. St. Peter wrote, “You have purified yourself by obeying the truth.” That’s what we believe, but others can still wave us off. Remember, some people believe that “truth” is merely an opinion. It’s nothing more than a creation of the community you hang with.”
We at St. Matthew Lutheran are a community & as part of the body of Christ, we live by faith. We trust that God’s Word is the truth. We believe this word of resurrection is the truth & is true for all. Our eternal destiny depends on this word of faith, that “God has given us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
Let’s turn the sermon. What will it look like to others because Easter matters to us? Will it look like this? Once the service is over, we pretty much leave Easter behind in the parking lot & drive off to our daily lives. Are you headed to the big traditional dinner at Grandma’s house? Do you go out for brunch? Maybe you even ate brunch right here!
If you’re really lucky, you’ll get a nap in this afternoon! But then, as much as those things may be a blessing, by three or four o’clock, life has pretty much returned to normal. Easter is over & done with for another year. If Easter matters, will it look that way?
When we live as though Easter matters, we put a high priority on being community, on our life together as the body of Christ. We continue coming to God’s house hearing His Word & receiving our Lord’s Supper. We continue to be fervent in daily prayer & devotions: “Lord, we believe Your word is truth. Help our unbelief!”
When Easter matters, as a church we continue to do good works in our community. We make sure that the school has excellent teachers & we volunteer to keep things running. We put extra in the collection plate to take care of the needs of foreign mission work. We commit our time & energy to helping our young people go to the national youth gathering.
When Easter matters to us, it not only matters to all of us. It matters to each of us personally. The German pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, once said, “We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. God will be constantly crossing our paths & canceling our plans by sending us people with claims & petitions.”  Since Easter matters, will you allow your plans to be interrupted by God? Of course you will, but will you thank God for that?
For example, what if you & your spouse go out for what is supposed to be a nice, quiet brunch. It’s only the two of you. No children, no distractions, just some time alone. Then, after being seated at the table, you notice that your waitress is a daughter of this congregation.
You know this girl, even though she hasn’t been in church for a while. Do you pretend not to recognize her? When Easter matters, you’re concerned when your sister in Christ misses out on the grace & forgiveness that our Lord offers in the Divine Service. Do you spend time talking with that young woman? Do you let her know that God misses her?
Or, perhaps you allow God to interrupt your schedule long enough to visit some of our members who are shut-in & can’t attend church. Take them a plate of cookies. Visit with them & read a Psalm together, or pray with them. That’s an excellent way of caring for others within this faith community, & a loving way to live our daily life – thus showing that Easter matters.
When we think of taking Easter along, into our daily lives, what can be more daily than going to Meijer or Kroger? What if we’re walking down the aisles, & all of a sudden, there he or she is – your neighbor & they’re hurting. Maybe they’ve been laid off & can’t find work, maybe their spouse has left them, or there’s been a death in the family.
The easiest thing to do is putting your head down & passing by without saying a word. But when you live like Easter matters, when you take the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead seriously, you do not avoid them. Rather, you say something like: “John, I’m sorry about your job. Jennifer, I can only imagine how much you’re hurting. Julie, even though we take comfort that Bob is now with the Lord, it still must be hard to be alone. May I pray for you?” Your loving concern, motivated by the belief that Easter matters, will then matter to that person.
People will continue to say, “Oh, Jesus & Easter, that’s your opinion.” But when you live your life like Easter matters, people will get curious. Co-workers & friends, maybe even family, will say things like, “Why are you always spending so much time helping others? Why are you always caring for people? What makes you live that way?”
St. Peter wrote, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Peter 3:15b NIV) Then you can say, “You want to know why I’m different? I’ll tell you the truth. It’s Easter. That Jesus rose from the dead matters to me & I pray that Easter will someday matter to you.” That is it! Amen.
O sons & daughters of the King, whom heavenly hosts in glory sing, today the grave has lost its sting! That night the apostles met in fear; among them came their Master dear & said, “My peace be with you here.” On this most holy day of days be laud & jubilee & praise: to God your hearts & voices raise. Alleluia! Amen.
 (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together [San Francisco: Harper, 1954], 99)
Pastor Dean R. Poellet