Spring has always held a special place in my heart. Even more so lately, now that I have moved from the deep south to the frigid north where the season between late October to around April never seems to thaw my old bones, and I yearn for the warmth of spring.
My memories of spring also take me back to Easter morning in my little household. My mom would go all out, Easter bunnies, dyed hard-boiled eggs, which I never ate but loved to make a mess dyeing. She would take me out to get a new Easter outfit every year. I would usually pick a pin-striped double-breasted suit coat, either gray or black with a matching vest. With some new wing-tipped shoes and argyle socks to match. I got decked out in my Sunday best. You had to look cute for Easter worship service. After getting up and putting on that new suit, it was off to sunrise service at 6 am. We had to be there to see the sunrise. Sometimes the service was planned just right so that the sun rose during the pastor’s sermon. What an event!
After that was the Easter breakfast, fresh eggs, pancakes, grits (we were in the south, after all, and had to have grits) smoked sausage and orange juice all while trying not to mess up my new suit. All that ended with the Easter egg hunt with children in an all-out sprint knocking each other over to gather eggs we would never eat, but it was about competition. At least, it was for me. When all that was said and done it was time to rush home to dig into that huge chocolate Easter bunny. The ears went first, and then on to the chocolate eggs, all the while trying to pace the high sugar intake. It was a beautiful time of year. But is that all there is to Easter? Is it just about bunnies, bonnets, and Easter baskets? How are you approaching Easter this year? Has it lost some of its magic for you?
When the sun comes up Easter morning, it dawns on people in different ways, and the shadows fade from your faces in a variety of ways. And so this series comes to an end. What you have here is the last post in this series on the resurrection. I pray that it has been a blessing. It was my Easter sermon from six years ago.
The Apostle John leads us one last time to the tomb to meet our last face, Simon Peter. Peter is approaching the resurrection like so many before him with a struggling faith.
In John, Chapter 20, Simon Peter runs to the tomb, but unlike John, he needs to take a much longer peek into Jesus’ final resting place. Peter walks in. He takes a good hard look at the evidence and comes away even more confused. Peter, the disciple, often know for putting his foot in his mouth at the most inopportune time, walks home scratching his head. Peter questions what he has witnessed. “I don’t get it, what happened?” he must have said to himself. He did not believe. We need to give Peter a break here. He is facing a ton of doubt. He struggled to accept the power of the resurrection. To me clear, Peter heard the same promise of the resurrection of Jesus. Like the beloved disciple John, he examined the same evidence. Peter came away with a very different emotion. He came away joyless. Maybe you can relate to what Peter is experiencing. It is possible that Peter is you. You know you shouldn’t have doubts, but you do. For other believers you know, faith seems to come quickly to them. Not so for you. For you, faith is a struggle. You are bombarded with far too many questions. Faith just doesn’t seem logical to you. You look at the resurrection and while others react with shouts of Christ is Risen you are thinking in the back of your mind but did he?
You sympathize with Simon Peter. Are you Simon Peter? If this is where your faith has led your, fear not you are not alone.
Like Peter, you will wake up on Sunday and attend church, or maybe you will be tempted to skip the whole scene. The doubt is keeping you away. Somehow you just don’t feel worthy to be there. You just keep running time and time again into resurrection joy. It doesn’t make sense that the alleluias are not flowing from your lips. You do everything in your power to find it even if it means taking a “fake it till you make” approach. However, Jesus’ resurrection comes with too many questions. You are dealing with too much doubt, so much so that your Easter joy is simply not there.
I want the word of God to encourage you. I want you to know that Jesus Christ not only came back, but he came back for you, he also came back for Simon Peter. And Scripture reminds us that Jesus came back –especially for Simon Peter. In the Gospel of Mark, chapter 16, when this account is recalled, the angel says to Mary Magdalene, “ But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you...”. Tell Peter especially. Simon Peter believed that if anybody had been dropped off God’s invitation list, it was him. And he did deserve it. Jesus sends him a special message; you are forgiven, you have been restored, there is still an important place for you in God’s Kingdom. Note to all the Peter’s out there; there is a place for you in God’s kingdom.
Easter shouts to the very ends of the earth that Jesus is raised from the dead. This compassionate Savior comes back with his scarred arms reaching out to Peter, but not only Peter, but he also came back for all of us who are struggling with doubt, a simple yet powerful message of forgiveness and restoration.
Dear brothers and sisters, you are loved. I have come back to say your failure wasn’t the end. You cannot dig a ditch so deep; you cannot run away so far, you cannot accumulate any amount of sins and guilt or denials that can place you out of reach of Jesus’ love. If death can’t stop me, if they can’t nail me down with real nails, you can be sure that you can’t get far enough away that my nail scarred hands can’t reach you. Simon Peter, I came back for you. Brothers and sisters who are struggling with faith, I came back for you. It may take you a while to get that, but I came for you! I died and rose again for you. The Holy Spirit will keep pointing you to that fact so live in the joy and forgiveness of the resurrection. Amen
And here is the rest of the story: