Rev. Dr. Peter J. Gomes, the beloved former pastor of the Memorial Church at Harvard University, preached nearly forty Easter sermons during his tenure on campus. I have been blessed to read nearly all of them.
Each contains the persuasive rhetoric, eloquent style, and matchless wit that characterized Gomes’ prolific preaching ministry. But each is also notable for its simplicity.
In recent years, it wasn’t unusual for Gomes to conclude a sermon, a lecture, or a television interview by sharing the message of Easter in three simple sentences.
1. Easter is not just about Jesus; it is about you. He has already claimed his new life; now is your opportunity to claim yours.
2. Easter is not just about death; it is about life, and not just life after death–that’s the easy part–but real life before death, right now.
3. Easter is not just about the past, way back then and long ago; it is all about the future. Literally, I say to you, your best days are ahead of you. “Old things have passed away; behold, all things are become new.”
He would conclude by saying that what you do with this good news is up to you. You can listen to it, read about it, notice it in the life of your family and friends, or you can claim it and make it your own. It is not only good advice but good news, and that is why they call it the Gospel.
In the coming days, over 1 billion people will celebrate Easter all around the world. Undoubtedly, many of them will hear an Easter sermon. My hope is that it will be as simple and compelling as these three sentences.