Messages of Easter Hope
In an online service on Easter Sunday, Erick Schuringa, pastor of Mountainview CRC in Grimsby, Ont., began his sermon by speaking about the need for hope as the COVID-19 pandemic moves into its second year.
“Last year, when the pandemic started, I thought maybe we’d be back by Easter,” said Schuringa. “But here we are — still on an ongoing journey and Easter is here again. We need to hold on to hope. We pray and live for the hope we have in Jesus Christ.”
Like many preachers last Sunday, Schuringa contrasted Easter’s message of hope with the difficulties caused by the pandemic.
From CRC pulpits across North America, the same message prevailed: though we are still facing COVID-19, we can experience — and, in fact, we need to grasp — the hope that comes with Jesus’ resurrection.
Here is a look at what some other preachers had to say.
Madison Avenue CRC, Paterson, N.J.
The topic for the Easter Sunday sermon at Madison Avenue CRC was “Jesus Got Up,” based on Matthew 28:1-10.
“I talked about, due to Jesus getting up from the grave, how we, who were dead in our sins and transgression, are able to get up and be made alive in Christ,” said Wayne Coleman, a pastor at the church.
As Christians, the hope we have, he added, is that one day we will be like Jesus, who got up from the grave and “was clothed in immortality.”
Coleman also preached about “how the church today has been commissioned to get up and embody the resurrection power and love of Jesus in these dark and challenging times.”
Neighbourhood Life, Edmonton, Alta.
Like many preachers this past year, Karen Wilk, pastor of a house church community in Edmonton, has needed to share her messages online because of COVID-19 restrictions.
But that is OK, she said.
“For Easter morning, while our dream for an outdoor sunrise gathering was not permitted, our Zoom time was inspiring and somehow heartwarming and personal, despite our all being in our own little ‘boxes,’” said Wilk, who also serves on Resonate Global Mission’s Innovation Team.
“We focused on the theme of wonder. Wonder is at the core of the Easter accounts.”
One of the things members of her community have learned through the pandemic is the power of spending time dwelling in visuals — in considering the messages in such things as famous works of art, which they did on Easter.
“We nurtured our sense of wonder by wondering about how we and others might portray the resurrection,” said Wilk.
“We looked at resurrection artwork from various centuries and cultures — and we asked, ‘What do we appreciate about each artist’s interpretation?’”
Calvin CRC, Grand Rapids, Mich.
Rebecca Jordan Heys, minister of worship and pastoral care at Calvin CRC in Grand Rapids, Mich., preached from Mark 16:1-8 — and especially verse 8, which says that the women who had come to anoint Christ’s body at the tomb “went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”
“In this second Easter under COVID-19, we can relate to their fear,” said Heys. “In our congregation we’ve had two sudden deaths in the past week. We can relate to fear in a world of death. But even though the women were afraid, Jesus was still raised from the dead! God’s resurrection power is stronger than our fear. Easter invites us to have courage.”
Spirit and Truth Fellowship, Philadelphia, Pa.
Taehoo Lee, a neighborhood pastor with Spirit and Truth Fellowship in North Philadelphia, didn’t preach on Easter. But he offered an Easter reflection, also based on Mark 16 and the women leaving the open tomb.
“Trembling and in astonishment,” said Lee, “these women saw and heard something incredible. They could not comprehend what they just experienced. It was beyond their understanding. Do I come to Easter Sunday with the same fear and awe?”
He added that a fact “we tend to overlook is that all four gospels unanimously tell us that it was a group of women who went to the tomb, only to find that it was empty. And it was these faithful women who relayed the amazing news to those distraught male disciples.”
Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo
Cory Van Sloten, an Army chaplain serving in Kosovo, preached a sermon based on 1 Peter 1:3-9 at three different military sites on Easter. It was a busy day as he went from place to place. But Van Sloten said he carried a message that he believed God wanted him to share.
“In addition to all of the amazing grace in 1 Peter,” said Van Sloten, “this passage reminds us that our suffering, our ‘grief in all kinds of trials,’ is just ‘for a little while.’ . . . These truths certainly put the trials of the past year and of our lives in perspective.”
Ridgewood CRC, Jenison, Mich.
Scott Hoezee, director of the Center for Excellence in Preaching at Calvin Theological Seminary, preached at Ridgewood CRC in Jenison, Mich., on Easter. For his sermon titled “While It Was Still Dark,” he drew from John 20 and pointed out that Easter in the Bible “is not blaring trumpets and bright lights, the way we try to celebrate it today. It emerges quietly from the predawn darkness of that original Easter day and generally creeps up on people from behind.”
After a year facing COVID-19, he said, that is the Easter message we need: “Jesus finds us in the darkness. Jesus can walk up behind us in quiet, ordinary ways that don't require the skies to split asunder or some grand miracle to occur to know the Lord is near.”
Grand Valley State University
Scott Stark, campus pastor at Grand Valley State University in West Michigan, also used 1 Peter 1:3-9 to focus on the living hope that is “rooted in the historical reality of Christ’s resurrection.”
“In this difficult season we’ve been walking through, many of us have lost hope along the way. But there’s good news,” Spark preached.
“Your living hope has not lost you. Even if . . . in the midst of your hopelessness you have disowned Christ, there is good news for you today! Our living hope has found you.”
Pathway Church, Olathe, Kan.
Pathway Church outside Kansas City, Mo., did their service a little differently this year, said Kevin Schutte, the congregation’s founding pastor.
“We worshiped with one of the four different fellowships that use our chapel while also including people online,” he said.
Lee Jost, the pastor of Christ the Servant Evangelical Covenant Church, preached.
Schutte said, “The highlight was a testimony from a young man in the correctional facility where Pastor Lee speaks and pastors.”
Also particularly meaningful, said Schutte, who serves as leader of Mission Shaped Congregations for Resonate, was a ceremony of infant baptism — a special reminder of new life.
Schutte also said that his favorite line from the service was “We are here together — without denominational division — worshiping on the common ground of the resurrection.”