“Easter in July” by Pastor Andy Braams

This week’s post is a little different due to the nature of our worship service this week.

It was that time of year when life generally begins to show itself again. Trees started to bud and flowers began to bloom. People typically began to perk up at the lengthening days and the warmer temperatures. But something about that particular year was different. An unknown and frightening disturbance had recently been exposed. People who had been out celebrating just days before were now locked in their homes wondering if they would die because of recently having been associated with others. The joy of confidence of just a few days prior had now turned into a sense of despair and dread.

But then, after what seemed to be a break from the concern, all evidence points to the fact that people disappeared back into private dwellings not wanting to expose themselves to the risks (even the possibility of death) that being out in public might bring.

You may think I am talking about these last few months. But I am not. I am talking about those first few hours and days between the death of Jesus and His resurrection. And then, the time between His ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Without the resurrection, we would not have the church. We could not be the church. (Take a moment to read Acts 2.1-4 and 42-47.)

We are celebrating the resurrection of Jesus together today because we were not able to meet together on April 12. As was said by many at the time, the church building may have been empty that day, but we did not need to despair because the tomb was still empty as well.

So, we celebrate today – Easter in July. Christmas in July may be a familiar term, but you might not know the origins for that phrase. Of course, most Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus on the date of December 25. December 25 is in the beginning of winter in the northern hemisphere. That means that summer has just begun in the southern hemisphere. Thus, in order to make Christmas a winter holiday in the southern hemisphere, many will commemorate Christmas in the month of July. (Of course, we do not know the actual date of Jesus birth, but it was likely not December 25, nor in July, but that is another matter.)

So, if Christmas can be celebrated in July, why not Easter? But as most of you know, I prefer to call the day Resurrection Sunday. My main purpose is not because of what many people consider that Sunday to be, but because of what the day means to me. When I say Resurrection Sunday, I leave no doubt of what the day means to me…it is about the resurrection of my Lord…the resurrection of our Lord…the resurrection of THE LORD.

Now, many may not believe that the resurrection took place, but any Christian, at least, can tell you what the resurrection is. But, like the phrase, Christmas in July, most would likely not be able to define the term.

So, what does the word resurrection mean?

Really, the term is Latin and carries the idea of “resurr-exit.” The “exit” part should make sense to us because Jesus exited the grave. But what about the first part of that word – “resurr?” Well, that word is from the Latin “resurgo” which means “to rise” or “to stand.” And the word is where we get the English word “resurgence.”

And that is what the resurrection of Jesus did. He was raised. He exited. And because of that a resurgence began, not only of His life, but in the work of God. Without the resurrection, we would not have the church. Without the resurrection, we could not be the church.

But now, the resurgence is up to us. The question is, after the pandemic, will we raise up? Will we exit? Will a resurgence of our faith lead us to raise up and exit this place and make the kind of impact that the early church made when they realized the truth and the power that Jesus was no longer dead?

That is the question before us today. That is the challenge that God has placed before His Church in the summer of 2020. And not just for His Church, but for this church. Will we stand? Will we live? Will we commit to following the lead of our risen Savior? If so, I am going to invite you to do something in just a moment to serve as a symbol of rising from the depths and despair that so many have faced (are facing) during this tumultuous year many would choose to forget.

It is not about forgetting. It is about learning and moving forward. That is what the early disciples had to do. That is what today’s disciples have to do as well. The early church rose up to make a profound impact in a world that had seemingly forgotten God. Today’s church can now rise up to make that same kind of profound impact in our world that also has seemingly put God aside.

As we know the church is the people. And another statement made just a few months ago was that we the church might not be able to gather, but that does not prevent us from being the church. In fact, some said that it was our time to truly show that it is not about going to church, it was about being the church. That is, the church was unleashed. But were we? Did we act the part?

Well, as we gather today in the church, let us accept that challenge to be the church! If you will rise up to be a part of the church Jesus is building, I invite you to stand up – right where you are. But before you do, realize that you are putting a mark on yourself. You are saying that I want to stand up with Jesus and I want to stand up for Jesus, come what may. Don’t stand up because the person next to you or in front of you does so, stand up because you are ready for a resurgence (a resurrexit) to take place – in your life, in this church, in this community, and around the world. If you are ready to commit to that, I invite you to rise up right where you are and say to Jesus…I am ready!

To mark this moment, let us sing with heart and with voice – Stand Up for Jesus.

After the song, the rest of the service included people sharing about what God has done to, for, and through them during these past 16 weeks since we last met.

Next week, we will return to our series on Romans.