Message from David Vaughan
So, my grandson, Alex just got his learner's permit about a week ago. Proud of him, but pray for my daughter and son-in-law! I remember teaching my kids how to drive, and know where I took them? The cemetery. Sounds morbid I know, but think about it - wide roads, slower speed, and a reminder that speed kills...just look to the left or right! You can learn a lot in a cemetery full of graves and gardens. Even some stuff beyond how to steer a car, maybe how to steer a life!
As a pastor, I’ve spent quite a bit of time at graves and cemeteries. I have seen a lot of money spent there. It’s ironic, I don’t know that there’s ever been a culture that spent more money on death (other than the Egyptians) but less time and attention to what comes after death.
Death brings grief to some, but profit to others. America’s three million deaths last year underpin a funeral industry worth over $16 billion. (By the way, COVID has decreased the life expectancy by almost a whole year. That's the largest decline since World War 2.) Because Baby Boomers want to go out in style, one of the growing trends are ‘designer caskets’ and these things can run $20,000-$30,000.
There are even university caskets that can be made in the colors of your alma mater with the school logo on it. The Ohio State University one is scarlet on the outside and light gray on the inside. I understand some were actually sold at OSU homecoming games! When they say homecoming in Columbus, they really mean homecoming! But, you can get NASCAR, Reds or Bengals, or anything else. If you’re more frugal, you can buy a casket from Sam's Club for $899 and get it shipped overnight.
You say, "but David, death, graves, and funerals are morbid things to talk about on Easter weekend, don’t you think?" Maybe not! Perhaps graves for Jesus followers are not symbols of despair, but of eternal hope!
Maybe we don’t like to talk about death because we were traumatized as youngsters. For many generations, when parents put their children to bed at night, they would have them say a little prayer. Many of you know this prayer – ‘Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, if I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.’ That’s kind of a cheery way to send kids off to sleep, isn’t it?! Good night, honey. Pleasant dreams!
There’s another way to think about death. It’s the way the New Testament writers and Jesus viewed it. Not the end of something (that is true), but also the beginning of something better. Because of the Resurrection, death can be viewed through Graves, but also Gardens. Look at John 19:38-42.
Does anyone here recognize the name Mel Blanc? "The man of a 1000 voices" was the sound behind all of the cartoon characters in Looney Tunes (which may be the best two words to describe the last 12 months)! But, I digress. Mel was Bugs Bunny, Woody Woodpecker, Daffy Duck, and Porky Pig. Those of us who grew up watching cartoons can never forget the phrase – What’s up Doc? from Bugs or ‘I tawt I saw a putty tat,’ from that canary named Tweedy. And at the end of every Looney Tunes cartoon or movie, you would see Porky Pig come on the screen and he would always say the same thing, "That’s all folks!"
Mel Blanc died back in 1989, and do you what his family put on his tombstone? You guessed it. "That’s all folks." But, I say it’s not all. Because of Jesus. For the person who has a relationship with Jesus, it’s definitely not all - and let me tell you why. If Jesus got out of his grave, He will get you out of yours!
So, which sounds better to you? "He is risen indeed" or "That’s all folks?" That’s what Jon and I, and our team, are here to share with you today. This is important because every single one of us here will someday be in a grave of some kind. The stats on death are still quite amazing – one out of one people die. But, the difference between "That’s all folks" and "He is risen indeed," between Graves and Gardens, is a God-man, a Savior, a grave robber named Jesus Christ.
I think the cool thing here is that the gospel of John’s passion narrative begins and ends in a garden. The first was Gethsemane, but the 2nd was this Garden described right here. Someone said the story of the Bible is really the story of what happened in gardens. From the Garden of Eden to the Garden of Gethsemane to the Garden tomb and then to the Garden in heaven where Eden is restored.
When Jesus died on the old rugged cross, those watching that day, especially the devil and his demons said, "That’s All Folks." And it was Friday in a cemetery, but Sunday in a garden was coming! That’s why Jesus turns Graves into Gardens!
