< back to Sermon archive

Sermon for Easter Sunday 17 April 2022

First Reading: Isaiah 65:17-25

17“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. 18But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. 19I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress. 20No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the young man shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed. 21They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. 22They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. 23They shall not labor in vain or bear children for calamity, for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the Lord, and their descendants with them. 24Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear. 25The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,” says the Lord.

Psalm 16

1Protect me, O God, for I take refuge in you; I have said to the Lord, “You are my Lord, my good above all other.” 2All my delight is upon the godly that are in the land, upon those who are noble among the people. 3But those who run after other gods shall have their troubles multiplied. 4Their libations of blood I will not offer, nor take the names of their gods upon my lips. 5O Lord, you are my portion and my cup; it is you who uphold my lot. 6My boundaries enclose a pleasant land; indeed, I have a goodly heritage. 7I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel; my heart teaches me, night after night. 8I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand I shall not fall. 9My heart, therefore, is glad, and my spirit rejoices; my body also shall rest in hope. 10For you will not abandon me to the grave, nor let your holy one see the Pit. 11You will show me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy, and in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:19-26

19If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. 20But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

Gospel: Luke 24:1-12

1But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, {the women who had come with Jesus from Galilee} went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. 5And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” 8And they remembered his words, 9and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, 11but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.

Paradise Lost is Restored

He is risen.  He is risen indeed, Hallelujah!  With these two phrases we proclaim the foundation and profession of our faith, and the hope we have for our eternal future with God.  It’s the final act of God’s amazing grace shown to us in the life, death, and resurrection of His only Son our Lord, Jesus Christ.  It’s in these words that we proclaim the culmination of God’s mighty acts of this past week.  Now for those who were unable to come out for our Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services, this morning we will complete the Passion and resurrection drama with the third and final act. 

On Maundy Thursday, we listened to Act I, which was the introduction to the divine drama of the great three days, in which we were witnesses to Jesus and the Disciples as they sat around the table at the Last Supper and listened, as Jesus brought new meaning to the Passover meal.  After this meal, the disciple would no longer recall the story of the Exodus; now they would remember, recite, and teach the words of Jesus as He lifted the bread and said, “This is my body given for you.”  Then Jesus, after supper, He took the cup and offered it to all saying, “this cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”

Then, after Supper, Jesus would lead the disciples out to the Mount of Olives where He would pray earnestly, three times, sweating great drops of blood, for the cup of suffering that was to come, to pass, all while the disciples slept.  Then at the end of the night, Jesus would be betrayed by Judas.  He would be led away bound, as the disciple flee the garden to leave Jesus alone to face His accusers.  It’s in this Garden event, that we took a few minutes to recall how prayer was a vital part of Jesus’ life and ministry here on earth.

Then on Friday evening, during Act II of this divine drama, we listened in on the conversations of the various bystanders and actors during Jesus’ trial, as He was mocked, beaten, and finally, willingly walked the road to Golgotha and to His crucifixion.  We heard Barabbas recall his side of the events as he, a convicted insurrectionist and murderer, was freed in the place of Jesus.  We listen as Simon of Cyrene, a bystander, was pressed into service to carry Jesus’ cross, when Jesus could no longer bear the load. 

We heard the witness of the penitent thief, as he hung next to Jesus and asked Jesus to remember him when He came into His kingdom, and of the hope Jesus gave him by saying, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”  Finally, we heard from the Centurion as he shared his experience of those events and of his witness to Jesus’ words from the cross, “Eli Eli lama Sabathani”, “My God, My God, why have you abandoned me.”  He would then hear words that he had never heard from a condemned man before, “Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing.”  And just after Jesus breathed His last, the Centurion would declare, “Surely, this man was innocent.”

After the curtain of the Temple was torn from top to bottom, the earth was darkened and the ground shook at these events, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, late that afternoon, would go to Pilate to ask for the body of Jesus and would give Him a hasty burial.  And then Jesus lay in the dark sealed tomb for the Jewish Sabbath, and the world would wait in silence.  But as we know, this is not the end of the story.  The best is yet to come, and this is why we’ve gathered here today! 

Yes, the birth, life and death of Jesus was necessary, and an important part of God’s redeeming master plan.  By God’s law, blood had to be shed for the forgiveness of sin.  And Jesus was the only One who could pay the price that you and I could not and cannot pay.  Jesus had to come and die, “once for all” (Romans 6:10), that we might be reconciled to the Father.  But death could not, and would not, have the final word in this story.  God would not allow the grave to be the closing chapter of this narrative. 

On the first day of the week, God would act again, and this time He would show His power over our final enemy, death.  It would be a new day for those who believe, because Jesus promised, that He was not only given the power to lay down His life; He was also given the power to take it up again.  This of course brings us to Act III of our divine drama, the climactic moment in God’s salvation story!  The paradise of eternity that is offered to all.

The paradise of God’s kingdom is offered not only in the hereafter, but also in the here and now.  All because the stone was rolled away, and the tomb was empty.  Jesus the Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia.  The stench of death does not have the last word; it need not hold us hostage where paradise is lost.  The Easter message is that paradise is found and the abundant life in Christ offered.  You and I have now become the Hallelujah chorus when we collectively proclaim, “He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!”

In 1799, Napoleon and his army were camped in the hills right outside of the Austrian village called Feldkirch.  The people in the village knew that it was the intent of Napoleon to capture the town.  They met that night and agreed that as a village they could not defend themselves.  So the next day, they decided that they would wave the white flag and surrender to Napoleon.  The next day was Easter Sunday, and as was their custom on Easter, all the church bells in that little town were rung that morning.  Upon hearing the loud bells ringing, Napoleon assumed that they were celebrating the impending arrival of the Austrian army.  He chose not to march into the village and he and his troops withdrew.

