We had another good preschool chapel service in here this week: Your chairs were filled with little children. Many of them, most of them -- this is probably the only church experience they have. I don’t take that lightly, and I want them to know about God and God’s love for them, for all.
We always have a little acolyte come forward and receive a little cross around their neck and light the candles. We pray, and we sing, and I offer a little thought around a theme and this week, it was of course the theme of Easter! “Easter’s not just one big day of dressing up and hunting for candy, it’s 50 days of celebrating!” I told the kids. “Why? Because God loves us so much, that Jesus lives!” That’s the basic message, but I kept going and did a little exercise with them where we made faces. We often get sad, angry and scared. [made the faces] But because Christ is risen, we don’t have to be sad, angry or scared, because of Easter, now we can be the opposite of sad, angry and scared: We can be joyful, loving and bold. Sang “Peace Like a River”: I don’t have to be scared anymore. I’ve got joy like a fountain: I don’t have to be sad anymore. I’ve got love like an ocean: I don’t have to be angry anymore. Took pictures…[I think I’ll send them out to you.]
Then, always at the end of preschool chapel another little acolyte comes forward, receives a special cross necklace to keep, and extinguishes the candles, and here’s what I really wanted to tell you about: Every chapel service when we get to this point, I always ask the kids some questions, “Now, just because the candle goes out, does that mean God goes away?” NO! “Does that mean God stops loving us?” NO! And then we sing “This little light of mine” remembering that the light stays ways us, that the light of Christ, “this little light of mine” that burns in our hearts and in our minds and in our souls can’t ever go out...because of that’s the Risen Christ alive and deeply a part of us.
Then the children joyfully go bouncing out to play.
I hear our preschool children’s (they are your children too, you know) -- I hear their little joyful shouts of “NO!” when when I read the Emmaus story, when the Jesus vanishes from their sight at the end.
Did you catch that? Right when Christ breaks the bread, they realize who he is -- maybe I should say Christ is re-membered in the breaking of of the bread. And right at that moment he vanishes!
This one Jesus, who was with them all along, who walked with them and listened to them all day, who stayed with them into the night, suddenly disappears when the bread is broken, at the very moment it all comes together!
Now, you might think they’d be sad all over again, they just figured it out -- they just realized that this is their risen Lord right in front of their eyes -- and then he’s gone all over again! But they’re not sad at all here. Jesus disappears and they are filled with joy. “Were not our hearts burning within us?”
Chapel time is over, the lights up here are extinguished, and they are filled with joy.
At the very moment Christ disappears from our sight, we are filled with joy and peace, because the Risen Christ is alive and deeply a part of us. And out we go “to play” on the playground of God’s world (not such a terrible place with our Risen Christ lenses on).
Because of Easter, we don’t have to be scared, angry or sad any more. Because of Easter ;) because of all the candy we’ve eaten and the outfits we’ve worn -- NO!!! -- because of Christ’s resurrection -- remember? “Oh yeah!” -- we don’t have to scared, angry or sad any more.
Because of Christ’s resurrection we can finally be joyful, loving, and bold to go out into this world, and share the good news…
at the very moment Jesus vanishes before our eyes.
“Just because the candle goes out, does that mean God goes away?” NO! “Does that mean God stops loving us?” NO! Just because Christ vanishes before our eyes, does that mean we need to get sad, scared or angry? NO! It’s precisely at that moment of vanishing (Greek: aphantos egeneto = became invisible/phantom), that we know everything is OK. [pause] Children at the end of chapel: that’s us with the Easter story.
The candles lit up here: that’s just bearing witness to the deeper reality. The candle can go out. The deeper reality is what never goes out. Christ walking along with them, being with them in a visible way: that’s just bearing witness to the deeper reality that can never disappear.
Here’s a moment for us: when we take that bread in a few minutes. That bread which we believe and name over and over again, “the body of Christ,” corpus Christi, sangre de Christo, the blood of Christ, now we see it, God’s real presence...and then it disappears, vanishes before our eyes as we take it in. Bearing witness to the deep reality: Christ is alive and with us. Yeah, we can’t see it anymore, but it goes inside of us, God’s body becoming deeply a part of our bodies!
So we don’t have to be sad or angry or scared anymore, sisters and brothers in Christ!
Easter frees us from sin and death, and utter sadness, and debilitating fear, and crushing bitterness. We left all that at the cross, remember? Otherwise Easter is just about chocolate bunnies and pastel colors and eggs and more candy.
No, Easter frees us to be truly peaceful, truly loving, deeply joyful (just like the song…“like a river, ocean, fountain”) and courageous: to move outward into God’s world with our arms flung wide open, with our doors unlocked, with our banners unfurled, our flags of unconditional welcome flying high, our hearts burning with unquenchable joy, mercy, forgiveness and peace! (Nothing new and courageous about violence.) Easter frees us to be bold -- that is peaceful.
Can we see Jesus? No. We can’t. He’s vanished from our eyes. [pause] But we’re not sad about that either.
The candle light in the church goes out. But that’s ok. Jesus is alive. What did the angel in the tomb say? “He is not here.” We have “this little light,” you see...
So now we get to bounce and skip and sing out of here too…to show and tell others what’s happened to us on the road, “how Christ [has] been made known to us [too] in the breaking of the bread”!
Thanks and Easter praise be to God! Amen.
Hey, let’s sing. #377 “Alleluia! Jesus is Risen!” Pay special attention to verse 2: “Walking the way, Christ in the center [cover], telling the story to open our eyes; breaking the bread, giving us glory: Jesus our blessing, our constant surprise.”