Easter Sunday – “Awakened Hearts”
Grace and peace to you!
Christ is Risen!
He is risen indeed!
We welcome our online worshippers, as well as those here in the sanctuary.
Friday has come and gone. We knew Sunday was coming all along!
It’s a beautiful Easter Sunday here at West Tulsa UMC!
The miracle of Easter has shocked us out of our “No-name Saturday” sadness, and filled our broken hearts with joy, our souls with hope, our mouths with praise.
Even after two thousand years the resurrection still packs a powerful punch of awe and astonishment every year that we’re privileged to celebrate Easter.
Today we’re going to experience a wonderful service of music, prayer, and God’s Word, so we’re very happy that you are here to to worship the Lord with us!
Let us worship the Lord—not just with our voices, but also with our entire being.
Christ is Risen: The world below lies desolate.
Christ is Risen: The spirits of evil are fallen.
Christ is Risen: The angels of God are rejoicing.
Christ is Risen: The tombs of the dead are empty.
Christ is Risen indeed from the dead,
Glory and power are His forever and ever
Let’s dedicate minds and hearts, and our worship to God through prayer before we sing our first hymn, “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today”
Psalm 118:1-2, 14–24, Mark 16:1-11
April 4, 2021
Jesus was a rule breaker. For one thing, He ate meals with society’s unwanted, unclean, and under-privileged people. That simply went against the grain of the establishment’s standards.
He healed people on the Sabbath, which was considered “work,” and was breaking a commandment. He told people that He was the Son of God and that their sins were forgiven, that broke a rule…It was blasphemous!
Most important of all, Christ’s resurrection broke all the old rules.
So, if we consider ourselves His followers, we’re going to need to be rule-breakers too. We are here breaking rules on this Easter Sunday because we are celebrating what we believe to be the most momentous weekend in the history of the world.
Ever since Jesus died and was raised, Christians have proclaimed the cross and resurrection of Jesus to be the decisive turning point for all creation…
The the old images of death have been torn down. The saying that has been written has now been fulfilled!
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
(1 Corinthians 15:55)
Our belief in the resurrection of Jesus turns the threat of death on its head and
celebrates new life…
Dr. Paul Stuckey, the pastor of a church in Dayton, Ohio; tells the story of an eye-catching classified ad he saw in the newspaper.
In big, bold letters were the words, “Used Tombstone.”
The advertisement read like this:
“Used tombstone for sale. Real bargain for anyone named ‘Dingo.’
For more information call…”
The thought of a used tombstone might seem silly, or depressing at first…But think about it…A “used” tombstone means that its previous owner has no need for it any more.
It has become unnecessary. The Easter clarion call: “He is Risen!” conveys the same message as the used tombstone: The tomb is empty! The stone marker isn’t needed! Jesus Christ is risen indeed!”
Here’s something to make you think…
Easter is all about a four-letter word.
Let that sink in for a moment.
Yes, you heard me correctly, the Easter resurrection is all about a four-letter word that Christians should want to be described by.
The four letter word is LIFE.
New life. Whole life. Abundant Life. Redeemed life. Resurrected life.
At the end of the day, the message of Easter is that the purpose of life is NOT death.
It means that the dismal finality of the saying, “Life stinks…and then you die,” can be wiped off of our radar.
The purpose of life, is in fact LIFE . . . Jesus’ death and resurrection have won us the promise that life that triumphs over death……forever.
The thing is, celebrating Easter is the best thing that Jesus-people can do because it is a celebration of all that is good, all that is true, and all that is beautiful.
In fact, celebrating Easter this morning is the greatest public service that we can perform in this strange world that we’re living in… Why?
Because the message of Easter is what makes everything else we do possible.
Remember Jesus’ final words on the cross?….“It is finished.”
John’s Gospel informs us that before the Roman soldiers took Jesus’ body down from the cross, they stabbed Him with a spear, making “blood and water flow out.”
That rush of fluids revealed what was the actual final cause of death for Jesus — a burst aorta. Jesus died of a broken heart. The breaking of Jesus’ heart was what “finished” the Perfect Lamb’s sacrifice.
A new heart emerged out of Jesus’ broken heart, a resurrected heart, an unbreakable, unstoppable heart. Out of the Last Adam’s split side a new Eve was conceived, the bride of Christ, the Church Triumphant whose life revolves around the water of baptism and the blood of communion.
On Easter, “It is finished” metamorphose into “Now it begins.”
New life begins with with the resurrected rhythms of that Easter heart. Jesus offers an Easter heart to everyone who believes in Him.
The first “Easter-hearts” were issued to Jesus’ closest followers:
John, the disciple whom “Jesus loved,” looked in at the abandoned grave clothes and “believed” that Jesus had risen. At that instant his Easter heart started beating.
Mary Magdalene heard her name called by her beloved Teacher’s own voice, and she saw and believed that the risen Lord stood before her. It was at that moment Mary’s Easter heart started beating.
When Jesus walked and talked along the Emmaus road with two of his disciples, Jesus was performing CPR on their hearts. Those two disciples later recalled:
“Were not our hearts burning within us while he
was talking to us on the road”
But it was only after Jesus blessed and broke the bread that those disciples suddenly were able to see and believe. It was at the dinner table that they received the final jolt that jump-started their Easter hearts.
Is this church full this morning with people whose hearts are full of Easter?
How about our online worshippers? Are your hearts are full of Easter?
Do you have an Easter heart? Here are some ways you can tell.
#1) An Easter heart is full of new life. An Easter heart is full of a new mission. An Easter heart is full of new possibilities. An Easter church that is filled with Easter hearts continues to offer signs of new life to the world.
#2) An Easter heart church throws off the old grave clothes. Have we shed our shrouds? Death shrouds separate the dead from the living. Death shrouds wrap foul smelling corpses in fine linens and sweet spices — but they speed up the inner decay…They do not stop it.
Instead of wrapping ourselves in costly, starchy grave clothes, a church full of Easter hearts wears work clothes. Anyone who works on cars, in gardens, and under kitchen sinks knows what work clothes are: They’re the dungarees, coveralls, and jeans that are tough and sturdy and made to get dirty.
#3) An Easter heart church is full of rock-rollers. Notice I didn’t say rock-AND-rollers. Rock-Rollers is what I said. The first sign of the resurrection, found early in the morning by a heart-broken Mary Magdalene, was that the rock had been rolled away from the tomb’s entrance.
Maybe she’s the inspiration to Leon Russell’s song, “Roll Away the Stone.” Maybe her real rock-rolling song went:
“Well it’s a strange world that we’re living in,
I thought He was my teacher and He was my friend,
But I was wrong again, he’s much more in the end.
It’s such a strange change that He put me through,
But like a fool I don’t know how to love Him;
What can this poor girl do?
Roll away the stone,
Don’t leave me here all alone.
Resurrect me, and protect me,
Don’t leave me crying here.
What will they do in two-thousand years?”
Every body, even Jesus’ resurrected body, needs to be offered a way out.
Rock-rollers offer the way out of a walking-dead life to all sorts of people who are trapped in all kinds of tombs.
Strengthened by an Easter heart we can . . . .
…Roll away despair, and reveal a path to hope.
We can roll away delusions — delusions like “If only I could win the lottery, I’d be happy.” …Delusions like “All I need is one more drink, or smoke, or hit . . .”
Delusions like “A little ‘retail-therapy’ will make me feel a whole lot better.”
We can roll away fear…and encourage those who are stuck in tomb-living to step out into he light.
Of course, it takes a community of Easter hearts to get those rocks rolling in the right direction. Rock-rolling isn’t a one-person job.
#4) An Easter heart church is always in a state of arrhythmia, always experiencing adrenaline surges, always skipping beats, and always has a racing pulse.
An Easter heart is an arrhythmic heart because in an Easter-heart-church the unexpected is always happing. Resurrection happens. Miracles happen. Truth happens. Goodness happens. Beauty happens…
Thomas doubted all the stories of Jesus’ resurrection. He challenged anyone to produce Jesus with all His wounds. Thomas said he would only believe if he could put his fingers into the nail holes and spear wound.
And then, suddenly, Jesus stood right there in front of Thomas in the upper room with locked doors. He told Thomas that if he needed proof he was welcome to poke and prod away.
When Thomas’ whole concept of reality was knocked upside-down, all he could do was fall to his knees and cry out “My Lord, and my God!
In that moment, Thomas received his Easter heart full of new life.
If you have an Easter heart, you learn to expect the unexpected. To relish the ridiculous. To savor the sensational.
#5) An Easter heart church is filled with laughter.
The resurrection is a testimony to the adage, “He who laughs last, laughs best.” The Jewish High Court thought they had the last laugh. The Roman authorities thought they had the last laugh. The cruel crowds and sadistic soldiers thought they had the last laugh.
The truth is, ONLY God gets the last laugh!
For centuries, German pastors have intentionally inserted jokes into their Easter sermon. They feel, that Christ’s Church should ring with laughter on Easter Sunday…They feel that worshippers should fully enjoy the divine sense of humor.
They call it “the Easter laughter.”
Maybe this will create some “Easter laughter” this morning:
After Joseph of Arimathaea donated his family’s burial tomb to lay Jesus to rest in, someone asked Joseph: “That was such a beautiful, costly, hand-hewn tomb. Why did you give it to someone ELSE to be interred in?”
“Oh,” said Joseph, “He only needed it for the weekend.”
