Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Hope in the Resurrection-An Easter Sunday Sermon

Can you imagine coming to the place where you laid your loved ones body to rest and they are no longer there? // I have a feeling you would be baffled. Where has my loved one’s body gone? // It seems to me that is probably what Mary was thinking and feeling initially when she came to the tomb. She knew her son’s body had been laid to rest in the tomb and she was bringing spices to the tomb because it was important to her that he got a proper burial. However little did she know what she would find at the tomb.//

But when she arrives, she sees that the rock has been rolled away and he is not there. I think she probably was more than just a little confused; don’t you?!// I’m surprised she doesn’t fall over from sheer confusion and shock when the voice who she believes to be the gardener says to her, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen!”// Remember, how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.”// All of a sudden Mary remembers and believes what she had been told.//

Death has been defeated and will not have the final word.// However that is extremely difficult for us to understand especially when experience teaches that death wins.// The dead don’t live!!!!!!!!!// Dead is dead!// However, in all actuality, the Resurrection shows us that death does not have the last word. In fact, it violates the natural order of life and death. It shows that God is active and moving in the world.// It isn’t so much about who God is but rather what he has done and continues to do in the world.// God walks with us in the midst of both life’s challenges and joys!//

God frees us from being haunted by death and the grave.// God sent his son for our sake, yet it is God and God alone that has the power to defeat death. In fact, neither the nails driven into the cross and pierced Jesus’ hands and feet nor the grave could defeat God’s power.// Listen for a moment to these words from well-known Author Max Lucado in his book “Six Hours. One Friday” where he captures what it means for God to triumph over death.// He writes, “(There is) peace where there should be pain.// Confidence in the midst of crisis.// Hope defying despair.// That’s what the look says. It is a look that knows the answer to the question asked by every mortal, “Does death have the last word?”// I can see Jesus wink as he gives the answer. ‘Not on your life (Lucado, Six Hours. One Friday; P.149).”// The incredible thing is that God loves us that much!//

However this is so much easier said than done. It is hard for us to trust in God’s promise that death does not have the last word.// It is actually extremely difficult for us to believe and move from doubt to belief.// In all actuality though, the Resurrection shows us that Jesus, not death, has the last word.// Luther Seminary professor of New Testament Craig Koester writes, “Unbelief doesn’t mean that people believe nothing. Rather, it means they believe something else.// People say, “I don’t believe it” because there is something else that they believe more strongly.// Yet here is where the Easter message begins its work, by challenging our certainties. Experience teaches that death wins and that even the strongest succumb to it.// Experience teaches that life is what you make it, so get what you can while you can because it will be over soon enough.// And the Easter message says, “Really? How can you be so sure?”//Death is real, but it is not final.// In Jesus, life gets the last word!”// Life triumphs over death! //

Easter allows us to live as people of hope knowing that God has overcome death.// Recently I picked up the latest issue of The Lutheran magazine to find a letter from my friend Renee who lost her husband Ben during the Haiti earthquake.// As I read Renee’s letter, I was reminded of how things in life can change in a moment, but that there is hope in the resurrection; hope given to us by a God who loves us no matter what.// She shares of how Ben wrote her a song during their systematic theology class called “Certainty.” The song begins with these words, “If you are in search of certainty, then you are on the wrong ship.// And if you are in search of control, then you are sailing in the wrong waters."// Ben concludes the song with these words, “But in this world not all is uncertain, there’s the love of God and my love for you.”// Ben’s words are honest and true!// The reality is that God’s love for us is certain!// God loved us so much that God sent God’s Son Jesus Christ to die on a cross for each and every one of us.// God asks us to trust and rejoice in the promise of the Resurrection.//

In today’s Psalm, it becomes clear to us that God wants us to rejoice in this ultimate moment of triumph over death. The Psalmist proclaims, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it (118:24)!”// After reading this Psalm well-known Lutheran theologian Martin Luther once wrote, “the dying live,// the suffering rejoice;// the fallen rise;// the disgraced are honored.// It is as Christ says, He who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.”// Or in the words of John Stott, “We live and die;// Christ died and lived.”// Easter reminds us that death does not win but rather that Jesus lives! Jesus comforts, empowers, and takes us out of the realms of death.//God triumphs over death which opens our hearts and minds to live as people of hope; trusting in the promise of the One who defeats death!//

Just like I stated earlier, it isn’t so much about who God is but what God has done and continues to do in the world. God’s spirit is active and moving in the world.// God is at work in each of our lives.// God is at work in our gathering together as God’s holy people.// God is at work in the breaking of the bread at Holy Communion.// In his commentary on the gospel of Luke, theologian Brian Stoffregen writes, “The risen Jesus appears in the Word and in the Meal. We seek the living one by remembering his words and ‘doing this in remembrance’ of him.”// In all actuality, God continues to be at work in many and various ways!//

The Risen Christ calls us to trust in the one who triumphed over death and calls us to live as people of hope; knowing that ultimately life wins and death is defeated!// God is the one who is victorious over death!// Through Christ’s death and Resurrection, God gives us the hope to cling to in the midst of our own lives.// Or in the words of well-known theologian Frederich Buechner, we are reminded that “Resurrection means the worst thing is never the last thing!” There is still so much more for each of us.// Bishop N.T. Wright of the Anglican Diocese of Durham (England) states it this way: “When Jesus rose again God’s whole new creation emerged from the tomb, introducing a world full of new potential and possibility.// Indeed, precisely because part of that new possibility is for human beings themselves to be revived and renewed, the resurrection of Jesus doesn’t leave us as passive, helpless spectators.// We find ourselves lifted up, set on our feet, given new breath in our lungs, and commissioned to go and make new creation happen in the world.”//

Christ is risen!// Christ is risen indeed! //
Christ is risen!// Christ is risen indeed!//
Christ is risen!// Christ is risen indeed!// Alleluia!
Amen!

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