Sunrise Service

April 12, 2020

Over the past six weeks, life has felt empty for a lot of people, and a good reason. Everywhere you go, everywhere you look, life has been emptied of our regular routines.

Schools are empty. Playgrounds for children are abandoned. Graduations have been canceled or postponed.

Ballfields are empty. Some recreation departments have resorted to taking down basketball goals or tying up nets to keep teens from gathering on the courts to keep COVID-19 from spreading.

Major league baseball parks and NBA arenas are empty.

Daycare centers are empty, creating childcare issues for families.

Many stores and businesses are empty. You can’t get a haircut, sit down at a restaurant, go to a movie, to the mall, or shop at any store that’s deemed non-essential.

When you do go to some stores, some of the staple items we need have been binge bought and the shelves are empty.

Compared to regular times, the roads seem empty. No one is traveling because people are staying at home.

The hotels are empty. Airbnb owners do not have any guests in their homes.

Airports are empty. Uber drivers and taxis drivers have empty cars.

Cruise ships are empty, except the ones where people want to get off but cannot.

The economy is being walloped, and people’s pockets are becoming empty.

For many, there’s not enough to pay the rent, the car payment, or the mortgage. They’ve lost their jobs, and their future is uncertain.

If you were to go to the hospitals around here, the visiting rooms are empty. No one is allowed inside to visit their loved ones that are sick or dying.

There are a lot of empty beds because no elective surgeries are being performed, as all resources are being used to fight COVID-19 and heal those sick patients.

Who could have imagined the day that our churches would be empty, especially on Easter Sunday?

In addition to those that are sick and dying, a lot of people are feeling empty.

We’ve all felt some anxiety, but we don’t have to lose hope or faith.

Over Two Thousand years ago, some women who went to anoint Jesus’ body and found that the grave where he was buried was empty, except for the grave clothes, which no longer wrapped Jesus’ body.

They were told by angels that Jesus was no longer there but that he had risen as he had said he would.

The women, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others left to tell the apostles, but they didn’t believe the women, because their words seemed like nonsense.

Peter ran to the tomb to look for himself.

Only after Jesus appeared to these disciples did they believe for themselves that he was alive.

So for those of you who have trouble believing in the bodily resurrection of Jesus, I get it. So did his disciples until they saw him face to face.

Jesus said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds. Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see I have” (Luke 24:38 NIV).

This Easter, I know that many of you are troubled. Indeed the entire country and many around the world are troubled.

There is an emptiness felt because so much of our lives have been taken from us.

Even if life were to return to a pre-COVID-19 normal in the months ahead, which it will not, is that really enough to fill all the emptiness that people have in their lives?

Easter is a reminder that Jesus is the hope for all humanity. It is not a booming economy. It is not who gets elected. It is not whether we have football in the fall.

Sure, these things matter to us, but our empty hearts must be filled with something more than the temporary things this world has to offer.

Easter reminds us that our hearts must be filled with the love of God who defeated death, and isn’t that what we ultimately fear.

Isn’t that the reason we are in our homes? We fear death. That is a normal part of living.

We all want to live.

Jesus wants us to live too, but He wants us to have more than just physical life.

You can breathe, be healthy and robust, and still be empty inside.

Today is a great day to focus on how the empty tomb and the risen Christ has made it possible for us to be filled with hope, joy, peace, love, assurance, power, forgiveness, and eternal life.

This morning, if there is an emptiness in your heart, then you need to ask Jesus to fill your heart with the presence of his Spirit, which He gives to all believers.

It is the presence of His Spirit that is the guarantee of His resurrection.

Through the Spirit of God, we can rise and find victory over whatever this life throws at us.

So I leave you with these words from the Apostle Paul written to the church at Rome during a time when Christians were experiencing persecution for their faith.

So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:

They kill us in cold blood because they hate you.

We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.

None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.

(Romans 8:31-39) The Message Bible

So now church, I am also convinced that no virus is going to get between us and God.

I see your faith. Every week I see evidence that it is growing and that the Resurrected Lord means more to you today than ever before.

May the Peace of Christ Go With You!