Nicole Childress Ball, Church Relations Officer (Union Presbyterian Seminary)
I had the distinct pleasure of resting in a comfortable pew at First Presbyterian Church, Richmond to hear our Seminary President, Dr. Brian K. Blount, preach an inspiring Easter sermon! I encourage you to take a listen here if you have not already done so. It was a beautiful service filled with the Spirit!
While I enjoyed a Sunday of sabbath from work, my colleague in Church Relations, Rev. Jordan Davis, was invited to preach her first Easter Sunday at a combined service for Hebron Presbyterian Church and Oak Hill Presbyterian Church, both located in Oxford, North Carolina. Rev. Davis has preached before this joint congregation earlier in the Lenten season and she was thrilled to return and return as their Easter preacher. I share her message of hope with you today!
“Living Out of the Tomb” -Luke 24: 1-12
Easter Sunday, Hebron and Oak Hill Presbyterian Churches
This has been a long forty days. I feel honored by the fact that I can mark both the beginning and the end of them with you. At the start of Lent I prayed that each of us would be able to name our temptations and begin changing our relationship with them. I prayed that as we each travelled through our own wilderness during this Lenten season, we could lean on God and know that we are never, and were never, alone in the journey.
Now, at the close of this journey, I pray that each one of you felt the presence of God in your day to day life and in the moments when you might have felt that you were in the middle of the wilderness or being tempted by something that moved your focus away from God.
The incredible thing about this journey that we have been on, the thing that might have been hard to understand or remember at the start of the journey or during, is that we were all in this together. Each one of you remained in my thoughts and prayers as I remembered my time with you in February and looked forward to being with you again today. Each one of us, whether we always knew or recognized it or not, always had someone by our side– we were always accompanied by the thoughts and prayers of others sitting with us today and those who are not, but most importantly God was with us.
THAT is what we celebrate today! GOD IS WITH US! Christ has risen and remains with us!
This morning, after a long forty days that only seemed to get longer and longer during this past week, we have left the wilderness where we felt lost and alone at times, we have left the upper room where we were renewed with the life-giving gift of Christ that we could not yet fully understand, we have come down the hill with the shadow of the cross lingering behind, and we have arrived at the EMPTY tomb where Christ once laid.
THIS is what it all led up to. THIS is what prophets spoke of and Christ kept trying to explain to the Disciples and all those that gathered near. THIS is what we celebrate!
The wilderness did not overcome Christ. Satan was not able to tempt Christ. The nay-sayers and the politicians could not stop Christ. The doubt of the Disciples did not slow Christ. The flogging, the thorns, the nails, and the cross– the sins of all of the world past, present, and future– might have seemed to take the life out of Christ, but this morning we arrive at the tomb and find that not even the sin of the world or death can bury Christ. It is Easter morning and the tomb is empty! It is Easter morning and Christ lives– we have been forgiven!
“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He isn’t here, but has been raised. Remember what he told you while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” (v5b-7)
The tomb is empty and the story is just beginning as the women run and tell what they saw to the apostles. A new journey begins. The story has just been told for the first time. The women- Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and others- are the first to live out of the tomb. They remembered what was said all along, and though they were initially frightened, they believed and shared the good news!
That is what it means to live out of the tomb. Having been on this journey together- resisting temptations that pull our focus from God, wandering through our wilderness, sitting on the hillside listening to Jesus teaching (even if we don’t understand right away), eating at the table and praying in the garden, grieving on the hillside in the shadow of the cross, and finding the empty tomb- having done all of this together and leaving together to share the story, THAT is living out of the tomb!
That is what the women did, that is what the disciples will eventually do. That is what WE are called to do. We are called to share the story of the journey and not just the good news, but the GREAT news, of the empty tomb!
So how will we live out of the tomb?
How will you share your story? How will you tell others what you have seen?
Shout it from the hill top where the cross stood, shout it from the mountain top where Moses received the commandments from God. Shout it from this sanctuary and shout it from the middle of the lake. Let the world know that through every step of this journey you were never alone. Let the world know that not just in your celebrations, but in every single struggle, God was WITH you. Let your neighbor know, let the cashier at the grocery store know that at some point along the way God was with you through them. Celebrate that God has been with them, through you!
The tomb is empty and Christ is raised. God’s Word remains– it could not be buried.
No matter what happens, no matter where we go, no matter who we are with– God’s Word remains with us. Christ remains with us.
Just as the women ran from the tomb to share what they had seen, we are called to run and share what WE have seen.
So, on this Easter morning as we stand at the tomb digesting the events of the past 40 days, what have you seen? How have you experienced God? Who has reminded you that God has been and will be with you? Where do you see that God’s Word is still living and active in your life and around the world?
I wish I could promise that now that we have found the empty tomb, everything will be fine. I wish I could say that the wilderness is only in the past and only the light of Christ is ahead. I can’t do that though. But I can remind, with every ounce my being, that no matter what we encounter now we can KNOW and BELIEVE that we are not alone. We can SEE and FEEL that God remains with us.
So go– leave the empty tomb, running as fast as you can and share with the world what you have seen! Share what you have experienced, thought, and felt. Share that despite the efforts of so many, the tomb is empty and CHRIST IS RISEN!