Easter Sunrise: Hope
April 16, 2017
By Guest Preacher Natasha Richter
View, print or save PDF: EasterSunriseMessage2017.HOPE
Easter 8:00a Sunrise Service 2017
Lake Harriet UMC Youth Natasha Richter
Good morning and Happy Easter!
Each of you should have received an Easter egg when you came in. As part of our experience of the surprise of Christ Risen that brings us hope, joy and another chance that comes from god’s grace, we invite you to take some time to open your egg and read the piece of paper inside. We would like you to reflect on those things that you need in your life today; hope, joy, and a second chance. We invite you to take your time, while we are sharing our stories, to write down what you would like prayer for in these areas of your life. We will ask you to place the sheet back in the egg once filled out, you don’t have to write you name on it unless you want to, and when you come up for communion, place the egg in a basket next to the offering receptacle. When you leave worship today, we will have all of your eggs in a basket that you are invited to take an egg from and be in prayer for the needs of someone else here in worship this morning.
I hope you all are having a great morning thus far. An interesting concept, hope. When Chris came up to me and asked me to speak this morning, I had hoped that I would be able to think of something to say that A) made sense, and B) sounded like I knew what I was talking about. When one thinks of the idea of hope, we often think that it is used in hope for ourselves and others. We tell others that we hope they have a good day, we tell ourselves that we hope this test goes well. We all need hope for different reasons, but nevertheless, we all need it. This is a world full of people needing hope. There are broken hearts on every street corner that still continue to beat, trampled souls a few doors down that still get up and go for early morning runs. There are tired minds sitting at desks in classrooms and cubicles that still strive to be the very best they can be. What for? For hope. For the hope that the sun will come out tomorrow, the hope that today will be a better day. For hope that the next test will go better, that all that hard work will finally pay off. Hope is what powers the human spirit, and it has for a long while. The way I see hope, I see it as a way for humanity to persevere. Humans need hope, without it, we lose our drive. We lose our ability to power through hard situations. I’m sure I can speak for the majority of us here when I say that we’ve all had our share of hard situations. However, I ask you this, what gets you through those hard situations? Friends and family? Quality alone time? A cup of hot chocolate, a blanket or two, and a good movie? Whatever gives you strength to power through the battles of everyday life, it is all based in hope. As Joshua said to the people, “do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Be strong and courageous. This is what the Lord will do to all enemies you are going to fight.” Joshua had his fair share of troubles with the people of Jericho, but he always had hope that the Lord would help him through, and eventually, he broke down the walls. A big part of hope is being able to persevere through the toughest of times, when there seems like there is no hope. Noah hoped for 40 days and 40 nights that the rains would recede and the sun would come and the flowers and grasses would grow again. The disciples hoped that Jesus would one day come back from the tomb. They put their hope and trust into God, and God delivered. The Lord may not promise sun without rain, or joy without sorrow, but He has promised strength for the day, rest for the labour, and light for the way.
As we talk about hope, the truth is that we only cover about half of the equation. There is an inevitable end result to having hope, either negative or positive, but for the purposes of Easter, we’ll stay hoppy. Sometimes life can get us to a point where we want to tear our hare out, but joy is an eggstraordinary relief from life’s troubles. All jokes aside, happiness is something that we all hope for ourselves as well as others. We pray for wellbeing, for joy and laughter. This is a world where lightheartedness is incredibly important. As a part of this message, I was asked where I seek joy. What makes me laugh, what brings a smile to my face. Now, I thought long and hard about this, and the one thing that I kept coming back to was the people that I surround myself with. My closest friends are what bring me the most joy in my life. Of course, the idea of a bowl of ice cream or a new pair of shoes doesn’t necessarily make me sad, but when I think of the happiest times of my life, the similarity between all of them is that I was surrounded by the people that bring laughter and light into my life. I personally believe that joy is not something that is acquired, but something that is felt. Happiness is not a destination, but rather a way of walking. I also believe that joy is not something that can be felt out of indulging in materialistic objects. There is something more to a pure feeling of contentment and happiness. Of course, I’m not telling you how to be happy or what to believe. If you get a rush from window shopping or binge watching The Office, each to his own. All I’m saying is that there’s something special about pursuing a goal, achieving a dream, laughing with friends or family that material objects simply don’t radiate. Even in Biblical times, joy is portrayed as something that is felt overwhelmingly after a great miracle. In Matthew, “When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with joy!” Throughout the Bible, the Lord also instructs His children to live lives full of joy and celebration. Psalm 21 reads “for you make him most blessed forever; you make him glad with the joy of your presence.” This not only reminds us to be joyous, but shows how joyous those around us, as well as God, are when we are joyous. There is no price tag on a smile. This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!
