Hallelujah, He has risen! We wrap up our Breakthrough series remembering what Easter means and how He has given us the victory of everlasting life.
Hello, and blessings to you on this wonderful Easter Sunday. If this is your first time joining us, we would love to connect with you and welcome you personally. If you have your phone close by, text cstoneguest to 9-7000 and someone from our team will reach out to connect with you. We hope to hear from you soon. If you’ve been with us for a while, but have been thinking about inviting a friend or family member, now is a great time. Don’t be shy, click that share button, like a Nike logo, Just Do It. A reference point on that to come later.
I have some quick reminders to share with you. If you missed the premiere of our original Easter musical As It Is Written, you can still check it out on demand. I feel truly blessed to have been a part of this experience. Our team really did a great job bringing the Old and New Testaments to life. The music is beautifully written and it’s moving. You don’t want to miss it. I’m actually standing on the set of a musical right here. We also have the return of our Cornerstone favorites.
This week, we will resume fill in the blank, faith track with Pastor Sam and faith moments with Adalis. So many exciting things to experience together, but let’s not run past the meaning of today. Let’s step into our time of worship, fully engaged with our eyes focused on Him. Let’s turn it over to the worship team to get us started. Blessings to you and Happy Easter.
Happy Easter, as we’re here today looking at the empty tomb where Jesus accomplished on the cross for us to welcome us into life, let’s sing a song that celebrates that together. Our risen God, you are at work, you are alive, you are powerful than in conquering the grave as much as now and as we sing the song to bless your name, we asked for you to meet us here. We celebrate you and your worthiness God.
Lord, we bless your name this morning. God just as you have blessed us and we are blessed with the rising from the grave that we celebrate on this day. So we just take this time to elevate your name in our lives and in this place. I pray all this in Jesus’ name. Amen, amen. Happy Easter once again, so good to see all of you. Let’s go ahead and continue with our Easter morning service.
Good morning and Happy Easter. My name is Sam Mark. I’m one of the pastors here at CornerstoneSF. I’m excited to be able to have the privilege and honor of welcoming you here this Easter Sunday. Before we hear our weekend message, I wanted to just mention a couple of things. One is that you have the opportunity to do even later today, and another that will be in the weeks to come. First of all, if you have not seen our original Eastern musical As It Is Written, you are in for a treat.
It is available on-demand on our website. Our community and some of our staff wrote it; wrote all the music, the acting, the choreography, and all different parts of it. Our amazing community came together to perform it and film it just for you. So if you haven’t caught that yet, check it out, you won’t be disappointed. Also, I wanted to mention what things are going to look like going forward. In the weeks to come, we are going to start moving towards gathering together again. Starting next Sunday, April 11th, we are going to have these Cornerstone gatherings over at our Riordan campus, and at 10:00 a.m. on the big screen in the theater, we’re going to show the weekend service.
We’ll have the worship part of it on the big screen, we’ll have the message on the big screen, and we will be able to be in the presence of one another. We’ll still wear a mask. We’ll social distance but we’re able to start taking those steps towards being together in the way that we’re blessed to have and in this part of just some of the joy of being a Christian community. Right after that, at 11:00 a.m. we’ll move outside to the courtyard of the breezeway where we’ll have a time of communion and extended worship for those who are able to stay for that.
You can come for either of those, again the service at 10:00, and the communion at 11:00, or both of those if you’d like. We are looking forward to just continuing to move forward as things progress. This is how it’s going to look for the next few weeks at least. We’ll keep on adapting as we’re able to. So with that, here’s another worship song called Still Rolling Stones, and then we’ll hear from Pastor Terry with his Easter message.
Good morning, and Happy Easter. He is alive. He has risen and everything has changed because of it. It’s such a blessing to be able to celebrate Easter morning with you. To be able to rejoice with people all over the world and remember our Lord and His resurrection. We’re going to spend some time sitting with the Scripture and pondering the implications of Jesus’s rising from the dead and all that that means. I just want to open this up in prayer. I do want to say even before I do that, that if you’re joining us for the first time, I want to welcome you, I’m Pastor Terry, I’m the lead pastor here at Cornerstone Church in San Francisco and it is a blessing to have you join us.
