Easter is already a part of religious activities of Christians every year. Though there are many unbiblical traditions revolving around Easter, it is still about celebrating the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. These sermon illustrations will help you build your sermons this Lenten Season.
When Is Easter This Year?
In an article in The Christian Century, history professor Steve Ware asks the question, “When Is Easter this year?”
For those of you who didn’t learn this in confirmation class, the date of Easter corresponds to the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. Seriously.
In his article, Ware explains how this came to be. Here’s the short version of the story: In 325 A.D., Constantine, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, convened the Council of Nicea. Among the business before the council was to establish a uniform date for Easter. Out of the discussion and debate came the “Easter Rule,” setting Easter, as I said, on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. As is often the case with church councils, the decision was not unanimous. The Eastern bishops wanted to schedule Easter in conjunction with the Jewish Festival of Passover since, after all, Jesus went to Jerusalem, in the first place, to celebrate Passover. The Western bishops preferred a date corresponding with the beginning of spring, because that was the time already established for a lot of pagan celebrations, and they figured to capitalize on the momentum. This is why, to this day, we have such things as the Easter Bunny and colored eggs associated with Easter. Well, on this, and other issues, the church eventually split. To this day, we, who are descendents of the Western line of Christendom, use a different calendar than the Eastern Orthodox churches. Sometimes our celebration of Easter falls on the same day, and sometimes it varies by as much as five weeks!
Philip W. McLarty, When Is Easter This Year?
When I was a girl, I spent a lot of time in the woods, which were full of treasures for me. At night I lined them up on my bed: fat flakes of mica, buckeyes bigger than shooter marbles, blue jay feathers, bird bones and — if I was lucky — a cicada shell, one of those dry brown bug bodies you can find on tree trunks when the 17-year locusts come out of the ground. I liked them for at least two reasons.
First, because they were horrible looking, with their huge empty eye sockets and their six sharp little claws. By hanging them on my sweater or — better yet — in my hair, I could usually get the prettier, more popular girls at school to run screaming away from me, which somehow evened the score.
I also liked them because they were evidence that a miracle had occurred. They looked dead, but they weren’t. They were just shells. Every one of them had a neat slit down its back, where the living creature inside of it had escaped, pulling new legs, new eyes, new wings out of that dry brown body and taking flight. At night I could hear them singing their high song in the trees. If you had asked them, I’ll bet none of them could have told you where they left their old clothes.
That is all the disciples saw when they got to the tomb on that first morning –two piles of old clothes.
Barbara Brown Taylor, “Escape From the Tomb,” article in The Christian Century, April 1, 1998, page 339.
More Hope than We Can Handle
Earlier this week, an old couple received a phone call from their son who lives far away. The son said he was sorry, but he wouldn’t be able to come for a visit over the holidays after all. “The grandkids say hello.” They assured him that they understood, but when they hung up the phone they didn’t dare look at each other.
Earlier this week, a woman was called into her supervisor’s office to hear that times are hard for the company and they had to let her go. “So sorry.” She cleaned out her desk, packed away her hopes for getting ahead, and wondered what she would tell her kids.
Earlier this week, someone received terrible news from a physician. Someone else heard the words, “I don’t love you any more.” Earlier this week, someone’s hope was crucified. And the darkness is overwhelming.
No one is ever ready to encounter Easter until he or she has spent time in the dark place where hope cannot be seen. Easter is the last thing we are expecting. And that is why it terrifies us. This day is not about bunnies, springtime and girls in cute new dresses. It’s about more hope than we can handle.
Craig Barnes, Savior at Large, article in The Christian Century, March 13-20, 2002 p. 16.
Where the Fire Cannot Reach
Corrie Ten Boom put it like this: “In the forest fire, there is always one place where the fire cannot reach. It is the place where the fire has already burned itself out. Calvary is the place where the fire of God’s judgment against sin burned itself out completely. It is there that we are safe.”
No Grave Deep Enough
Several years ago, The Saturday Evening Post ran a cartoon showing a man about to be rescued after he had spent a long time ship-wrecked on a tiny deserted island. The sailor in charge of the rescue team stepped onto the beach and handed the man a stack of newspapers.
“Compliments of the Captain,” the sailor said. “He would like you to glance at the headlines to see if you’d still like to be rescued!” Sometimes the headlines do scare us. Sometimes we feel that evil is winning, but then along comes Easter, to remind us that there is no grave deep enough, no seal imposing enough, no stone heavy enough, no evil strong enough to keep Christ in the grave.
James W. Moore, Some Things Are Too Good Not To Be True, Dimensions, 1994, p. 80.
The catholic priest Erasmus two centuries ago wrote these powerful words. Listen:
How much more wonderful the work of redemption is, in comparison with creation. It is more marvelous that God was made man than that He created the angels; that He wailed in a stable than that He reigns in the heavens. The creation of the world was a work of power, but the redemption of the world was a work of mercy.
The Cape of Good Hope
I can still recall a geography lesson from elementary school in which we learned that the southernmost point of Africa is a point which for centuries has experienced tremendous storms. For many years no one even knew what lay beyond that cape, for no ship attempting to round that point had ever returned to tell the tale. Among the ancients it was known as the “Cape of Storms,” and for good reason. But then a Portuguese explorer in the sixteenth century, Vasco De Gama, successfully sailed around that very point and found beyond the wild raging storms, a great calm sea, and beyond that, the shores of India. The name of that cape was changed from the Cape of Storms to the Cape of Good Hope.
Until Jesus Christ rose from the dead, death had been the cape of storms on which all hopes of life beyond had been wrecked. No one knew what lay beyond that point until, on Easter morning, those ancient visions of Isaiah became the victory of Jesus over our last great enemy. Suddenly, like those ancient explorers, we can see beyond the storm to the hope of heaven and eternal life with the Father. More than that, we dare to believe that we shall experience in our own human lives exactly what the Son of God experienced in his, for the risen Christ says to us, “Because I live, you shall live also.” This is the heart of the Easter faith.
Robert Beringer, The Easter People, CSS Publishing Company
The End of the World
There is a beautiful valley in Switzerland which is deeply hidden in that mountain range known as the Alps. That valley is completely surrounded by steep mountain walls. If one enters this valley, that person will move along the only road until it ends at the base of a steep wall of rock.
The Swiss call this place the “End of the World.” However, if one is willing to go climbing by foot, Swiss guides will show a determined hiker the path that leads up and over that mountain barrier.
Reflecting upon this natural phenomenon, Harleigh Rosenberger comments that many people believe that life is like a road that runs through the valley of time. “We cannot turn back but must continue walking onward. The days pass quickly and then comes the end of the road. We stand at the sheer rock wall we call death. It is the end of our world, for it is the end of life.”
Because Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead and we have through him received the gift of eternal life, we find a way up and over that wall of rock. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die (John 11:25).”
My friends in Christ, our hope is grounded in the gift of eternal life which we receive this day – it is our way out of the valley of darkness and despair through which all of us walk at one time or another in our lives. This gift of eternal life does not begin at death. It begins now for all who worship the risen Christ. This life eternal will then continue beyond the grave into the life to come, for our souls are eternal, and in Christ we become one with the Father who made us. This is the hope and the promise which we receive this glorious Easter Day.
Donald William Dotterer, Up and Down the Mountain, CSS Publishing Company,