Rose Park Sunday School (Adults and Children) at 8:45 a.m. / Worship at 9:45 a.m.

Madison Sunday School (Adults and Children) 10:15 a.m. / Worship at 11:15 a.m.


Based on Acts 10:34-43, 1Corinthians 15:19-26, Luke 24:1-12

          Being an outdoorsman, I have seen my share of sunrises.  It is a beautiful time to be out in the natural world.  Night creatures are making their way back to where they will spend the day, and the day creatures beginning to stir.  For hunters, it is a time to relax into wherever one is waiting for the game to come.  Waterfowlers pour a cup of coffee and maybe nibble on something – dogs whine softly in the blind…all eyes are turned to the East to catch that first glow of the rising sun.  I am fond of the colors that come at daybreak – muted at first but then breaking out in red, pink and orange, before turning yellow and white.  I am often so mesmerized by the show that I lose track of why it is that I’m outside in the first place.

          I find something truly spiritual about sunrises.  Afterall, in the biblical telling of creation in Genesis, it says that “there was evening and there was morning, the first day….”  Since that time, there have been countless evenings and mornings, witnessed by countless people.  God created night and day and on the fourth day the moon and the sun respectively, to rule over their time.  The constancy of the movement of the Earth around the sun and the moon through her phases, remind me of the constancy of God.  It also reminds me that the Creation story is not the only time that God created a sunrise.  That Son-rise is why you are all here today and what I want us to focus on for our next few minutes together.

          Our scriptures today speak of the second Son-rise and why it is so very important to all of us who are followers of the Christ, the Messiah.  The reading from Acts has Peter teaching the household of the Roman Centurion, Cornelius, about Jesus and the Resurrection.  Paul’s letter to the believers in Corinth has the Apostle teaching about the meaning of the Resurrection for living life in Christ.  Finally, we have the first Easter story from the Gospel according to Luke, where the women hear from angels that Jesus has indeed been raised.  Before we go farther, let us go to God in thanksgiving for giving us glory of the Son-rise…

          The Book of Acts describes the early church and her followers.  In our reading today, Peter spreads the gospel to the gentiles in a Roman Centurion’s house.  Cornelius, we are told, was a “devout man who feared God with all his household”.  Angelic intervention brings Peter and Cornelius together, and Peter shares the story of Jesus, especially how God raised him on the third day and how he commanded the Disciples to “preach to the people and to testify” to his Lordship.  Peter did such a good job explaining everything that the Holy Spirit “fell upon all who heard the word” that day.

          The Apostle Paul is winding up his first letter to the churches in Corinth.  He has been trying to get the believers back in line as they have gone down a path that is not the way of Jesus.  Some have begun to openly doubt the miracle of the Resurrection – so Paul engages them in a rhetorical argument.  He argues that if Jesus did not die, then their faith is futile.  He doubles down on this stating, “…If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied….”  He goes on to tell them all that the Son was raised from the dead and so defeated the power of death for all time.  That is a miraculously powerful Son-rise, indeed!

          The women head to the tomb at early dawn following Shabbat – for there had not been time to properly anoint for burial the body of Jesus before sundown on Friday. Caring for their dear departed was a way for them to live into their grief over his death.  Arriving at the tomb, they saw the large stone rolled away and the tomb empty except for two men in dazzling clothing.  The angels tell the women not to look for the living among the dead, saying, “…He is not here, but has risen….”  The angels remind them of what Jesus had said about his crucifixion, death and then resurrection on the third day.  There had been evening and now there was morning of a new day, for the sun and the Son had both risen!  Nothing would ever be the same again for them and for all who believe.

          I want you to say this with me…even those of you who don’t like to speak in public:  Jesus is not in the tomb but has risen!  I want you to repeat that to yourself and to others until the miracle begins to sink in.  That first Easter morning, the Son had Risen – He had risen indeed!  Not only did the celestial sun come up as God had ordained that it should, but the Son of God also rose as God had ordained.  This miracle is the whole reason that we are Christians in the first place.  The Apostle Paul argued this to the early believers in Corinth almost 2000 years ago.  If Christ had not been raised from the dead, then we are all just fooling ourselves and gathering here in utter futility.  

          The spiritual writer, Craig Barnes offers this insight into the Resurrection writing, “…To say that Jesus is risen from the dead is not to say he has returned to his earthly life. That was gone. It was dead. To say that Jesus is risen from the dead is to say that God reached into that tomb and into history, lifting Jesus up to new life. And it is to say that God will do the same thing for us.  This is terrifying – in order to receive this new life, we have to stop clinging to the old one. We have to stop looking for the living among the dead. Stop obsessing over the right career move (or get rich quick scheme), stop pressuring the kids (and ourselves) to be perfect, stop fantasizing about what the latest fad will do for us. It is all going to pass away (die) anyway, so stop. And go to the empty tomb, where there is the promise of a new life that will never die….”

          The Son Rise on that first Easter morning changed everything.  God had done something so extraordinary, so impossible, so beyond our capabilities, that our rational and Enlightened brains still can’t understand it.  It is the reason that I had you all say out loud that the tomb was empty – and that I encourage you to repeat that truth.  Our Creator God has defeated death – it no longer has the last word. Yes, we will all still die – God through the Resurrection did not make our earthly bodies immortal.  God showed us through the Resurrection of the Christ that we have come from God and are returning to God.  Nothing can separate us from our great and unconditionally loving Creator – not death nor anything lesser than that.

          My soul resonates with the spirit of the Son Rise. All sunrises are beautiful and unique in their own way – opening us into a new creation; a day that has never been before and will never be again.  Each new day, therefore, should be a cause for celebration and for thanksgiving to the God who provides them to us.  I hope that each sunrise will now make you stop and reflect on THE Son Rise that occurred on that first Easter morning.  You see, each new day we have the opportunity to choose to more closely follow the humble way of the Risen Son – before the self-centeredness and distractions of our daily lives lead us down a different path.  By choosing the Risen Son, we are choosing to believe in the resurrecting power of God, not just in the life of Jesus, but in our own lives as well.

          Afterall, Jesus died for all and was resurrected for all.  Thus, there is no kind of death that God’s resurrecting power cannot overcome – has not already defeated!  Being a Pastor, I have witnessed my share of Son Rises in the lives of those in whom something had died.  It does not matter if the death experienced is a relationship, a loved one, overwhelming fear and anxiety, our life plans, our sense of control, or our belief in a power greater than ourselves (aka God).  God will resurrect us from all those human deaths – just like God will ultimately resurrect us from our physical death.  This is because the Son Rise on Easter renders any form of human death powerless.  The Son Rise on Easter means that God’s unconditional love has already won and that there will be evening and morning until the Christ comes again in final victory.  Thanks be to God for the most important Son Rise so long ago and for the promise of abundant life it brings to us who follow the Christ – Alleluia and Amen!