What can we say on Easter Sunday?

April 4th, 2023

I can never decide if preaching Easter Sunday is a holy, fabulous privilege, or a frustrating chore. Of course, it’s the resurrection! “Soar we now where Christ has led!” But folks are dressed for family luncheons, and if I talk resurrection they nod, as if I’d just spoken of how good it is to have gotten coffee and breakfast, or that gravity is still functioning.

To say there’s nothing new is a happy truth, oddly. To thoughts from previous years, I would now add a few fresh thoughts.


Acts 10:34-43. One year before I retire, I’m going to preach this text. It’s how the first Christians talked about Easter… I’m moved by Willie Jennings and his resistance to the standard, sneakily anti-Semitic view (which he puts with startling eloquence) that “The universal God was fulfilling a hidden wish to make Israel a doorstop put in place to grant the world access to salvation.” But this is a false read, as if Israel’s life with God is “simply a dress rehearsal for the real play.”

For Luke, “The divine touch is always unexpected and usually unconventional. In Israel God is schooling the creature in the ways of the divine life.” “Jesus will draw Jew and Gentile together, not moving past the one to get to the other, not choosing one and rejecting the other, but precisely bringing together, drawing close what was far apart.” 

Psalm 118 is an underrated, flexible, splendid text that fits Easter, and Palm Sunday, and a great many other days. “This is the day the Lord has made” are lovely words to whisper on waking each morning. But each day really only matters, and every morning is like a little Easter, because the Psalm originally was thinking “This is the day on which the Lord has acted.” In Israel, some unspecified, unexpected victory over some foe is celebrated. By extension, the words work on any grand day when the Lord has acted definitively – preeminently Easter!

Colossians 3:1-4. I focus on this lovely text by recalling how Paul in chapter 1 went on a poetic frenzy rhapsodizing about the magnificent greatness of Christ. With all that wind in the sails, he continues with “If you have been raised with Christ.” If? A big if. Not yet? Partially? Proleptically? There’s that inevitably “hidden” aspect (verse 3!), like the barely submerged plot, or something in the air just over our heads and behind us, maybe like Augustine’s City of God, the true hidden plot coursing beneath and beyond the apparent unfolding of history – and your life.

“Set your minds on the things above” – not invisible things, and certainly not irrelevant things. The key here is “where Christ is.” We stick close to Christ in our minds and hearts. We think of him, with him, and surprise of all surprises, I get glimpses that I have been raised with Christ, that we have, our church has, even the world.

John 20:1-18. Lots of running! And Jesus (the gardener!) tenderly voicing Mary’s name. So personal.

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