Even if some of you haven’t been with us for a while, I’m glad to have you too. What a blessing it has been to make this journey with you last year. A very, very challenging year. Even the opening of this year and where we’re still at now. What a blessing to be able to do this together. Bound together in the love of Christ. I want to pray, just ask God to bless our time. Lord, I truly do welcome you in right now. I thank you for the beauty of your creation, and the joy that is available in you. I ask that you would keep our hearts soft right now. Don’t let us get distracted, but help us to be able to be attentive to your words of life as we sit with the gift of life that you have given us. Lord, you rose from the dead and changed everything. Maybe there are places in our own heart right now, stones that need to be rolled away. Perhaps along the way of our time together, there will be things that you set us free from or begin to heal. Maybe there’s a purpose that even is more than just remembering what you have done. You want us to welcome in the power of your risen son so that there might come a flow of life.
Wherever we need it Lord, whatever fears that would bind us, any anger, hurt, bitterness, insecurity, whatever it is, maybe some of us are struggling, not just in our thought patterns. Maybe we are though, and that’s a powerful thing, free us. Maybe some of us need a touch in our body, living Jesus heal us. You know what we need. Maybe some of us are experiencing tremendous relational trauma. It’s been really hard to be hopeful. We just find some things dead inside of us. Life-giver bring life, life-giver come, bring a new beginning. That’s what you do, Lord, you’re the risen Savior. We welcome in your hope. We welcome in the sun; we welcome in the sunlight in the warmth of who you are. We ask you to be with us Lord, as we just enjoy and sit with your word together. May it be alive in us we pray in Jesus name. Amen.
I know I say it a lot, but I want to say it one more time. You are greatly loved, you are greatly loved. If you will have Him and accept His gift, you are His beloved son, and you’re his beloved daughter. I am speaking to some of you right now who may not have a relationship with the Lord. Maybe you’ve never paused to welcome Him into your life. You have a belief, but you’ve been seeking. Maybe this Easter 2021 is the day when you say, “I decided to make a start and welcome Jesus into my life.” I wanted Him to know that I was lost, but open. I received His love and welcomed into His life. For those of us who have done that, I want to encourage all of us to continue to pursue Him. To live for Him, and to give Him our hearts. That’s right. Oftentimes, about giving Him our life, I want to do that, but I want to give him my heart. Let’s start by reading the account of the resurrection of Jesus from the Gospel of Luke.
On the first day of the week at early dawn, they went to the tomb taking the spices they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb. They were the women who were seeking to honor Jesus in his death. When they went in, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. He wasn’t there. While they were perplexed about this, they were trying to figure out what it happened. They were disturbed. It says two men stood by them in dazzling apparel, the other gospels declare it was an angel in gleaming white. The men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember He told you while He was still in Galilee that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified on the third day, and on the third day rise.” They remembered His words. One of the things that we noticed when we read this simple account of Jesus’s resurrection or at least the discovery of the empty tomb, the role of remember, is connected to the Easter story.
If you think about it, that’s what we’re doing right now. I love the fact that they say, “Don’t you remember what He told you?” By the time that exchange is done, it says they remembered His words. This is a time for remembering. Easter is the day that we remember, not just God’s love, but we remember the life that we have been given through that love. It’s what we are doing right now, we are remembering, we are marking, we are pausing to acknowledge and celebrate the victory of Jesus. So Easter is something that invites us into a remembrance, a celebration.
It’s also, in part, remembering that we have not been forgotten. God has acted on our behalf that He has demonstrated His love for us. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. His death became a bridge and a gift of life. Another thing we are remembering, here at Easter, that death itself is not the final word. No, it isn’t. How good is that? Death is not the final word. Tears and suffering are not the end of our story. If we have Him, then it’s hard to imagine what the next life is going to be like. I’m not really in a hurry to get there.
Perhaps someday if I live long enough and my body can no longer contain the life that is in me. The life that yearns for more, a new beginning. Perhaps if I live long enough, there will come a time where I will want to leave this world. I don’t want to leave it necessarily even though I believe in the promise of Jesus. I want to believe it even more. I love this gift of life. While I’m living it, I want to live it without fear. I’m not in a hurry. I’m not in a hurry to escape. This is the only life we’ve known, I’ve known. When I listen to the Lord, in His words, or when I sit with the scriptures, and what it tells us about what is ahead, I can’t help but think that what we really have here is so much less than what we’re going to ultimately be invited into.
It’s just scary and that’s okay. I think of it like a child, a baby in the womb if you think about it. The baby in the womb. When we were in the womb, whether we’re aware of it or not, I think we are at some level aware that we feel safe. We’re in that space. It’s a contained space. It’s warm and all we know. But boy, when we come into a life or when we’re birthed into this world, we think, “Oh, it’s an entirely far more expansive thing than we could have ever, ever imagined in our very limited, and I mean, very limited understanding of life within the womb.”
