Hallelujah! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Hallelujah!
We Christians are a people with a story to tell—or least some news to share. We have good news. God loves us so much that nothing stands in the way of his relationship with us—not even death. The proof of that? Christ is risen from the dead! This is the most fundamental message that we have as Christians, and for centuries, for almost two millennia, in fact, we have been sharing this message with the world. We believe that when people embrace what this news means, what it actually means, our lives are better for it. It doesn’t mean problems go away, but it does make facing our problems meaningful in a way that isn’t the case when you think of life as some random happenstance of chance.
And so this good news, that God is with us, through thick and thin, no matter what—that God loves us and will do anything to be in relationship with us, that’s something we’ve spent almost the last 2000 years telling the whole world about. It’s a pretty big deal, and because it’s a pretty deal, we think everyone should know about it. It’s such a good thing, we don’t want to keep it for ourselves, but we want to share it. And so this message, the message of God’s love for us, clearly seen in all its glory in Jesus’ resurrection, is what changes us and fills us with hope and joy. Jesus’ resurrection changes things—everything, literally, every thing. As we go forward today, remember this main thing: Christ is risen from the dead, and that makes a world of difference.
Let us pray. May only God’s Word be spoken and may only God’s Word be heard; in the name of Jesus. Amen.
As many of you know, I quite enjoy being an uncle. In a few weeks, in fact, I’m headed down to Pennsylvania where I’ll see my nephew, Carl Franklin. I’m starting my vacation away a few days early just to spend time with him. About a week after that, my family is coming up to Massachusetts for a few days of visiting, and I’m quite looking forward to having Carl Franklin staying at my house. As I’m told by Mariah, my sister, Carl Franklin won’t stop talking about his trip to Massachu-tetts to see Uncle Daniel. That just melts my heart. Being an uncle is a tremendously wonderful thing…
When I visit my sister, I often end up watching Carl Franklin—either while Mariah is at work for the day or while she’s running some errands or something. I’m sure it’s a great relief to her to have me watch him while she can go about doing what she normally would have him along for, but for me it’s a joy to spend time with him. And I think Carl Franklin likes it too. He’s full of energy!
And he’s always exploring something—as five-year-olds are wont to do. And he loves, loves, loves to show me things and explain things to me. Whether it’s some gizmo or gadget or something on his iPad. But it’s not just stuff that he brings up to me that he’s excited to show me. He also loves to bring me along and show me things—toys in his room, a drawing he made at the kitchen table, stuff outside. All sorts of stuff. And he’s always so excited to bring me along to show me. “Uncle Daniel! Come and see!” and I’ll get up, and I’ll follow him wherever he’s leading me. And I’ll be adequately impressed by whatever he shows me—whatever he shows me. He’s always brimming with glee, enthusiasm, and eagerness when he comes running to me, “Uncle Daniel! Come and see!”
Come and see.
Those are words of invitation. They’re an active invitation, thoughtful and intentional. When someone tells you, “Come and see,” there’s something behind the invitation. It’s not an empty invitation, but one that holds a kind of promise, or potential. There’s something worth seeing. But what’s more, in addition to holding this potential, the words “come and see” also invite someone to change what they’re doing now, and do something different.
When you tell someone, “Come and see,” you’re saying, effectively, “Even if what you’re doing now is important, put it down and check this out. I promise it’s worth it.” When you tell someone, “Come and see,” it’s not just something mundane. It’s something you think’s meaningful or important.
A few weeks ago, I was on the phone with Bishop Hazelwood. In the course of our conversation, he told me that Emanuel continues to be congregation that comes up in discussion at the synod office, and we come up as an example of a place doing good ministry. He told me, “Emanuel is a church that does good worship and good outreach.”
Folks—that’s high praise.
It might not seem like it, but it is. And it’s not lost on those around that what’s going on here is good. We’re a healthy, happy congregation, and people notice it and know it. We are doing God’s work here, with our hands. And that’s a good thing. We should be excited about what we’re doing…filled with joy, enthusiasm, and eagerness about it—so much so that we can’t contain ourselves, like lively kids. We should be telling everyone and anyone who’ll listen, “Come and see!”
Come and see a church, a group of faithful disciples that welcomes all people, from differing backgrounds, and truly means all people. Come and see a church, a group of God’s children who worship in spirit and truth—worshipping with true reverence and intentionality, but not with fussiness that forgets God shows up in the messiness of life. Come and see a church that intentionally studies God’s Word each week, at different times, together in small groups. Come and see a church who reaches out into our community feeding the underserved with actual food we collect, literally known in Fitchburg as “the church that feeds people.” Come and see the church that generously collects coats, socks, gloves, and toys for folks in our community who need it. Come and see a church that remembers the service of our first responders and the dedication they have in serving us. Come and see a church that is globally involved, supporting the plight of Ukrainian refugees or children with disabilities in Cambodia. Come and see a church that prays by name for those in dire straits, for not just those we know, but for whosever need comes our way. Come and see a church that is made up of people from all ages, from young children to nonagenarians, all active and involved in many and various ways in the life of this parish. Come and see a church that shares fellowship together with each other over meals, here and around our communities. Come and see a church with members here, in North Carolina, in Mississippi, and still more places. Come and see a church that, quite literally, rose from the ashes. Come and see a church full of people called by love, fed by the Word, caring for all…
That’s Emanuel, folks. It’s us. This, and so much more. Sunday school. Calumet. Bible study. Coffee hour. Worship. Outreach projects. On and on.
We are Emanuel—God with us.
And indeed, these are things we do precisely because we believe that God is here with us, in this place, among us wherever we are. It’s precisely because God is with us that we are a healthy, happy congregation. We are grounded in what’s important—in God’s love and his Word, the promise that nothing can separate us from God’s love for us in Christ Jesus our Lord. This love is what fills us and motivates us to live out and into our relationship with God.
It’s love that calls us God’s daughters and sons, love that fills us with newness of life, even now, in the face of things that many times would look impossible. It’s the same love that raised Jesus, the Son of God, to new life from the grave that first Easter morning, and it’s that same love that will raise us at the last to take our part in the household of God forever and ever.
And it’s this same love that we have to show and to share to the world. It’s this love, the love of God and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, that we want others to “Come and see!” in this place, among us—lived out in, with, and through us. We have something exciting to share. We have something that’s worth seeing. It’s not something mundane. It’s meaningful. It’s important. In this place, God is transforming lives. God has transformed our lives and is continuing to transform our lives. We know that God promises to do the same for anyone and everyone who thoughtfully and intentionally embraces life as a disciple of Jesus, as one of God’s beloved children.
And that’s happening in here, in this place, at Emanuel. Now that’s something to be brimming with glee, enthusiasm, and eagerness about! In this place, God’s work is done with our hands. Who wouldn’t want to tell everyone, “Come and see!”
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.