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Message from Our Pastor

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Excerpted from Pastor Hoffman's April 21st Easter homily.  Relevant text: John 20: 1-18

The resurrection stories of Matthew, Mark and Luke each contain one very similar sentence. If it were the only sentence of the resurrection story, it would be enough. Luke words it this way: “He is not here but has risen.”

What else needs to be said? What else did the women or disciples need to know? It doesn’t really matter who heard it first or who did or didn’t believe it. It doesn’t matter which of the disciples made it back to the tomb first and which one looked in and which one went in. The only thing that matters, the only reason there was an Easter, and there is an Easter, is that one sentence: “He is not here but has risen.”

But these are the words that were meant and spoken for the women, and the first disciples. What would those two men in dazzling clothes say to us today? What short, straight to the point sentence could sum up OUR Easter truth?

Of course, it is still true that Jesus is risen, so that phrase is a keeper. But to say that “he is not here” is as wrong as “he is risen” is right.

Last Monday afternoon, like so many others, I sat dazed before my computer trying to comprehend the live video of flames consuming the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. It was heartbreaking for so many reasons, and not all of them religious. More people than Parisians and Catholics shed tears of grief and sorrow. 

My heart caught in my throat again later that evening. I had been checking my news app for updates on the fire. At some point, one of the first pictures from inside the burning cathedral was posted. It wasn’t one of the more recent, cleaner ones where the dust has settled and the charred beams present themselves before the altar and cross. 

No, this picture was somewhat grainy because ashes were still falling, and smoke was still billowing up from the hot beams near the ash covered altar. And, there hanging above it, in the midst of it all, was the cross. 

That picture reminded me of our Easter truth, the Easter truth for today’s disciples. 

He is risen and he is right here. 

I thought about exchanging the pretty pastel Easter picture on this morning’s bulletin with that picture of the cross, in the midst of the smoke billows of real life, because this is where we find Jesus on this Easter morning.

Jesus didn’t just disappear after leaving the tomb. After rising from the dead, Jesus re-entered the lives of the living. For 40 days, he continued to teach, walk, talk and eat with his disciples. After his ascension, he gave them the Holy Spirit that he might continue to reside with them until he returns. 

If you have come here today to find Jesus, you will not find him in the tomb. You will find him, as the dazzling clothed men said, among the living. Because he is risen and he is right here. He is here in our midst. 

Whether your lives are billowing with joy or sorrow, hope or grief, uncertainty or love, regret or peace; Jesus is risen and he is right here to walk with you through each and every day.

He is risen and he is right here. These are not magic words. They are just as true whether you believe them or think I am weaving an idle tale. 

For those who do believe, they have the miraculous power to see one through the realities of life, even when it looks like flames of death are about to consume their every last breath. 

Even then Christ is risen. He is risen, indeed, and he is right here! Alleluia!  Amen.

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