Easter is ringing the bells, declaring victory and a new day!  It’s like saying, “Your enemies have withdrawn into the hills.  The enemy satan has been defeated, and death has been conquered as well.  In Jesus we’ve been given the victory.  Paradise is restored, waving the white flag of surrender is to fully embrace the gift of this new day and a new life in Christ.  The bells of Easter ring out and declare: “Death has been swallowed up in victory, Where O death is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?  The sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord, Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:54b-57)

Pastor and professor Fred Craddock once said, “In light of the gospel, the unforgivable sin is to be dead.”  We can ring the bells of victory, or we can stay in the tomb of sin and fear and remain dead.  Is God’s Church filled with zombies, or is it filled with people who are alive and open to God-infusing paradise into our lives?  Why are our churches filled on Easter, and yet, are nearly empty the next Sunday, sadly referred to as “low Sunday”?  Resurrection Sunday reminds us that this is a new day, and the message of Easter offers us an invitation for renewal in our Easter Church!  We need to fill the sanctuary each and every week and be alive in Christ during the week.  Paradise is found, not in some ocean resort on the beaches of Hawaii, but in the promise of a new day right here and right now.  The Easter bells of victory are ringing and because Jesus lives and is victorious, we too live and the victory of the resurrection is ours!

Yet, there are those who will say, so what?  Why does Easter matter?  What does this victory mean in my ordinary living?  Why is Easter any more than a religious ritual on the church calendar?  What does it mean to truly live in paradise as resurrection people?  For those of us who live as people of the resurrection, we know that there are at least three ways to respond to these questions, and all are captured in our Gospels.  First, “The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground …” (Luke 24:5)

The women heard the angels say, “Do not be afraid!”  There is no phrase more common in all of Scripture than God saying, “Do not be afraid.”  Fear is the ball and chain of the human condition.  Our fears hold us captive, paralyzing us in so many ways.  Whether it’s the fear of failure, the fear of being vulnerable and getting hurt, the fear of not having enough, or the fear of dying, fear ensures that the stone remains securely placed at our tomb.

There’s an ancient legend that has the devil pacing back and forth after the resurrection of Jesus.  He’s clearly upset at his defeat.  He can be heard muttering, “I may not be able to defeat Jesus, but I can defeat his disciples and the key to defeating them is fear!”  Fear keeps us stuck, and it’s the devil’s way of neutralizing faith and keeping us in our tomb.  To encounter the risen Christ is to be filled with courage!  The second response to those who question the importance of the resurrection is that, “Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping to look in …” (Luke 24:12a).  And the message we find in Peter’s action?  Don’t sit, go!  And what do we do with good news of the empty tomb?  We go and share it.

You and I have so many opportunities to share the good news of Jesus’ resurrection: we can call, text, tweet, email, Facebook post and Instagram it.  And of course, the tried-and-true method of good communication, we can even tell someone in person!   The women ran to tell the disciples, Peter ran to verify, and suddenly, with the Son rising, there is a new day—paradise lost has been found.  Our community, our nation, and our world need the Church to get moving.  Easter isn’t just OK news; it’s as my grandson would say, it’s the best news ever.  

The Easter bells that ring are our call to action—sending us to feed the hungry, to house the homeless, to clothe the naked, and give hope to the marginalized.  The hope of the resurrection commissions us to be light and salt to the world (Matthew 5:13-16); in our homes, in our workplaces, in our schools, wherever we find ourselves each day, we cannot sit still in weak resignation, we must rise up and boldly proclaim that Jesus Christ is risen, and that “He will come again to judge the living and the dead”.  You and I must communicate this message of hope in our words, in our actions, and in our faith active in love.  Now is the time!

The third response we need to give to those with questions, comes in Jesus’ final words to His disciples, “… and remember I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20b).  The hope of the resurrection also means we’re never alone.  From conception to our last breath in this life and beyond, Jesus will be with us every step of the way.  He never stops loving and caring for us and we should never stop loving and caring for our neighbors.  There is no need to ever give up or give in. 

Winston Churchill went to speak at Harrow School in London.  He shuffled up to the podium, moving slower in his advancing age.  When he got up to the podium, he spoke the following words; “Never, never, never, ever give up!”  Churchill then left the stage and went and sat down.  In one of shortest speeches on record, Churchill captured the courage of faith.  We need to live each day as Easter people.  When we live as resurrection people, we do so with the bells of victory ringing and because paradise has been restored.  To live as resurrection people is to have grit and determination and never give up.  To live as Easter people is to never stop “fighting the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12).  We can persevere and we can endure because we know we do not travel this life alone, and we have the hope of life eternal.  We have a promise from Jesus that He is and will always be with us.  

The “with-ness” of God is what empowers us to be people of the resurrection no matter what trials and tribulations come our way.  When we’re tempted to climb back in the tomb of fear, feeling defeating and worn out, the risen Christ says, “Hold on, don’t give up, and don’t stop believing and trusting … for I am with you always.”

On this Resurrection morning, may the victory bells of Easter ring in a new day.  May each of us experience the paradise of God’s love, joy, hope, and peace.  May the hope given to us in this season give us the courage to live each day as God’s Church and live as people of the resurrection.  The resurrection of Jesus is a fact!  Paradise lost has been found!  So let us go forth from here and live in the glow of that promise.


Comments are closed, but trackbacks and pingbacks are open.

< back to Sermon archive