If I can say it, Jesus came out of the tomb, into new life. In many ways, that’s a picture of the light that we are going to ultimately be invited into. Between now and then, we get to remember the gift, the love and the victory that Jesus brings anyone who will receive Him. Easter is a time for remembering. I want to steer it in a slightly different direction because one of the other things that the angel, these men said to the women at the tomb on that first Easter Sunday was actually a rhetorical question. It was a statement made in the form of a question.
It was basically a question that was asked for effect with no answer, desire. The question, why do you seek the living among the dead? Think about it. That was what they were being asked. They were basically saying, “Listen, if you’re looking for Jesus, you’re in the wrong place. He’s not here. He’s not here because he’s not dead. Remember what he told you? Death couldn’t hold Him, He’s alive. So my friends, you’re in the wrong place if you’re looking for Jesus.” As I sat with that question, I couldn’t help but hear it as a question that really is connected to our culture’s dilemma. So many today are seeking the living among the dead.
I think about where people are looking for fulfillment. In human relationships, sex, social, causes, political ideology, achievement, wealth, power, money, the ability to dominate, acquire, freedom to set our own agenda, all the things that Jesus said, what do you call what the Gentiles seek after? In the end, the Lord reminds us that none of those things can really meet the deepest yearning of a human heart. We were created for a God who loves us. We will never truly be at peace until we find ourselves in Him. We will never truly be at rest until we rest in Him.
Our world, our culture though so sophisticated compared to previous generations is still seeking the living among the dead. Looking for true life in all the wrong places. As you know, the scripture says in Proverbs 16, that there is a way that seems right to a man, but and is the way to death. Contrast that with the words that Jesus said in John 14. I loved John 14 because Jesus is sharing with such tenderness His parting words to His disciples. He has invested himself, they are his friends. They have lived life together and they have learned to love him. He has loved them and he’s trying to prepare them for two things.
One, for the horror and trauma that they are about to experience when they watch what happens to him. Two, the fact that the relationship as they’ve known it is coming to a close. Both of those things can affect us deeply. If you’ve ever experienced a traumatic loss in life, or if you’ve ever had an end to a relationship, the loss of someone you’ve loved, and a change and a goodbye. These are not easy things. That’s the framework where Jesus utters the words that really are words for all of us.
Look what He says in John 14, “Let not your heart be troubled …” I just want to stop right there and say, if your heart is troubled today, welcome Jesus there. It’s another way of saying do not let your heart be full of fear and anxious thoughts dominate you, no. Don’t let that be what you have and are experiencing. Don’t let that be the defining aspect of your life. Don’t let yourself be beaten down by the pain of life, the hurt of life, or the fear of life. No, don’t let your heart be troubled. Let go of these anxious thoughts. Don’t be gripped in anything that looks like hopelessness. Let not your heart be troubled, though there are things that can trouble. You believe in God. Jesus said, believe also in me.
He says in my father’s house, in the place that I am going, there are many mansions, many dwelling places. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. Think about what Jesus is saying. He’s saying, “Look, if you believe in God, believe in me.” There is something more than just this life. If it were not so, I would tell you. If this was all there is, if this life is all there is, if this short, brief human experience is all there is, I’m not interested in trying to deceive you and give you some type of a pipe dream. I’m not sharing with you something that is false. I’m telling you the truth. There is more than this life. There is more to come. If it were not so, I would tell you that. I would not deceive you, I would not lead you down a false path. I love the fact that Jesus told us that. He basically says there is more to come. You’ve got my word on it. As truly there is God, believe in me for I go to prepare a place for you. In verse three it says, “if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and I will receive you to myself that where I am, there you may be also.”
What a promise. What a promise. Thomas, I love him, delightful Thomas. Always wanted to say what everyone else is thinking. So direct. Lord, what are you talking about? We do not know where you are going? How can we even know the way? Jesus, because of that question utters these unforgettable words of promise for you and me. For Jesus declared, definitively and forever, I am the way, I am the truth, and I am the life. No one comes to Father except through me. That’s what Jesus was saying.
My words, they are spirit, they are life, and I am the door. Every other road, no matter how it may appear, how good it may temporarily be, ultimately, if I can put it this way is a death trap. It’s a dead end alley. So in this life, we must make our play. Is it going to be Jesus or another way? We get to decide. I’ve decided, I want to walk in the Jesus way. I want you to do that too because His way ends in life. That’s what it’s all about. Shifting back to where we started. Look what it says, they remembered His words. I love that verse eight and this my friends is the key. It really is. It will always be remembering us. On this Easter in 2021 let’s remember His words.
Why? Because when we remember His words, it says everything else, every other aspect of life put into its proper perspective, seek first the kingdom of God. All these other things shall be added to you, Jesus said. Make this the primary thing. Not on the periphery, not on the edge, but at the center, put Jesus right there, the gift of life is ours. At the tomb, the specific words that they were being reminded to remember had to do with His crucifixion and His resurrection. The cross and the promise of life on the third day. That was the day when death died on that third day. When you really think about it, Jesus died alone.
He died naked, between two thieves on a hill called Golgotha, the place of the skull, but death died in three days. On the third day, Jesus rose from the dead just as he said he would. I love being able to describe Easter as the day that death died. Jesus said in John 10, “for this reason, the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.” Do you see that? No one takes it from me when I lay it down on my own accord. I have authority to lay it down. I have authority to take it up again.
Discharge I have received from my father. I thought about what Jesus had said and done. As I sat with this, I considered how Easter, though so much about life is, at least in part, the celebration of the day that death died. It’s both the celebration of life and the celebration of the end of death as we know it. That’s huge. Death, our mortal foe is defeated by the lion of the tribe of Judah just like Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. That’s what he was capturing and that’s why the Apostle Paul declares in 1 Corinthians 15:55, “oh death where is your victory? Oh death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin. The power of sin is in the law. Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. The day that death died, death had no claim over our lives. Death at any level need not hold us. Death’s power broken, once and forever. Any time death seeks to make its claim upon us; I’m not just talking about physical death. The things that would that die within us sometimes. The ability to love and be loved. The ability to live with hopefulness. The ability to live with optimism, and joy. Which is what Easter is all about, isn’t it? The places where death would seek to creep in and dominate.
Death at work in our own body, we welcome in the life of Christ, don’t we? All these themes came together. I was thinking about Easter as the day that we celebrate the life of God in Christ, the empty tomb, the resurrection, the new beginning, the sun shining, and life evermore. It’s also the day that death died. We live as a people with utter possibility. These themes, I was weighing them out. I was drawn to the words of the great English poet John Donne.
Some of us may remember those words, I think you’ll recognize this phrase, this piece of poetry; “death, be not proud, those some have called the mighty and dreadful. For thou art not so one short sleep past, we wake eternally, and death shall be no more. Death, thou shalt die.” Donne was a believer, he wasn’t an artist and a poet, he was also a cleric. In his latter years, he was the Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. His life spanned pretty much the end of the 1500s and the early 1600s. I know it’s a long time ago, and perhaps some of us would say, “Why are we bringing him up? You’re bringing John Donne up on Easter 2021.”
The more I examined Donne’s poetry, the whole death be not proud, and death you shall die, I couldn’t help but think about Jesus. The victory of His resurrection and what Easter means for you and me. Some of you also might recognize, even today, in addition to death, be not proud. There’s an even more quoted line from John Donne. “No man is an island entire in itself” which ends with another unforgettable line, “therefore never send a note for whom the bell tolls.” All those memorable lines, death be not proud. No man is an island.
For whom the bell tolls, it tolls for all that was what came out of Donne wrestling with life, and what it means to die. He experienced that and it came out in his poetry. What we don’t realize is that death be not proud was connected to a time in 1610 in London when the black plague had hit European in waves. I do think it’s relevant just because of what we’ve all been walking through our own kind of a pandemic. We forget that generations past also experienced those things, but with far less opportunity for finding a solution.
In those times, the plagues and the viruses had to work their way through. There were no vaccines and life was so fragile. That’s why a lot of times you’ll see some of the art of that period are skulls, memento mori, the reminder of life’s frailty, and shortness and brevity. In that particular time when John Donne lived, people were dying left and right. In London at its height when the plague was hitting, they were dying daily by the thousands. Again, I just couldn’t help but see a connection to what we’ve all been walking through. Many people at that time started going to church. They started coming to actually listen to this Christian preacher, poet, John Donne for inspiration.
