When I was a kid, I attended a rather large Lutheran church in a rural setting of upstate NY. It’s one of those picturesque settings you see on greeting cards… long sloping green meadow with a stately brick church with a little cemetery on the hillside behind it.
Every year, on Easter Sunday (aka, Resurrection Day, if you prefer), we would get up super early before dawn for a sunrise service put on by the youth. I distinctly remember one sunrise service the youth decided to start in the dark out in that cemetery. As a kid of maybe only six years of age it seemed a creepy way to start an Easter morning, but it definitely had my attention! I remember the youth pastor gesturing over his shoulder, pointing at the tombstones behind him and saying rather excitedly, "Someday, those graves are gonna open up and the dead in Christ are gonna rise first, then we who are alive and remain will meet them in the air!" (Referencing 1 Thessalonians 4:15)
In my little kid mind, I froze, stared at those graves and thought, "... oh please not today!"
What my pastor meant for good was to me, a little terrifying. But I get it now. Someday, it really IS all going to be OKAY. Jesus rose from the dead. All who believe in him will rise from the dead as well. And this is the very crux of Christianity.
Every other truth we hold dear as Christians rides on the hope of the resurrection of the dead, starting with Jesus. It's a big deal. The very survival of Christianity throughout the centuries isn't merely the result of an organized church (let's face it, we're terribly disorganized). It isn't the result of mere superstition or wishful thinking. Christianity thrives today because Jesus is alive! The reality of Jesus’ resurrection transformed frightened disciples into bold proclaimers. The great news of Jesus’s resurrection transforms looking at graves as simply terrifying and sad to also exciting. “Someday, those graves are gonna open up and the dead in Christ are gonna rise!” That kind of news can terrify, stupefy, or electrify and it’s the kind of news that just has to be told.
Hopefully you’re like me, one of those people that the news and reality of Jesus’ resurrection electrifies! And when your that charged up you’ve just gotta tell someone! I love Easter Sunday each year because it provides Christians an opportunity to invite their non-believing friends to come and hear the outrageous claims of Christianity. You may not believe this, but researchers have proven that millions of non-believers around the world will say "yes" to that Easter invitation.
It’s a day when we can invite folks in our communities to come and see what the church is all about, and the church should definitely be all about Jesus. A Jesus who is alive, whose victory over the grave electrifies his followers to share Jesus’ message of love and salvation, to serve with forgiveness and passion. Here at little ol’ Greenford Lutheran I think we have one of those “Jesus” churches. Our members are out serving in the community through schools, and governments, little leagues and busy bees. Our outreach supports Teen Challenge, Grief Camp, and missions in China. We love on each other as imperfect people forgiven and redeemed by a perfect savior. We’re family, God’s family. Our family blood lines aren’t dependent on what part of the globe our ancestors came from, nor the color of our skin but from our “adoption papers.” We’ve been adopted by Christ and now we’re part of Christ eternal family, thanks to his electrifying death defying Easter surprise.