During a recent NPR interview the writer, Anne Lamott, said, “’we are an Easter people living in a Good Friday world.’” When I heard this statement I immediately thought she was right. Is there any doubt that we live in a “Good Friday” world? Take a look at the front page of any recent daily newspaper. Here are several headlines from last week, “Scores are Slain in Bloodiest Day of Syria Unrest”, and “New Poll Shows Darkening Mood Across America”. Often it seems as if nice guys and good women finish last. Look at the darlings of our media, for the most part they are not venerated for their goodness, generosity and compassion rather their power and success are spotlighted. Sometimes the important people reflect an aggressiveness bordering at times on meanness. Who, for example, was for years the star on American Idol– it was Simon, the judge, who was the harshest and most belittling. Worse think of Muammar al-Gadhafi and how he has used his position and power against his own people and for his personal benefit. The message on Good Friday is that fear and hatred kill often the kindest and the best.
That being said, I believe, with every fiber of my being that what Lamott said is wrong. We don’t live in a Good Friday world; we live in an Easter world and that makes all the difference. Yes, the world is not perfect. Indeed, sometimes it is terrible and tragic but horror and tragedy are not the final words. The clock didn’t stop at 3 PM on Good Friday. It continued on until Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been rolled away. It didn’t stop then either but continued on until she recognized the Risen Christ when he spoke her name. As William Sloane Coffin put it
Yes, hate kills but love ultimately never dies,
us, to assail and overpower all the demonic
What would the world be like without Easter? Of course, FCC would not be here. There would be no church. The followers of Jesus who scattered in fear after the Last Supper would have kept going out of town back to their fishing boats and carpentry shops. They would not have re-gathered. In such a climate of oppression and hostility they would not have begun again to tell with passion and enthusiasm the story of Jesus. Power would have prevailed and the message of love and the life of love of this Galilean prophet would have been dismissed as a failed utopian philosophy right up there with all the rest. The certainty and rigidity of orthodox religion and naked political power would have won. But the forces that prevailed on Good Friday did not win in the end. Easter did. Jesus Christ is risen, indeed.
It is at this point that it gets harder for some of us. The improbability of the post-Good Friday events -- the empty tomb and the appearances of the Risen Christ on the road to Emmaus and in the upper room -- makes us reluctant to place our faith in the resurrection. So while we are hopeful we, nonetheless, do see ourselves in a Good Friday world. But we do not need get hung up on the details of the Easter events. To be sure they may well be true. None of us would deny that there is much in life that is mysterious – that we cannot explain but in which we believe and trust wholeheartily. Think about the existence of love. We cannot prove love is real. We can’t dissect it --but we know love exists as surely as we know anything. And we trust our lives to the power of love.
Likewise, we don’t need to analyze or prove how the stone was rolled away unsealing the tomb. What we know is that after Easter Peter, James and John, indeed all the disciples, were better than they had ever been before. What we know is that a group of less than 20 close followers and probably less than 1000 others found in the events of Easter courage and inspiration to spread the Good News. Christ, through the Holy Spirit, was not simply a pleasant memory for them, but a real presence in their lives. That presence allowed them to move mountains and to withstand the worst that life could throw at them.
No martyred human being has changed the world as Jesus has. Hal Luccock, in a book about Easter, called Enter The Crocus, tells the story of two statutes in Rock Creek Park in Washington:
One of the statutes, ‘the beautiful “Folk Memorial” by Gutzon Borglum, is a breathtaking creation in bronze. It depicts the figure of Mary Magdalene standing outside the open tomb on the first Easter morning at the moment in which she first recognizes her Lord. On the statute is written the one word “Rabboni” (master). In the cold hard metal the sculptor has caught the glow of hope and joy, not only of one woman, but of all humanity. Here is contained the glad surprise and assurance that turned midnight into dawn. Mary Magdalene’s face is an illumined face because she looks out upon an illumined [and changed world].”
The other statute is very different. One of the works of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, it was commissioned by the historian Henry Adams; he wanted it to stand over the grave of his wife, whose suicide was a tragic shock… . The statute is of a dark, hooded figure with an almost indiscernible face – a face that is lusterless and enigmatic, and
surrounded by gloom. It is difficult to determine what the statute signifies; it is usually called grief.” … The figure’s face is a darkened face because she is looking out upon a darkened world.
Study of the two statutes reinforces the conviction that it is [the recognition of the Risen Christ], which puts the light into the eyes and the eagerness into the face of Mary Magdalene. 
It is this recognition which makes all the difference – all the difference in the world. Easter can change a hooded figure of gloom into a radiant face. Haven’t we all seen the power of Easter – the power of love to change our world?
It is this power and the truth of Easter that has propelled people to faith. It is the cosmic victory of powerless love over loveless power. It is the reality that love is eternal and vanquishes death. Living in the reflected light of Easter morning, we do not have to fear death -- for the love we have for others and their love of us will not die. To be sure these Easter truths defy our instincts and yet in our hearts we know them to be true. Our trust and faith in Easter is also supported by the reality of our encounters with the Holy Spirit. Many of us have had moments in life when the world seemed to be closing in on us or times when we did not know how to face the challenges before us, and inexplicably we felt Christ’s reassuring presence -- not a pleasant memory -- but a real and palpable presence. Good Friday did not win, Easter did. Hallelujah, Christ the Lord is risen today.
Martin Copenhaver, a UCC minister in Massachusetts tells this wonderful story.
Some years ago a sociologist doing research dropped in on an Easter service at an African–American church in Philadelphia. Later when he talked of that experience, the sociologist’s astonishment at what he felt that day was still palpable.
For and hour and a half, he wrote, the minister preached just one line over and over… “It’s Friday But Sunday’s comin’!”
He started softly by saying, “its Friday and Jesus was dead on the tree. But that was Friday and Sunday’s comin’!” Somebody yelled, ‘Preach it brother.’ It was all the encouragement he needed.
‘It was Friday and Mary was cryin’ her eyes out and disciples were runnin’ around like sheep without a shepherd. But that was Friday and Sunday’s comin’!’
‘It was Friday the cynics were looking at the world and saying, as things have been so shall they be. You can’t change anything…” But they didn’t know it was only Friday and that Sunday’s comin’.’
“It was Friday and on Friday Pilate thought he had washed his hands of a lot of trouble. The Pharisees were struttin’ around and pokin’ each other in the ribs. They thought they were back in charge. But it was Friday! And Sunday’s comin’!’
‘By the time he finished, the sociologist reports, I was exhausted. At the end he yelled at the top of his lungs, It’s Friday!’ and all 300 hundred of us yelled back, ‘But Sunday’s comin’!’
I love this story but that preacher got it wrong. Sunday’s not comin’ - Sunday’s come -- Easter is here, Christ is risen –and that has made all the difference!! This is an Easter world and we are an Easter people. Thanks be to God.
 Paul Sherry, ed., The Riverside Preachers (New York: The Pilgrim Press, 1978) p. 161 (sermon by William Sloane Coffin).
 Halford Luccock, Enter The Crocus (New York: The Pilgrim Press, 1980) pp. 49-50
 Story quoted in a sermon by the Rev. Dr. Mary Luti at First Church in Cambridge, Congregational, Easter Sunday April 11, 2004