Preaching the resurrection can be a challenging endeavor -- and in the next installment of The Immediate Word, team member Chris Keating looks into how we can go about making the old, old story seem fresh. Do we try to appeal to the modern rational mind by trying to explain the essentially unexplainable? (Some would suggest that’s a fool’s errand, since there is nothing whatsoever sensible about Easter -- or about Christianity in general.) Or do we give in to the desires of many people in the pews (some of whom will be making a rare appearance) who are looking for an upbeat message? However we choose to revisit the annual ritual of the Easter sermon, Chris notes that the essence of the resurrection defies human understanding -- it demands a faithful response that simply accepts the ultimate truth of God’s power over death. Here’s a preview:
Revisiting the Resurrection
by Chris Keating
Colossians 3:1-4; John 20:1-18 or Matthew 28:1-10
On the Saturday before Easter the choir will run through the cantata one last time, making sure the rough places are plainly smoothed out. Worship committee members will be arranging lilies and all manner of spring plants, while the deacons give the communionware a once-over. Back home, it’s time to set out the egg-hunting gear and press Easter finery.
Meanwhile, hunkered down the hall in the pastor’s study, the preacher will be sweating out yet another Easter sermon.
To paraphrase Tony Campolo, it’s Saturday -- but Sunday’s coming.
It’s a drama of biblical proportions, and like the first Easter it starts early. Crowds will flow through the church doors, and the church will put on its Easter best. Sweet lily aroma will waft through the air, mingling with the smell of jelly beans and chocolate eggs. Exclamations of “Alleluia! He is risen!” will raise the rafters. Just as stomachs begin to growl in anticipation of brunch, the preacher will stand up, wondering if the Spirit will move once more. Sunday is coming, and it is time to revisit the resurrection.
Easter poses a dilemma for a preacher. On the one hand, once a year visitors will be looking for an upbeat (but not too long) message of faith -- sort of a booster shot to the soul. Regular attenders will seek confirmation of deeply held beliefs. What sort of message is called for: a sentimental favorite, a skeptic’s historical analysis, or a step-by-step apologetic?
Sunday’s coming -- but what will we preach?
There’s no end of current sources of material either. On the media front, this year has offered a bumper crop of faith-inspired movies, including the blockbuster Noah, the explicitly faith-based film God’s Not Dead, and the upcoming Heaven Is For Real. Those looking for more intellectual homiletical fodder might explore Bart Ehrman’s historical theories on Jesus’ divinity in How Jesus Became God or Reza Aslan’s Zealot.
Easter Sunday sermons can be as predictable as family egg hunts or as bejeweled as a Faberge egg. One thing is certain: Sunday is coming -- and now it is time to revisit the resurrection.
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