It appeared to everyone’s horror and shock that he too had been struck with the dreaded disease. It’s the unique behind the curtain story connected to that poem. It was the context for it because what happened was he just assumed that he was dying. When he was on his deathbed, he’s wrestling with God and his fears. He’s ruminating on death and suffering. Donne even makes this one statement, ‘how shall they come to the God whom thou has nailed to their bed? How can I praise you from my bed?’
You sentence me, this is a wrestling match with the Lord through his illness. For the next six weeks while Donne was at death’s door we know he journaled what writer Philip Yancey actually ended up calling a no-holds barred wrestling match with God almighty, and recorded it for posterity. That would ultimately become the book devotions upon immersion occasions which is where we get this poem from, Death Be Not Proud. Donne though lamenting and preparing to leave this world was anchoring himself in Christ. He was anchoring himself in the promise of resurrection which then prompted him to lash out at the death personified. He feared and basically said, “Death be not proud.”
Donne realized that death would not be the final word that he had because of Jesus, of victory over even that. To everyone’s surprise, just to finish the story, especially to Donne’s surprise, he actually recovered. He had a different illness, but they thought it was the plague. He ended up living and serving for another two decades. There’s so much in that as we gather and just share this time on this Easter Sunday 2021. I look at it like this; Jesus overcoming death is the ultimate breakthrough. It really is. It changes everything.
The sun’s rising is our living hope for now and forever. Life now and better yet to come. What you’re hearing from me today is not something I do every Sunday. I’m just rejoicing in the life of Jesus Rejoicing in the gift He’s made available to you and me and what that means for us. Though in this life, there will be struggles and hard things to overcome. For Jesus said, “In my Father’s house, are so many dwelling places, and if it were not so, I would have told you.”
I just think that we need to remember to keep everything in perspective. To live our life close to the Lord. To keep His promises near to our heart. To allow for the resurrected power of the living Jesus to vibrate through our life with vitality. To continue to cultivate a growing edge and to align our attitudes with what we believe to be true. If this is not the end, this life only, then how we live and love really does matter. Not just because it’s what people say we should do, but because the one who is going to meet us on the other side has called us into this life as the way to live the life that is truly life.
We live with one eye on tomorrow. The tomorrow of what is yet to come and will come for us someday. Between the now and the then, we live in the promise that He has given us life for today. To meet any situation that we find ourselves in. Go to the bed, whatever life has to bring, Lord help us to be extraordinarily resilient and recover well because we have you. We have a promise, a presence and a promise, now and forever. Perhaps everything that we have said, the Easter breakthrough we celebrate, can best be summarized by Peter’s opening words in his first epistle. It’s what I would like to close with.
Listen to this word, feel free to read it with me. Bless it be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, a living hope. Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, how good is that? In verse four, what are we given? An inheritance incorruptible and undefiled that does not fade away. Reserved in heaven for you who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time. So in this, you greatly rejoice.
For a little while if need be, you’ve been grieved by various trials, it’s okay. So okay, that the genuineness of your faith being more precious, much more precious than gold that perishes. Though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith, the salvation of your souls. How good is that? Though you do not see Him, yet believing you rejoice with joy, inexpressible and full of glory.
We’re going to in a moment have a song, then I’m going to come back around and share final Easter blessing. I want to remind everyone right that this is our time for giving. You’ve been amazing, wonderful, and beautiful. You can give in a couple of different ways. Don’t forget, I know when we talk about our tithes and offerings, you can give by sending it into the offices, you can give online directly on the website, or you can give on your app. I want to encourage you to download the app. If you haven’t, we’d love to send out notifications. There’s the daily rise and shine. There’s so many wonderful things to do our app. Give because we’ve been blessed. Give unto the Lord, give a good heart. Lord Jesus, even now as we prepare to share this song, and then a final thought of blessing, I just thank you for the time that we’ve been able to enjoy together on this Easter day. How good it is to be able to speak your words. Your words of life, your wonderful words of life. We love you. Thank you life-giver, resurrected Lord, you are the one whose eyes are upon us and our eyes are on you. Be glorified risen Jesus. Amen.
Whom having not seen you love and though you do not see Him yet believing, we rejoice. What a blessing on this Easter Sunday. He’s so good, and He’s so God. He wants us to so good and so God. We will always do that best when we choose to live as not just one love, but one anchored in life. May the love and power of the resurrected Christ be yours today. May it pulsate to your very body, in our minds, in your thoughts, and in your heart. He is alive. May He be alive in us in Jesus name, Lord, let it be. Happy Easter everyone.