This morning, I would like to invite you to think about what makes a place inviting as I describe what I have experienced when it comes to an inviting place. When I was new to the Danbury area I was looking for a place to worship during Holy Week, as I did not yet have a church. I found a small Congregational Church nearby to attend. I knew the minister and a few of the members ran the summer camp I attended as a child. I walked into the back of the church the first day on Palm Sunday and sat by myself and worshipped. Worship ended and not even the clergy noticed that I was there. So I went home and decided to join them for their Maundy Thursday service and bible study dinner.
When I showed up and walked into the fellowship hall, all talking stopped and everyone stared at me like I was some kind of intruder. I introduced myself and sat down. But I must say that I did not feel particularly welcomed in that community. I felt like I stepped in on something that I shouldn’t have. I didn’t feel the intent of the Easter story in that community in that moment and I will say that I didn’t stay there long. I didn’t want to worship where I was unwanted and stared at unnecessarily. So what are some of the aspects that let us know that a place is a welcoming place? What makes some place warm and inviting? Easter morning is about the welcome, the invitation to the message of Christ. It is about the warmth of the message of the Messiah that extends to all peoples everywhere. A message that God is creating something new, a spiritual life that rises above the suffering of this mortal life.
When Mary, Peter, the one whom Jesus loved, and the other women came to the tomb, the door was not sealed up tight to protect from the world around. No. It was opened up wide inviting all who passed to enter in and see what God was doing. Christ was inviting the world to look in and to see that there was a new life in creation. We are all being welcomed into a new life lived in the teachings of Christ, a life that gives rejuvenation, brings peace, and affects joy into our everyday experiences. Peter Marshall said, “The stone was rolled away from the door, not to permit Christ to come out, but to enable the disciples to go in”.
The stone was rolled away to invite the disciples and the world into this incredible experience. We are being invited in an open and loving way not just into a tomb, a place of mourning and death, but rather into the new life offered through Christ, into the joy of the Easter morning with the full realization of what God was truly offering to the world. He was offering true peace, peace from the anxieties of this life, peace from the fears that plague humanity, peace in the embrace of a loving heavenly parent.
The actions of Mary on that morning are how we are called to live into this joy. It is how we are called to openly invite others to know and experience the new life in Christ through the Good News that we share. The actions of Mary reflect how we are called to continue that welcome as Christians today. For the scriptures say, “Mary Mag′dalene went and said to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her”. She shared of her experiences unabashedly. She shared with all who would listen and the disciples would do the same. It didn’t matter if they were speaking to Jews, Gentiles, women, children, men, poor, or wealthy. They shared with all who would listen.
They extended Christ’s invitation to all people to witness and experience the power of the open tomb. This morning the tomb is not just empty. There is a message there for each of us. There is hope in the Resurrection, there is joy in the victory over death, and there is comfort and love in the new relationship with God that is offered to all who search. Let the world around you be the physical reminders each and every day of the invitation and message of the open tomb.
We are called to share what we have each come to know about God with others searching in life. Christianity shouldn’t be something we hold close to ourselves hiding it from the world. It shouldn’t be a conversation that stops short when someone else walks into the room. The tomb is not shut, the stone was not rolled away just for Jesus but it has been rolled away to remind us not to be secretive and exclusive but to be welcoming and warm sharing openly of what we have known to be true, with little to no care of how others might think of us. For sharing those God experiences we have, might just ignite a relationship with God in someone else’s life.
So this week, after your Easter celebrations have come to an end and family has gone home and the thought of the Easter Bunny has been tucked away until next year, I want you to ask yourselves this question: Have I spread the good news? Have I openly invited someone else into my faith journey? And if the answer is no, or I am too scared to do so, or that makes me a little uncomfortable, then challenge yourselves to find that one person to share with. Christianity at its core is a sharing religion and is completely inclusive. However, it cannot do its job in the world unless we place aside our own squeamishness and see the entire world as family and share what we have come to know to be true. Our God has done something new and wonderful and we are all invited to allow for it to transform our lives today and every day from this day forward. Isaiah spoke of the new Creation in the Messiah, his new creation is happening now. See it in nature, see it in the invitation of the empty tomb, and live it by inviting people to join in your faith journeys as well.
 Peter Marshall, 20th Century TV Personality.
 John 20: 18, RSV.
(based on Isaiah 65: 17-25 and John 20: 1-18)