4/23/2000, Year B "Easter Sunday"
special Easter Sunday in my memory is that of wearing my first Easter suit with long pants, at age six. Until then I wore a little suit and tie with knee length pants and long socks. The memory of my sixth Easter is wonderful. Do you recall your sixth Easter? Probably not, unless something special happened.
Elian Gonzalez will never be able to forget his sixth Easter, and we will never be able to forget it either. We will not be able to blot out that AP picture of Elian in the arms of Donato Dalrymple, one of the fishermen who rescued him from the inner tube at sea, now shown emerging from a bedroom closet with a federal agent in green riot gear and goggles holding an automatic weapon toward them and shouting, "Give me the boy or I will shoot you!" He will also remember forever the tears of his beloved cousin, Marileysis Gonzalez, as he cried, "Help me! Help me! Don't take me away!"
Politics aside, Holy Saturday, was a sad day in Elian's life, and in ours. Yesterday was a day for Christian children to hunt Easter eggs and eat ice cream and cake. Yet, even with all of the bad news from yesterday, today is a new day; it is Easter Sunday; and Easter says that even the worst thing is not the final thing.
Our Easter text is about three dejected women who made a before dawn trip to a graveyard to embalm the body of their executed Lord. One was Jesus' own mother Mary. Another was Salome the mother of Jesus' best friend John. And there was Mary Magdalene out of whom Jesus had cast seven demons. They must have felt that all hope was lost for the possible accomplishment of that special spiritual Kingdom that Jesus had promised. But they still came prepared to perform their duties of anointing their beloved who had changed their lives so completely.
However, as they neared the tomb they suddenly remembered that they would not be able to get inside because a huge stone had been rolled across the entrance and a military guard had been placed to make sure that nobody could steal the body and later claim that Jesus had been raised from the dead. So, we hear them questioning each other, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?" But, even with their doubts, they continued to walk toward the tomb. Then something wonderful happened, "When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already bee n rolled back." (v 3-4, NRSV).
They did something unusual that I had not noticed until this year; "The y Looked Up!" If they had not persevered in their pre dawn walk to the graveyard, and if they had not looked up at the tomb, they would not have seen that the giant stone that stood in their way, "Had already been rolled back."
My Dad had what we thought was a heart attack when I was twelve. That was before we knew to call an ambulance right away; so, he closed the door and went to bed. My big brother and my Mother told me to let Dad rest by himself; but when they were not looking, I knocked lightly on his door and went on in. I did not know much about praying but I knelt beside his bed and prayed for him. Dad opened his eyes and looked up, and then he got up, and he stayed up for many good years. When he died from pneumonia twelve years ago yesterday, his old heart was pumping strong until the end.
The New Testament promises that Jesus has already paid the price for our salvation, our healing, and ultimately our glorification: all we have to do is look up and claim it.
"KEEP LOOKING UP!" has become my special theme for the past couple of years. It has always been a favorite phrase. My Mother gave me a small plaque years ago that I have kept on my office wall ever since, which says, "Keep Looking Up!" As I have sent Birthday Cards during the past year I have written on every one, "Keep Looking Up!" I have drawn a little freehand sketch my myself with eyes looking up to God, and lately have begun to draw little eyes in the double O's of the word looking, that are meant to be God looking down over us.
When we look up, He looks down. In fact, He is looking for us to look before we look.
Looking is better than just hearing. Television adds pictures to radio. I listen to Braves games on the radio whenever I am driving, or writing; but whenever possible, TV is my media of choice. Our sermons are archived on our web site, but now Gary is adding sound, and is working toward including video, so that those who formerly had to rely on reading, can experience the live event. Seeing always adds an extra dimension.
We find Jesus when we begin to look for Him. And when we have found Him we never want to let Him go.
We pray that Elian's family, and all of us who are troubled about this situation, will keep looking up to the Resurrected Christ and find His will. Somehow, all things do eventually work themselves out for the best as we look for God's plan amid the things that happen. When we begin to look up we begin to discover that the stones that were formerly in our way have already been rolled away.
I have a picture in my study of my Dad and myself inside the empty tomb of Jesus. When the remote shutter went off I thought to myself, "Someday this picture will mean the world to me." I keep it high on the wall so that I have to keep looking up to see it.
Easter means that the worst thing is not the last thing. Easter throws a rainbow around the cloud of death. Easter hope is what we see when we begin to look for it.
What better day to begin to look up than on Easter Sunday!
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor