Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Sermon

Easter Sunday

Christ is Risen (He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia) Amen +
As we gather on this joyous day, as we are gathered here in Christ’s Church to hear once again the good news of His victory over sin and death, hear of His resurrection, we are presented with something slightly confusing in our Gospel lesson. Easter Sunday is the day of joy, of victory, of celebration. And yet, in our Gospel lesson, as that day dawns, there is nothing but confusion and pain and sorrow. Consider Mary Magdalene – she “came to the tomb early, while it was still dark”. Mourning and grief had left her sleepless, and before the sun even rises, she heads to the tomb of her Friend and Master. That is intense pain. And then there is the confusion – the stone is rolled away, and Jesus is not there. Where is He? Mary doesn’t know – even the ability to grieve, to see the body, Mary thinks that is gone. She lets the disciples know. Then there is frantic sprinting of Peter and John to the tomb – then their confusion. They leave stumped, not knowing what is going on. And Mary is left in the garden to weep – tears so thick and full that she doesn’t even recognize two angels there. Tear so powerful that she doesn’t even recognize Jesus at first. It was a morning, at first, of pain and sorrow and confusion.

John tells us why there is that pain and sorrow and confusion. “For as yet, they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise from the dead.” They didn’t understand God’s Word, they didn’t understand that the Messiah, that Christ Jesus had come precisely to die, precisely to suffer on Good Friday, precisely to rise again to defeat and destroy death and sin, to bring wreck and ruin to Satan and the powers of Hell. Because they didn’t understand God’s Word, they saw only pain and sorrow and confusion. And indeed, dear friends, if we were left without the Scriptures, that would be all that we would see in this world. That’s what this life is often like – where one tragedy falls on the heels of another. Where a Tsunami leads to nuclear chaos, where governments flail and flounder around while work remains hard to find and left undone. And we can be left to wonder – is that all there is? Is this how the story ends? That we live too brief lives in a harsh world, where the best we can hope for is to live it up while we can, where we can only try to dull the pain with money and food and distraction? That does nothing. Is this life just one where our lost loved ones remain lost, where the best we can hope for is staring at a tomb, a flag as half mast, or a shared 169 seconds of silence? If we see through the eyes of the world, if we fail to pay attention to the Scripture, that is all there is for us, and it is bleak and it is harsh.

Mary is there before the tomb, and that morning, her world looks bleak and harsh. And there is nothing she can do to break herself out of that harshness – she can’t even mourn properly because the body is gone. And if that were that, if that was all there is who knows how long she would have been left to mourn there in that garden. But then, the wonder of the ages is revealed to her. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” Jesus does not leave Mary to her weeping – He comes up to her – why do you continue on in tears? Keep in mind, Jesus is no stranger to tears – He Himself wept at the death of Lazarus not even two weeks before. He knows perfectly well the sorrow and pain of this life – He knows Mary’s pain, He knows your pain. But He doesn’t remain far away, He doesn’t shun that pain – instead, He comes to Mary and asks her the question – Why are you still weeping?

Mary still doesn’t see yet. Grief, pain, sorrow, her own assumptions cloud her view. “Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, ‘Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.’” She supposes… her assumptions blind her. Her grief and pain overwhelm her – tell her that grief and pain and sorrow are all that there can possibly be, that’s it, end of story. And so Jesus does what makes sense. He calls her by name. “Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’” And suddenly, Mary gets it. There is Jesus. He’s alive. He has risen. And the pain, the sorrow, the loss – they are gone and destroyed. And why? Because Christ Jesus has called Mary by name, and she now sees that He is alive. She sees that death is undone by Him. She sees that He truly is the resurrection and the life – literally – He is. To be with Christ, to be joined to Him, to be His own is to know that you yourself will rise. Now she understands. Now the pain and suffering that she has seen – it is replaced. Now the suffering and pain that she’ll face in her days and years to come – it will fade, it will go away. Christ has risen, and so too she shall rise. Christ has called her by name – not even death stops Him – and nothing ever shall.

Do you see the contrast, the movement from pain and suffering to seeing and knowing Christ Jesus and His life and resurrection, the forgiveness of sins and salvation that are yours in Him? What the world out there says is the end isn’t. The world is wrong, dead wrong. Christ Jesus lives! And more than just that – Christ Jesus has called you by name. He has called you by your name in the waters of Holy Baptism, has washed the sin and grime of this life off of you, and has given you life and salvation. He gave you His Holy Spirit so that you would understand His Word, would grow in faith and understanding of His salvation, His love for you. Because Christ Jesus, the Living God, has called you into His kingdom, has given You life and Salvation, has made you wise through His Word and continues to make you grow in wisdom – you now have the sure and certain hope of your own resurrection, your own place in the New Heavens and the New Earth that will be ours on the Last Day.

And this changes everything. It changes our approach to life right now. As Christians, we don’t have to pretend that the world is all hunky dory and wonderful now – we know it’s not. We don’t have to pretend that sin doesn’t happen – we struggle and fight against it. We see this world for what it is – a lost place, full of lost people. A sinful world full of sinners, us most certainly included. But you know that our Lord Christ Jesus has seen this world, see it in all its ruin, its fall – and that He, as He had promised in His Word through the prophets of old, He has come to rescue and redeem you from this world of sin and to give you life everlasting. And so, we learn to see with compassion. We see pain – but know and proclaim that because of Christ this pain doesn’t last. We see sin – but know and proclaim that because of Christ this sin is forgiven. We even see death – but know and proclaim that because Christ lives, anyone who believes in Christ shall have a share in His life everlasting as well. We see everything through this day – Christ the Lamb who was slain has begun His reign – this world does not get the final answer, the final say. Death does not reign. And so we live our lives with confidence, with hope – confidence and hope not in ourselves, but in Christ Jesus.

Let us close this morning with one final thought, one final idea to help put this all into perspective. It is most ironic that Mary had thought that Jesus was a gardener. You could actually say that Jesus is a gardener, although not in the way that Mary had thought. In the beginning was the Word, Christ Jesus, and that Word spoke, and the world was made, and a garden was made, a paradise. And the Word of God created man – breathed into their nostrils the breath of life, put Adam and Eve there in the garden to… be gardeners. To tend creation. And Adam and Eve messed it up. Sinned. And creation suffered – the ground would bring forth thistles and weeds. And man suffered – pain and death. The world became the sad, sorrowful place that we know. Yet Christ Jesus has come, and He has come to fix and restore His creation, to make us sinful, dying men into forgiven people who shall live forever – to make the earth anew. Jesus has come to make His paradise grow again – and we know that it has already started. “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” The Garden is already starting to grow again – we see this in Christ – and we shall see it in full when He comes again to usher in the new creation with joy that will never end. And out of His great love for you, He has called you by name, given you the gift of faith so that you might believe in Him and be with Him for all eternity. This is the most wondrous and joyous truth – the truth that even the gates of hell cannot prevail against. This is the joy of Easter, the joy that shines its light even upon the sorrows we still face here. Because He lives, so shall we. Amen. Christ is Risen (He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia) Amen.

No comments: