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Easter Sunday Sermon

Alleluia, Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed, Alleluia!
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Was there ever a more hopeless ending to an amazing story than the last verse of the gospel: “So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” I don’t think this book would have sold without the rest of the Bible to go with it! But seriously, verse 8 creates for us a bit of a problem…it couldn’t be any more anticlimactic if it tried! The women are told this great news that Jesus has been raised, but they are too afraid to share it! Were they by any chance Lutheran? Just kidding!
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Good news is meant to be shared! We know, of course, that in other gospel accounts, some of the women did share the news with the disciples and eventually Jesus’ followers did go out and share the good news far and wide. But in Mark’s gospel, either the writer was in a hurry to get this thing finished, or this ending is an invitation to all who have just heard the story of the good news of Jesus’ resurrection…now YOU go and tell others about it!
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This story is an important story to tell. But ever since that moment, the pattern of death and new life have marked all of our lives in many different ways. In this Easter story we are reminded that God’s force of new life continues to renew us and recreate our lives. When we tell THESE stories, as well, we share the good news that life is stronger than death and that God is NEVER finished, never defeated. With that in mind, I invited you to share some of your stories of death and new life as it has impacted your lives, as a testimony to God’s continuing work of bringing life out of death. This morning I have two stories, and I thank these two ladies for sharing their personal experiences with us.
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The first story comes from Vangie: “Three years ago, my son, Alan suffered a brain bleed which led to bacterial meningitis. To help reduce the swelling in the brain (intracranial pressure or ICP) he was given pentobarbital as a last resort to induce a deep coma. To no avail. The decision was made to withdraw the pentobarbital- there was no good alternative. The ICP increased to the point incompatible with life, but he could not be pronounced officially dead until the level of pentobarbital in his body had lowered to a certain legal point. This took four days. For those four days, then he was dead, actually but not legally. Until he could be “pronounced,” it was necessary to keep him hydrated and on the respirator. Thus, he appeared to be alive, but was not.
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Alan had declared his wish to be an organ donor. The measures to keep his dead body functioning took on meaning, therefore, since they also kept his organs viable to give life to someone else. As it turned out, four of Alan’s organs were donated. We asked that one kidney go to a friend of Alan, whose daughters are friends of Alan’s two little girls. We learned later that for a designated organ to be a match for a designated recipient is very rare. But for these two young men it was a match, and Alan’s friend Jim lives. All together, four people were given a new chance at life. This has been helpful and comforting to us as Alan’s family; in a sense it has given us a life - a better quality of life - than we would otherwise have had.” My comment: It is truly amazing that even as one life, at least in this world, ended, it resulted in giving life and health to four…not just one but four other people.
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The other story is from Jim Lange through his mother Joye. Jim is no longer with us. He went home to be with Jesus in February of 2013. But THIS story, which he recorded from his own experience, happened to him when he was shot at point blank range by his Christian school friend in 1989. He wrote this out and shared it at a school assembly in 1989: “We were just supposed to walk the dog. I wasn't supposed to go--I was playing video games. I just went as a last minute thing. We were looking around for the dog's leash. We found the gun instead. I was thinking "It won't go off." But then I remembered some TV show where there was ammo in the chamber. Bang! I was so thankful it missed me. I didn't feel a thing. But wait! It was right in front of me. It must have hit me! My side was really hurting, and my hand was full of blood. I remembered hearing on the news how other kids died from their friends shooting them.
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I was thinking this is more like a soap opera then real life. I was thinking about God for ten minutes solid. I was thinking what's it gonna be like? I'm not dying! I might make it! Then I heard the paramedic say he's not going to make it. It was freaky I felt like dying right then. I didn't really have many friends here. A few months ago I felt like no one really cared. I had wanted to die. My friend asked me why would you want to die? At that time I had very few friends. My schoolwork was getting to me. I'd think to myself, I'm not smart, and nobody really likes me…I was really angry and hurt inside.
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…It was real dark. I heard the paramedics say we lost him. Then, I saw a bright light. I saw this weird place, all golden. There were certain people I met.My relative who died in January. To talk to some of my relatives who died, I found that you could speak to anyone. Language wasn't important. The place was all gold. Really pretty. It had sort of like pyramids, something different, not buildings, exactly. It was bright as gold, but even more brighter; more intense. Darker but then, lighter than glowing gold. I remember music--not harp or chimes, but COOL music; like an electric guitar.
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There were these two guys wearing black robes or something. You couldn't see their faces. One of them was tempting me, telling me he could give me anything I wanted even a lot of friends. Then the other one yelled at me trying to hurt me. I remembered hearing Jesus' words, remember your sword and shield. I had to try to 'Knock him off". Satan was trying to hurt me. My soul was in battle…
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My friend asked me, "did you see Jesus?" Yes, He was a man--not old, very young. I understand you, He said to me. His face was humble, not angered. Caring, and helping a person through hard times. He was there for me. He understood me. He didn't have a long flowing white beard. He had a little beard, like a goatee. He wasn't old at all. He took me through my past. My first-grade promotion, my hearing problems, camping and Christmas's with relatives. Then He took me into HIS lifetime. Different times He was here on earth. I don't remember specifically what He said, as I asked Him over and over why did I live? He told me everything would be forgotten until it is time for you to know. I haven't really told anyone about this part before because I figured you would all laugh at me and not believe me.
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When I did wake up, after ten hours, the nurse asked if I had any dreams. She said, "Did you dream you went somewhere?" Then I knew it wasn't a dream… The doctors really couldn't believe I would live through losing all of the blood, I was cut like a cross on my chest, where they had to open me up to massage my heart, and do the necessary surgery. The doctor told my grandpa, Chris, that it was a miracle. "There was someone in the operating room with us--someone bigger than life itself."
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I am stronger now. I talk to Him a lot now. I know HE is REAL. The experience has brought me closer to the world around me and my family and friends. I used to pick on my little brother, but now we are more like best friends.

I thank Vangie and Joye for sharing these stories of their sons. This congregation is full of people who have experienced death in some real, impactful way yet have been strengthened and renewed by God’s gift of new life won in Jesus the Christ. So don’t be afraid to tell these stories. There is strength and hope in these stories. That is what God has given us, given this world in the resurrection of Christ. Alleluia, Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed, Alleluia!

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