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Easter Message

April 4, 2010

(Sermons don’t always follow strict rules of grammar and prose but take rhetorical and poetic license. Reading the transcript doesn’t always communicate the same as the oral presentation. Use your imagination.)

The day is here! We’ve all been waiting. The choir, the altar guild all working so hard. It’s finally here. Today is the day with all the …chocolate.

Chocolate bunnies, chocolate eggs, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate, solid chocolate, chocolate with different fillings. Don’t you just love chocolate?

I gave up chocolate and ice cream for Lent. I was able to stay away from Ice Cream… allowing myself just Sunday of course. But chocolate kept finding its way under my nose and I’m just not that strong.

I made a new year's resolution to lose ten pounds but I think I gained instead. Then for Lent I thought I might do better. I decided I needed to try something new and in the super market I noticed 'Slim Fast.' So I picked it up. I tried one and it tasted pretty good. Lorna said, you know that's your whole meal, you can't eat anything else now! But I drank it and it went down so fast that slim fast. I wanted to have something to eat too. I guess I was thinking that it was a magic potion that was going to make me slim…fast. I wasn’t thinking I still had to reduce my calories. Well, keeping away from Ice Cream has helped some I think. But I can't seem to get away from chocolate. It's like it's pursuing me and I can't run that fast.

I found these napkins for the valentine’s auction that read: “Wine is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” A quote from Ben Franklin. For me, Chocolate is the proof that God loves us.

In the midst of all this Cara and I have been reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Willie Wonka is this amazing clever man who invents things that no one can explain or understand. He's a genius greater than Einstein and Bill Gates combined.

Hidden away in his secret factory are all kinds of Chocolate miracles. Candies greater and more powerful than anyone ever imagined.

I found an article which talked about the hold chocolate has on us. It says:

“Some foods smell great. Some look great. Some taste great. Chocolate smells, looks, and tastes great - all three. But chocolate does something more. Chocolate feels great.”

It goes on to list thirteen different psychoactive substances including Theobromine which dilates blood vessels and thereby lowers blood pressure. Chocolate affects our mood and makes us feel a certain way, almost like a narcotic. Thirteen Psychoactive substances! No wonder I don’t stand a chance!

As if Chocolate wasn’t magical enough on its own, Willie Wonka is endlessly imaginative and inventive. His factory is a house of miracles.

But there's another miracle that happens in that story far from the Chocolate Factory. Charlie's family has their own miracle. Charlie Bucket has four grandparents living with him. Grand Jo and Josephine and Grand Georgina and George. They all share a bed and barely have strength to speak. When Charlie walks into the room they all perk up. They turn and lean to hear what his day was like as if they are sunflowers drawn to the sun's warmth. They watch each time as he opens his chocolate bar hoping for a golden ticket to get in to see the chocolate factory. And when he doesn’t find one they and Charlie all sink and slouch a little. Till One day Charlie gets his ticket. He’s the last one to find a ticket. Charlie tells his grandpa Jo he wants him to come with him to see what the world has never been able to see before. But Grandpa Jo can’t. How could he if he can’t even get up out of bed? But Charlie’s smile, his excitement, his love for his grandpa gets his grandpa out of bed. Charlie has won a golden ticket but it would be empty without someone to share it with. He won’t leave behind his grandpa Jo.

For all the fantastic things Willie Wonka can do and make, I don’t think any of them are as impressive as Charlie’s ability to touch that man’s heart, prod his soul to life and watch him do something he thought was impossible. Most of Wonka’s incredible inventions end up doing more harm than good. Partly because people overdo and abuse his inventions. Charlie doesn’t need a factory with an army of umpa lumpas. He himself with his own presence makes magic.

Such magic is all around us here today. We hear the little voices. Once someone was giving advice about parenting and about the impact a parent could have on a child. Parents think about getting their kids to read, to play music, to learn a language, to excel at sports. I once saw the author Toni Morrison talking to Oprah and saying that parents should think about the love and wonder they have and SHOW. She put it simply: Does your face light up when they enter the room? Charlie’s grandparents didn’t appear to have any great wisdom to impart or skills to demonstrate. But they all lit up when he came in. They wanted to hear what he had to say. His presence brought an energy, a life force. And when he looked discouraged they consoled him and encouraged him.

With the love between this boy and his grandpa, Grandpa Joe rose to new life.

When Charlie opens his candy wrapper he is unimpressed with the chocolate inside. He wants a golden ticket. The chocolate by itself is a disappointment. His grandpa wants to see that boy’s face light up. The chocolate is not so important in the context of a global search for a golden ticket. And the golden ticket is nothing in the presence of a child who is happy and who you just know wants no happiness that they can’t share with you.

You may think that WW’s Chocolate Factory is a morality tale about children who are spoiled or just rotten on their own, and there's lots about that. But the real heart of the message for me is about the miracle of love. A miracle we often overlook because of theatrics and hype about things that aren't all that great in the end. Chocolate is great. Don't get me wrong. It is indeed proof that God loves us, but there are even greater things. God has yet more to offer us. God has made us for life and life in abundance. (Jn 10:10)

WW wants to find a child who is honest and kind. Charlie and the Bucket family are simple, poor folk with lots to be discouraged about. They don't deprive the boy of attention to avoid spoiling him. They don’t try to tamp down his expectations. They want to spoil him with love and are always interested in how he is and who he is. Children are in the process of becoming people and it is a journey of mystery to watch just how they turn out.

We’re gathered here for Easter at last. Should we sing, ‘candy man’ and praise the wonders of a marvelous chocolatier? Or should we sing about love unknown. My song is love unknown, my savior’s love to me, love to the loveless shown, that they might lovely be. O who am I that for my sake, my Lord should take frail flesh and die?

This holy week we have followed Jesus to the last supper and to the garden of Gethsemane to the cross and then to the tomb. We have heard how he has emptied himself and given himself to death, even death on a cross, for us and for our salvation. What God has done in Christ Jesus is our golden ticket. Our salvation. Not simply a substance to make us feel good chemically. Not simply a shiny prize gaining admittance to a place of marvels. But life with God. In the presence of God’s love, his radiance, his face lighting up at our joy. Not just life to come with God in heaven but here and now. A God who is spoiling us with love and grace. A God who gives as Jesus gave. A God who says all I have is yours. Come to my table and share in the joy of your heavenly father.