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As I travel around the Synod, I inevitably pass a number of churches. Many include pointed messages on their outdoor bulletin boards. One such church in Connecticut, after a winter of cold and snow which always seemed to bury their bulletin board, posted the following message: “Got around to changing the sign—real message inside.” Another, in Pennsylvania, proclaims: “The tomb is empty—His promises are not.”

As we in the church begin this 50 day season of Resurrection joy, we can be struck by the depth of those seemingly simple bulletin board messages. Indeed, in the midst of the angel’s stunning proclamation, the dramatic rolling away of the stone, or the emphatic witness of the disciples, the real message is seen inside: for as we join the disciples in peering inside the tomb, we see that the tomb is empty! Jesus is not there—He has risen!

Yes, the tomb is empty, but Jesus’ promises are not. He is the real thing: He says what he does, and does what He says. On the night of his betrayal, Jesus said to the disciples: “…because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19). What an awe-inspiring promise: that, despite life’s hardships and challenges, Jesus gives us abundant life; that, in the face of natural disasters, persecution, and tragedy, He is there among us; that, when the circumstances of life threaten to entomb us in despair and hopelessness, we have the blessed assurance that Jesus’ resurrection means that we, too, shall arise; that, in a world hungering for meaning and relief from the things that oppress us, we can share with others the healing and life which comes from Jesus. Jesus and His promise have the last word: Death is swallowed up in victory! And because of Him, the victory is ours as well!

This Easter Season, may the life-giving cross draw you closer to our Savior, and may the joy of the Resurrection fill you with hope, love, and that peace of God which surpasses all understanding. And may these words (hymn #377 in Evangelical Lutheran Worship) be your song: “Jesus is risen and we shall arise. Give God the glory! Alleluia!”

(You can download a PDF of this message for printing and distribution here.)