You know, life is full of chance. Choosing where you sat today in church was a chance. Turning left or right at that one road was a chance. Choosing who you surround yourself with is a chance. There are many, many chances that we are presented with and many, many choices we have to make on a daily basis, whether they are big or small. Along with these choices, we are given second chances every day as well. Each sunrise is a second chance. A fresh start. A new day to lead our lives the way God has taught us, to live in a way that reflect our faith and our beliefs. God is not only a God of second chances, but a God of another chance. Throughout the Bible, figures such at Samson, David and Mark have all received second chances, thirds, and even fourths. But as God teaches through example, he also reminds us as His children to live our lives through compassion, joy, and second chances. He reminds us in Colossians, “as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” He gives us second chances, and we must do the same for others. Granted, giving someone your forgiveness is not easy. Sometimes, it can be like giving them another shot, when they missed you the first time around. Sometimes second chances are not given to make things right, but rather to show that one can get up after they fall, or to give someone a second chance if they weren’t ready for the first one. When you are given another chance, don’t waste it. Second chances don’t mean a single thing if you have not learned from your first mistake. There is something in every day that you walk upon this earth to learn. Whether it be about yourself, someone you are close to, the world that surrounds us. There are lessons in every living thing, every person you meet. Something that I would give anything to be given a second chance at is building relationships in unexpected places. You wouldn’t gather it, but I’m quite shy. I don’t reach out to people as much as I should, or as much as I wish I did. I have been blessed with meeting some very incredible people and forming wonderful, strong relationships with them, yet there are always those I meet but don’t connect with and I wish I had. My eighth grade year, when we went on the mission trip up to Duluth, one night we were helping to serve a dinner to the disabled and homeless. My shy, young self was sitting at a table with some elderly men, and out of the blue of them perks up and says something that I think about all the time. He said that “with every step you take closer to God, the two steps closer you are to finding yourself.” The way I look at that is that the more open and willing you are to God’s teachings and your faith and your beliefs, the more open and willing you are to yourself. You are able to find what you need or want a second chance in, and are more able to act upon it. It’s a leap of faith, a lot of the time, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. Open yourself up. Take that step.
Today is Easter Sunday, in case you weren’t aware. I stand here talking about hope, joy, and second chances, but I promise it all has a point. When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, he gave us a second chance. He gave us a fresh start to learn from our mistakes and to correct ourselves in the way we lead our lives. As he was buried in the tomb, closed off from those who looked to Him, the disciples and his followers hoped and prayed that he would return somehow. When Mary went to the tomb to find that Jesus had been resurrected, and walked again alongside his followers, she along with the disciples, were overjoyed at what they had learned. Easter is more than chocolate and bunnies and jellybeans. Easter is a celebration of new beginnings, rebirth, undying love and perseverance. In the name of hope, joy, and second chances, as you sit around a table topped with gifts and are surrounded by your closest family or friends today, I invite you to reflect on what you are hopeful for. What you are joyful for or what you are rejoicing today, as well as perhaps a second chance you would like to give or receive. Never be afraid to be the person who gives someone hope, joy, or a second chance. Everyone deserves it. From everybody to anybody, go forth and have a wonderful Easter Sunday, full of joy, laughter, hope, new beginnings, and love.