Though I’d already chosen the text and title for my Easter 2018 sermon, I really started working on the content of the message earlier today.
If you don’t preach, you might be surprised to learn that writing sermons for Easter and Christmas Eve are very difficult. Why? Everybody already knows the stories. Even if you’ve never walked into a church before, Easter and Christmas are still likely to be stories you have some degree of familiarity with. And, for many, attending an Easter service is little more than a holiday tradition.
Undeniably, it’s a great story! In fact, it’s the greatest story we have to tell! But, it’s so familiar.
I’ve preached at least 20 different Easter messages, and never the same one twice. Each time, I’ve tried to find a new way to tell the same story of Jesus beating death, or to find a new meaning or a new application. I’ve often looked for a new and novel angle – some years more successfully than others.
But, this Easter is different. No novelty needed this year. This Easter follows a Lent that began with a horrific Ash Wednesday tragedy – the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Though I sense all of us, in this community, are finding ways to return to “normal,” the tragedy is still in the daily news, and in some conversation, everyday. You see “MSD Strong” t-shirts everywhere. This Saturday, March 24th, many will be marching in this community and others, seeking change in our gun laws. My point? The tragedy is still on our minds, and the shadow of this tragedy still looms large over this community, and beyond.
As I am preparing this Easter sermon, I’m wondering…
- What does this very old story have to say to this very current event?
- What does the resurrection of Christ mean, not just theologically, but pastorally and practically, for those still struggling?
- In the face of so much death and suffering, how do I speak of Christ defeating death?
- How do we balance the sorrow we still feel, with the joyful celebration of Easter?
- How do we find Easter hope, when it still feels like Good Friday?
- What does it mean for Christians, who live in Coral Springs and Parkland, to be Easter people?
- What do I have to say about Christ’s resurrection, to these people, at this moment, that I KNOW is true.
In last year’s Easter sermon, Pope Francis said, “The Lord is alive! He is living and he wants to rise again in all those faces that have buried hope, buried dreams, buried dignity.” Undoubtedly, many who hear my Easter message will have “buried hope, buried dreams, buried dignity,” because of this specific tragedy, not to mention all of the other challenges and difficulties we all face every day.
I’m not quite sure how I will say it, yet. But, Pope Francis’ statement captures the message I want to convey. Yes, our hopes and dreams may feel buried right now. In some cases, literally. For many, it may feel like Good Friday for a long time. But, Easter always follows Good Friday, and it always will.
Easter always has the final word. There’s hope in that.
Now, back to sermon writing.