Then there’s the story told of a town which put together its own Good Friday processional. The man chosen to portray Jesus was a burly truck driver. He was a far cry from “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild!”
Still, he wore the clothing of Jesus, put the crown of thorns on his head and dragged a rugged, wooden cross.
Another man played the Roman centurion. He ALSO really got into his part.
As truck-driver-Jesus walked by, the centurion jeered him, mocked him, struck him, and even spit in his face. That was simply more than the truck driver playing Jesus could stand!
He turned to the man portraying the centurion and vowed angrily, “I’ll be back to deal with you AFTER the Resurrection!”
The resurrection proved that God has the last laugh. It was the ultimate April Fools joke on Satan. Anyone who thought they had triumphed over Jesus were thoroughly trumped by his triumph over death itself.
6) Finally, and this is the most important “sign” of an Easter-heart-church of them all: an Easter-heart will be a broken heart.
Theologian Dr. Leonard Sweet travels quite a bit to teach and preach. For years he has made it a practice to bring a heart home to his daughter Soren from the places he’s been.
Dr. Sweet tells his daughter that she, “has his heart,” and to symbolize that, he brings back hearts made of every material imaginable in every form imaginable to convey to her the unimaginable love that he has for her in his heart.
One day, when he was giving her the collection of hearts he had brought home from the various stops on a long trip, Soren made him close his eyes. “I have a surprise for you,” she said. “I made you a heart.” When Leonard opened his eyes to see what she had pressed in his hand, she squealed with delight: “Here’s my heart, Daddy.”
When he looked at the picture she had made, his heart sank. In the middle of the picture was a giant heart, not blood red, but yellow-ish pink. Even more disturbing than its sickly look, the heart was breaking in two, torn and jagged from ripping apart.
But rising out of the broken heart like a dawning sun, there was a whole new heart…a throbbing, deep-red, strong heart being birthed from the pain of a broken heart.
Dr. Sweet writes, “That one image is the best icon of the gospel I have ever seen.”
The promise of Easter Sunday is NOT that your heart WON’T break. In fact, the promise of Easter Sunday is that: IF you love, your heart WILL break.
“For God so loved the world,”…..that God’s heart broke.
The cross is a symbol of God’s broken heart. A broken heart is the price of sacrificial love.
But if Easter is NOT the symbol of a heart that will never break, it IS the symbol of this: that out of that broken heart, God will birth a new heart, a whole heart, a beet-red blood rich heart in us.
Is your heart breaking this Easter Sunday? Is our church’s heart breaking this Easter Sunday? If so, are we sure it’s breaking for the same things that break God’s heart?
The Bible says that King David was a “man after God’s own heart” . . . a man with a heart that beats for the least, the last, and the lost.
Do you have a heart after God’s own heart? Is your heart beating for the lowest and the least? Are you functioning from a broken heart? Or, are you functioning from a stone cold heart?
I’d like to close today’s message this Easter morning with one of the the earliest records of prayer in the Jewish-Christian tradition.
It’s this Priestly Benediction found in Numbers 6:24-26:
Here it is in its original form:
“May the Lord bless you and keep you; may the Lord cause his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; may the Lord lift up his countenance upon you
and grant you peace.”
Here it is in its form altered by Easter Sunday:
“May the Lord bless you and keep you; may the Lord cause his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; may the Lord
lift up his countenance upon you and grant you peace . . .
. . . and a beat-skipping, work clothes, laughing, rock-rolling, broken heart.
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever! Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.”
The Lord is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation. There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous: “The right hand of the Lord does valiantly; the right hand of the Lord is exalted; the right hand of the Lord does valiantly.” I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord. The Lord has punished me severely, but he did not give me over to death. Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it. I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord ‘s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Mark 16:1-11 GNB
After the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices to go and anoint the body of Jesus. Very early on Sunday morning, at sunrise, they went to the tomb. On the way they said to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” (It was a very large stone.) Then they looked up and saw that the stone had already been rolled back. After the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices to go and anoint the body of Jesus. Very early on Sunday morning, at sunrise, they went to the tomb.
So they entered the tomb, where they saw a young man sitting on the right, wearing a white robe — and they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is not here — he has been raised! Look, here is the place where they put him. Now go and give this message to his disciples, including Peter: ‘He is going to Galilee ahead of you; there you will see him, just as he told you.’ ” So they went out and ran from the tomb, distressed and terrified. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid. [ After Jesus rose from death early on Sunday, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had driven out seven demons. The women went to Peter and his friends and gave them a brief account of all they had been told. She went and told his companions. They were mourning and crying; After this, Jesus himself sent out through his disciples from the east to the west the sacred and ever-living message of eternal salvation.] and when they heard her say that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe her.