I started thinking seriously about my Easter sermon this week. Although it is probably the shortest Sunday sermon I preach every year, it is, of course, the most important. Oh, it isn’t just that the overflow crowd will be the biggest of the year, or that to continue to grow we desperately need to impress the new folks so they will come back. No, Easter is the heart of the Christian message. It is hope in the face of our final enemy: death.
We all have heard the jokes about how CEOs (Christmas and Easter Only) think the pastor always preaches about the same thing. It is a challenge to bring new light to a bright subject that people have heard more sermons about than any other. Although this is only my seventh Easter in Atlanta, I don’t trust my memory, so I pulled out copies of my old sermons to ensure I don’t accidentally repeat myself.
I usually do this, and I often am surprised at things I have preached during the past four decades of Easters. This will be my first Easter with a major part of my heart on the other side of death. This will be my first Easter sermon in 36 years without Bill in the congregation listening. From the start of our relationship, this was our favorite holiday, even during the years when crowds and multiple services left us exhausted. We didn’t exchange Christmas gifts; instead, we gave one another Easter baskets. Last year, we both gave the other a personal, folding grocery cart because a new supermarket was set to open within walking distance of our house.
This year, the girls are grown, and Bill is gone. So, no Easter baskets. As I read through my old sermons in light of that, they sounded very different. I wish I could write something profound, inspiring, and hopeful right now, but that wouldn’t be real. Easter will come, and I will preach. At the moment, I still don’t know what I’ll say.
Spring is officially and, in Atlanta literally, here. I keep hoping it will begin to arrive for me any day now. Lent is half over, and Easter is coming. For now, my job is to make the most of my Lenten life.
Rev. Michael Piazza