Message from Jon Tisevich
Happy Resurrection Sunday!
The most powerful moment in the Christian story, the resurrection of Jesus, takes place where two worlds collide. A grave and a garden.
Two places, that for all of us, immediately conjure up images and emotions and memories. Some people like graveyards; others prefer gardens. Some think one is scary and the other is beautiful. But, what if, the beauty is actually found where the two collide? Maybe, it’s in the shadows of the graveyard that we find the beauty of the garden.
I want to show you what I mean in John’s gospel account of Jesus’ resurrection. In John 20, one of Jesus’ disciple’s, Mary, is at the tomb...at the graveyard, looking for Jesus’ body. Verse 11-17 says, "Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. She saw two white-robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. “Dear woman, why are you crying?” the angels asked her. “Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. “Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?” She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.” “Mary!” Jesus said. She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for Teacher).
The thing Mary longed for the most (in this case, Jesus) she couldn’t see, even when He was right in front of her. The thing we fear the most will cloud us from the thing we long for the most.
What do you fear the most? Death? Failure? Cicadas?
Mary’s grief…her pain…her fear, distorted her ability to see what was right in front of her. Jesus was standing there the whole time, but Mary was too overwhelmed to see that reality. How many times does that happen to us? We completely miss what is right in front of us because we’re distracted…or discouraged…or overwhelmed by life. Can you relate?
So, what happened for Mary to finally see Jesus? Verse 16…“Mary!” Jesus said.
Everything changes when the one who loves you the most calls out your name.
Mary had been called a lot of things in her life…maybe you have, too. Things that have stolen joy, stripped you of your worth. After awhile, in the absence of the contrary, you start to believe the things that are said. But, when we hear the voice of the Father, that voice cuts through all the distortion and discouragement. HIS voice reminds us of who we are and whose we are.
Jesus is calling out your name today.
You matter. You are loved. You are worth dying for. He’s inviting YOU into resurrection.
I’m convinced that every single one of us has some area of our lives in need of resurrection. Areas of our lives where we’re on the verge of giving up…desperate for life. Dead careers. Dead hopes and dreams. Dead marriages. Dead relationships with loved ones. Dead areas of our body in need of resurrection healing. It’s in these dead places, Jesus steps in to demonstrate his authority over ALL things. He specializes in resurrection. He’s the only one who can make dead things come to life. The only one who can make a way in the wilderness…streams in a wasteland. He’s the only one who can turn mourning to dancing. Because of HIS resurrection power, He makes our brokenness beautiful. He turns our graves into gardens.
What is it in your life that needs a resurrection? Where is it you are desperate for life? Maybe… it’s YOU. Maybe this Easter is YOUR resurrection day? Maybe you’re hearing this today and you’ve never actually made the decision to follow Jesus and make him the Lord and leader of your life. You’ve spent so much of your life trying to find fulfillment and purpose, and nothing has ever been able to fill the God-sized hole in your heart.
If this is you, today is your resurrection day…today we’re going to give you an opportunity to change all of that.
All throughout the New Testament, baptism is the first step that believers in Jesus take. In the book of Acts, people heard the message of Jesus’ death, resurrection, and invitation into new life. They heard this message, and they wanted to go ALL-IN with their faith.
Acts 2:37-38 says, "Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
3000 people were baptized that day. They didn’t run home to change their clothes, they didn’t take an 8-week 'how-to' class. They simply believed and were baptized.
In Acts 8, a Jesus-follower named Philip talks with an Ethiopian high capacity leader about the gospel story. After hearing the invitation of Jesus, the Ethiopian man says, “Look, here’s water! What’s stopping me from being baptized?” Right in that moment, they walked down into the water together, and he was baptized.
So, let me ask you the same question the Ethiopian asked Philip...what’s stopping you from being baptized?
