Sermon for Easter

What does it mean that Christ is Risen? Everything. Read on…

He is Risen! (He is Risen Indeed) Alleluia.

Christ is Arisen, from the grave’s dark prison. So let our joy rise full and free; Christ our comfort true will be. Alleluia. Were Christ not risen, then death were still our prison. Now with Him to life restored, We praise the Father of our lord. Alleluia. Now let our joy rise full and free. Christ our comfort true will be. Alleluia. Alleluia.

The women go to the tomb expecting to anoint Jesus body. Instead the angel greets them with “He is risen He is not here.” Strange tidings indeed. The women are trembling, amazed, filled with fear. Who wouldn’t be.  Everything they know was just turned on its head. It would be as if… you know, there really is nothing in life to compare it to, except loved ones no longer being dead. Nothing else makes that much difference.

The old joke says there are two things you can depend on, death and taxes. But that’s just a cynical look at taxes. Death is far more stable, far more horrifying. If you had an elixir or potion that could 100% prevent death in this world, you could charge any price for it. Millions for even a drop. People would willingly give everything they ever earned for even a little bit. That’s not how taxes work. Death is like nothing else.

It is the great equalizer, because everyone faces it the same way – with no help from the possessions of a lifetime, with no family to walk them past it. All worldly help must stop on this side of death. But more than an equalizer, death is the great menace. It is the thing we spend our lives trying to avoid. Food feeds the body to keep death at bay a few more hours. The biggest news story of the last three years has been health care – which is really just a euphemism for delaying death.

In the Gospel reading the women go to the graveyard to visit a loved one, and instead find the grave open, the body gone, and someone telling them that he has risen from the dead. There is no analogy, nothing to which we can compare the feelings the women had. Nothing can undo death. And yet, they are told death was undone. They don’t know whether to laugh or cry, to tell the disciples, or lock themselves in a room by themselves forever. After all, what if it isn’t really true? What if someone just came and stole the body? What if there is no alive Jesus after all? Even more frightening, what it if it is true? What does it all mean? Is he risen like we see in movies – animated rotting corpse? Jesus, but changed somehow and evil? How can anyone go through death and be better off?

We stand with the women, knowing the good news of the resurrection, but seeing far too little evidence of it for our taste. How could such good news be true? After all, We have all seen the cemetery. We have all been through the ritual for our loved ones. The final journey, with them to the place of eternal rest, and then the walk back alone, without them. This is what our experience tells us. The account of Jesus resurrection seems like a fine story, but can such a great and amazing thing be true?

The death of God on Friday has given way to the great reversal on Sunday. Death itself has been undone. Jesus has been raised. Mary will see him later this morning, the disciples will see him later in the day, with Thomas following a week later. Eventually more than five hundred will see the resurrected Lord. This is no fleeting illusion of the women. No confused messenger or practical joke. The angel at the tomb tells them what had happened, even though they must wait for confirmation of this unbelievable news.

And when it does turn out to be true, it changes everything for the women, the disciples, for all God’s children throughout history. It changes everything, because now the final – the only – enemy has been destroyed. Death has lost its power.

It is sometimes said that Easter is God putting his stamp of approval on Good Friday. If that’s the case, why bother celebrating. True, we preach Christ crucified, and there can be no resurrection without the death. But if the resurrection only serves to confirm the death, then we don’t really need it. We can all see death.  Saint Paul says, “He was crucified for our offenses, and raised again for our justification.  NOT, He was crucified for our offenses and raised again to show that the crucifixion was really a good thing.  The resurrection itself is your justification. The penalty was paid on Good Friday, but without the resurrection, Jesus is just like every other person who ever died. The resurrection is where the forgiveness is given to you. Where you are given the new life that Jesus is. The church traditionally baptized on Easter Sunday. Why? Because in baptism you are joined to his death. You would think that would mean Good Friday. Ahh, but as Saint Paul says, “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life.” This is the day of the new life. This is the moment of your salvation. Today we do not simply hear of the resurrection of our lord and think about it. We are participants in that resurrection by virtue of our having been joined to his death in Baptism. You are a participant of the resurrection because the Lord gives you his very body and blood to eat and drink. This could not happen if he was still in the tomb. But he has been raised and now sits at the right hand of the glory of the Father. His blood, once reserved for the altar to make atonement for your sins, is now given at the table to give you forgiveness, life and salvation.  The life that he is, is given to you in that blood.

Today is the day that everything changes. There is no more need to chase after the fleeting things of this world, now you are given new life in Jesus. You are joined to him in his death and His resurrection. And now, the great undoing of death is given to you as well.  “I shall not die, but live and shall declare the works of the Lord. ” As Jesus himself says to you, “whoever believes in me, though he die, he will live and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” This is what the resurrection does. It makes you not die. Yes, there is still death in the world, as the years go on you can feel it creeping through your increasingly frail body. But the death of this world has lost it’s hold on all those who have been joined to Jesus.  Just as the women went to the tomb and found it empty on the first day of the week, so one day, the cemeteries will be emptied. Those who have been laid to rest will be raised up. What the women experienced on Easter morning will be carried out on a global scale. Death undone.

It changes everything.

The table of the Lord is set with food that can not spoil – food that remains to eternal life, given to you by the Son of God. Today is not a day for weeping, but for rejoicing.  Sinners rejoice, for your sin is taken away, your guilt has been atoned for, your debt had been paid and you have been snatched from the jaws of death by the Lord of Life.

Now, fear is done away with, because the great serpent has been thrown down. Hell has been overturned, God himself has gone into the dark realms and declared the victory, burst open the bars, and broken the chains.

The angels rejoice, the church cries out in song, the saints join in praising the lamb who was slain and now reigns. This is the day that Life reigns and can not be taken away.

Christ is risen, and is the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep, to him be glory and power forever and ever.

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