Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Sermon

Easter Day, 2008

Christ is Risen (He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia) Amen.

What does this mean? Mary comes running to Peter and John – They’ve taken the body somewhere. . . and off Peter and John go. John gets to the tomb first, but he hesitates to go in. Peter though just dives on into the tomb, and it’s empty. Not only empty – but tidied up. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. What to make of this, what does this mean? Well, it’s not likely that someone took the body – because if you are taking the body, why do you unwrap all the burial linens and then put them back – and why do you end up folding the head cloth neatly, the part the covered the face? If you are going to abscond with a dead body, you don’t strip it first – and if you are grave robbing you don’t tend to clean up after yourself. What does this mean?

Peter and John give it some thought – they know something is going on, but they don’t piece it together yet. They return home and ponder these things. But not Mary – she is still weeping at the tomb. She gets her nerve up, looks into the tomb again, just to see if anything’s changed – and it has. Two angels are there, just sitting, waiting. One of the Angels asks her, “Why are you weeping?” They’ve taken His Body, and I don’t know where it is. So distraught that she doesn’t pause and think, “Wait, there are two fellows here who weren’t here when John and Peter were, who have suddenly appeared – what does this mean?” She’s frantic, doesn’t piece it together. In fact, she turns away from the angels – and sees a Risen Man standing behind her. She says to Him, “Do you know where they’ve taken the body – I’ll carry It away. . .” Finally, when Jesus speaks, “Mary” – only then does she see, she recognize Him, she knows that He is alive. Then Jesus puts up a hand – wait, don’t cling, don’t hug me yet. I haven’t ascended to my Father and your Father. And so Mary nods and runs off and lets all disciples know Who she has seen.

So what does all this mean? The story is familiar, we know it, we see it every Sunday if we happen to look at this window here. What does it mean? What is the implication, what does the fact that Christ Jesus is risen from the dead mean to us? For know this dear friends – this is not just some nice story, not just some tale that doesn’t impact or affect us. No, the resurrection of Jesus means everything for us. In fact, Paul is willing to say, “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. If there is no Easter, everything else in Christianity is pointless. It all hinges here, it all rests on Christ striding forth from the tomb.

What does this mean? Christ’s resurrection means that the fall has been undone. Since Adam and Eve fell in the garden, since they decided that they were not content to simply tend God’s creation and wanted to rule it their way instead, since they rebelled and fell into sin – sin and death has been the way of the world. We’ve been at each other’s throats, cruel, callow, coarse and crude. And then we die. But look and see what happens on Easter. Christ Jesus strides from the tomb, a Living Man! A Man for whom death has no hold! A Man who lives and never more shall die! The Fall is broken, the wages of sin, our sin, shattered. And this is applied to us – because dear friends, we are no longer simply children of Adam doomed to sin – but we are the brothers and sisters of Christ Jesus, we are His family, His line – and we share in what is His.

Jesus Christ has become the New Adam, the One from whom we get our identity. Again, St. Paul – “For as by a man came death, by a Man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.” We have a new and better Adam, a new and better Man who defines us – that is Christ Jesus. What Adam failed in – Jesus succeeds at. While Adam by rights succumbed to death – Christ passes through death and onto life, and our new Adam brings us life. Did you notice the neat little connection in our Gospel between Adam and Jesus? When Mary first sees Christ, who does she think He is? She thinks He’s the gardener – the One who tends the garden. Well, she actually was sort of right – Christ Jesus cleans up the world after the Garden of Eden – what Adam disdained Christ restores – Christ rises and we have paradise restored, given back to us, promised and prepared.

And we wait for it – we who are living now, we wait for the paradise to come. It has been given us, it has been ensured – did you not hear the Word of Christ Jesus. He goes to “My Father and your Father, My God and your God.” What is His is now yours, given to you, promised to you, belonging to you. Christ’s resurrection – that is yours. Christ’s life – that is yours. Christ’s eternal home in heaven – that is yours. He gives it to you freely. The life and salvation which He has won by His resurrection is your new birthright – given you when you were born anew in the Waters of Holy Baptism – when you were brought into God’s family, when you were united to Christ. This is what Easter means. What happened on that Easter morning so many years ago is what your future shall be. You too shall stride out of your tomb on the last day – when Christ returns you shall look upon Him with a Glorified Body just like His and you will go with Him to the Father, to the joys of heaven. This is our hope, this is our joy. Christ paved the way for forgiveness through His Death, and Christ gives us life through His resurrection.

What we also ought to remember this morning, dear friends, is that what we know, what we understand about Easter – not everyone understands. Easter Morning, Mary didn’t get it, John and Peter didn’t get it. How did they end up understanding? Mary understood when Jesus spoke to her. Peter and John and the rest of the disciples understand when Mary announces to them what she has seen and what Christ has said. Paul says that the resurrection is preached. Faith, dear friends, comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word. What Christ did by rising – it doesn’t just have meaning for us, for those of us sitting here in this room today. It has meaning for the entire world, for every man, woman, and child. We know it – we’ve been in it for years and years, we are used to it, we know the story. Easter comes, and the story of Christ’s resurrection is so familiar to us – well, how many of you this past week spent more time pondering what to make for Easter dinner or shopping for Easter clothes than you did pondering the Death and Resurrection of our Lord? It happens. It’s familiar to us – and I would have been able to say the same thing about myself if I hadn’t had to write the sermons for this week – writing a sermon sort of makes you think about things.

What we can forget is that what we know, what is familiar to us, what we can take for granted – isn’t known to everyone. Mary sees, Mary hears – and then she tells. She spreads the Good News. There are many people out there who need to hear this Good News as well – and I’m not talking here about moving to some strange land and learning and new language – I’m not even talking about moving to Fort Wayne and going to the Seminary, even though Jay has and a few of you gentlemen probably could as well – but rather simply this. Your friends, your neighbors, how many people who know you don’t know what Easter means? Even if they know the story, yeah, yeah, yeah – Jesus rose – how many of them know what this means for them, how this impacts them and their life? Faith comes by hearing. Our opportunity, our chance is to speak what we know – and this doesn’t even come from us – it is God working in us and through us. But recognize and remember that people need to hear this. This will change their lives.

But always, always remember that Christ’s resurrection changes our lives as well. What we were, trapped in sin, selfish, self-centered, bound to struggle and fight one another, bound for nothing but an eternity in a tomb – that is now is Gone. You are forgiven, and not only forgiven, not only have you had your slate wiped clean – but you have been given life – life so strong and powerful, Christ’s own life, He who now dwells within you – that even death cannot overcome you, that even those steel vaults in the ground at cemeteries will have to yield and give way to you. And this is not just some future life – but it is your life now. Christ lives and dwells within you – and He uses you. He uses you to tend His creation, putting your time and your talents to work in service to your neighbor. He uses you as His own voice, speaking His Word. He makes you to be ever more and more like Him until that day comes when we see Him face to face and are as He is.

This, dear friends, is what Easter means. It is not just some little old story, but it is the true reality of your life, who you are – for Christ your brother is risen, and so too you shall rise. Christ your brother lives, and so do you now. This is what His Word has accomplished in You. God grant that His Word go forth ever more into the world, even until the day He returns. Christ is Risen – He is risen indeed, Alleluia.

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