Do you believe in Jesus? Have you placed your trust in Him? Are you ready to follow in His footsteps?
Jesus doesn’t just instruct us to be baptized, he also set the example by being baptized himself. If you’ve never made the personal decision to be baptized, what’s stopping you?
I know there are a lot of reasons or excuses why people don’t get baptized. One of the most common things people say is they were sprinkled as a baby in the Catholic Church or another church tradition. I know this is the case for a lot of you. That day was a very important and meaningful day for you and your family. You should be thankful your family wanted you to have a foundation of faith. But, let me ask you…whose decision was it for you to be baptized that day? Yours? Or your parents or grandparents?
Here’s what I know...nowhere in the Bible do we read about any infants being baptized or even being given instructions for infants to be baptized. I’m NOT trying to lessen the importance of your family’s commitment to faith in your life, but I do want to invite you to make a personal decision of faith, because there will be a day when we have to stand before God and answer the question, “What did you do with my son, Jesus?” Not, what did your mamma do with Jesus? Not what did your grandma do with Jesus? What did YOU do with Jesus?
Making the decision to follow Jesus and be baptized is a personal decision only YOU can make. You don’t have to have everything in your life figured out. You may still have lots of questions and that’s ok, that’s why it’s called a faith decision.
Maybe it’s not that deep. Maybe, you just don’t want your clothes to get wet. You’ve got your Easter outfit on…we have clothes you can change into.
Maybe you’re like, “Jon, I’m a mess…I need to get my life together before I can be baptized. Look, you don’t get cleaned up to take a bath. You take a bath to get cleaned up.
So here’s the deal. We’re gonna sing a couple more songs. If you’re ready to place your hope in Jesus, I want to invite you to come down front here and let’s make that decision today. If you’re watching online…this goes for you, too. If you’re in the Greater Cincinnati area, and you’re ready to go All-In with your faith and be baptized… go brush your teeth and jump in your car. David and I, and our team will be waiting here for you today. Seriously.
OR if you’re watching from out of state, (which we know is the case for so many of you) or if you just aren’t comfortable coming onto our campus right now, we respect that. We’ll come to you…we’ve got a plan for that, too…seriously. If you’re ONLINE and you’re ready to go All-In, I want you to text: "ALL IN" to 513-466-1424. Our online pastor will connect with you to make this happen!
I know for some of you, you came here today with no intention of being baptized. But, all throughout this service, you’ve felt this heaviness in your chest…almost like a heat rising. It’s not anxiety, that’s your heart responding the call of God on your life. I know you weren’t planning on this, but will you respond?
Last night, in the middle of their music rehearsal for Easter, our worship team stopped what they were doing because two of my family members felt that tug on their heart. My baby girl has been thinking about baptism for awhile now. This week, with tears in her eyes, she said, “I want to be baptized this weekend." I said, "Are those happy tears?", and she shook her head yes. But, she wanted to do it in front of a smaller crowd. So I said, "Ok, maybe we can do it Friday night when there aren’t a lot of people here."
My parents were already planning on coming down to visit for Easter, but I called them the next day to let him know Isabel was gonna get baptized, and my dad said, "You know, Jon, I’ve been thinking about being baptized for awhile now, but I didn’t want to do it in front a big crowd. So if it’s ok, I’d like to get baptized, too, on Friday with Isabel."
Friends…it was a really Good Friday! This moment was years in the making. My heart is overflowing with joy. Good Friday, 2021, will forever be one of the greatest moments in my life.
I’m so honored you chose to share your Easter with us today. I’m praying each of you, regardless of where you are on your faith journey, will experience Jesus’ resurrection power in your life in a profound way!
I’m gonna pray and we’re gonna sing. I’m believing that today, somebody is going to join my dad and my daughter in going ALL-IN with their faith this weekend.
If you’re still worried about what others may think…or worried about your hair, let me just ask you this…when it comes to the most important decision you could ever make, whose opinion ultimately matters?