Tuesday, March 29, 2016

March 27, 2016 Easter Sunrise Service - Life!

1 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb,
but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.
While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them.
In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?
He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee:
‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’”
Then they remembered his words.
When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others.
10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles.
11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.
12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.

There is an old joke about a man who wondered where the sun went each evening when it set.  One day, he decided he would stay stayed awake until he learned the answer.  He found a comfortable place one evening, watched the sun set, and began to ponder where it went.  After pondering all night, it finally dawned on him.  I just said it was an old joke; I didn’t say it was a funny joke.

This morning we are talking about and celebrating Life!  We proclaim life each time we come together to worship, but this day, this morning, it is Easter Sunday morning, when we proclaim with greater enthusiasm.

Life!  What a wonderful gift!

1.  Easter Promises Life Now!
Even if it has been awhile since you’ve been in school, like it has for me, you may remember what you exclaimed when you finally came to understand a concept that had previously eluded you. What did you say when understanding came to you? Most likely it was not I understand, but now I see! In light of the resurrection we can say now I see!

The crucifixion confused and frightened the disciples. In spite of the fact that Jesus told them about his death and resurrection they could not understand or comprehend it until after the resurrection.  The resurrection illuminates everything about life and illuminates everything Jesus taught. The resurrection teaches us, most of all, of the triumph of life.

What has changed in your life since last Easter?  A job change?  A family change?  Married?  Had a child?  Lost a loved one?  A lot happens in a year, and not all of it is easy.  The struggles of life can really wear us down, but Easter brings the promise of new life.  The promise of life is not just a future promise; it is very much a present reality. Resurrection is often thought of as a future event, as it ushers us into eternity, but it is also a present event. Resurrection reflects upon our eternal destiny, but it is about our destiny in this world as well. When Jesus walked out of death and the tomb and into new life he invited us to walk out of death and into new life as well. It was an invitation to become new people in this life. If anyone is in Christ, Paul writes in II Corinthians 5:17, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. Resurrection promises that we can overcome the challenges that threaten our lives, it promises to defeat the discouragement that can overwhelm us, and it promises to triumph over our fears. No longer do we have to remain bound by the tomb of an old life, we are invited to embrace new life.

The good news is that God entered into humanity to set things right, to bring life now, not just in eternity. God, in the resurrection of Christ, said to the struggles of individuals and to all of humanity, enough!  Enough to the tomb of hatred, enough to the tomb of greed, enough to the tomb of oppression, and enough to the tomb of human structures that enslave and oppress people. He said enough to the tomb of injustice, enough to the tomb of inequality, enough to the tomb of prejudice, and enough to the tomb of discrimination. 

Life now means that though we live in a world where the strong too often take advantage of the weak, God’s justice will prevail.  Life now means that though we live in a world where so many are poor, God will bring a bounty to all, because the resurrection promises that God not only broke the bonds of death but also the bonds of injustice, of inequality, and of suffering.

I remember the first time that I visited Mammoth Cave.  It is an amazing experience to walk into that vast system of caves, which wander for mile after mile.  It’s amazing to consider the time that went into the creation of that system of caves.  It was one drop of water at a time, one grain of sand, one grain of dirt, one piece of rock.  But over time, what a difference it makes.  One day at a time God has been at work in this world.  One day at a time he will continue to be at work, bringing life to all people and bringing hope to all people.

2.  Easter Promises a Life of Meaning!
One of the great questions of life is this – does my life matter?  Does my brief sojourn in this vast universe, on this lonely planet Earth, in its little corner of all creation, as one among billions of people, over millennia of time, make any difference?

Everyone wants to know their life means something.  We all know what it feels like to go on, day after day, fixing meals, washing clothes, mowing the lawn, going about our work, fulfilling responsibilities, wondering if anything that we do makes any difference.

There is meaning to our lives, because there is meaning behind all of creation.  If this is all there is – this material world – if there is nothing more to this life than simply existing as a random act of creation in a random universe, then there is no inherent meaning to anything or anyone.  There is meaning built into the structure of the universe and built into our lives only because there is a God who infuses it all with meaning.

People often walked away from Jesus as different people, accepting his meaning for their lives.  Not always, but often.  There were those who could not accept the love and new life he had to offer. Instead, they preferred to remain imprisoned behind the walls of their own tomb. They entombed themselves behind walls of fear, afraid to step out into the brave new world promised by God. They entombed themselves in bitterness, vowing to never forgive or forget a hurt. They entombed themselves behind anger, remaining mad at the world and everyone around them. And they entombed themselves in grief, mourning forever what was while forgetting what can be.

Your life, my, life, every life, can have meaning because of what God has done.

3.  Easter Promises That God Is In Control of Life.
The Romans crucified Jesus because he made claims that only the Roman Emperor was entitled to make.  He called himself Lord, Son of Man, and other titles that were reserved only for the emperor.  Think of the Roman soldier who, at Jesus’ death, claimed surely he was the Son of God (Matthew 27:54).  By doing so, by confessing that Jesus was the Son of God, that soldier signed his own death warrant by making such a proclamation.

There are people around the globe this very day who find themselves under not just the threat of death, but the reality of death, for making the same declaration.  They are under that threat because of their faith and because someone not want that faith to control their lives.  There are, perhaps, more people under threat of death because of their faith than at any other time in history.  We must remember that many of our brothers and sisters in faith are under such a threat, and we must pray for them and speak out on their behalf, that they may one day enjoy the freedom to believe and to worship as do we.

There is always someone who will make claim to your heart, your mind, and your life.  There’s always someone like the Roman Emperor who will lay authority and claim to our lives, but it’s up to each one of us if we will let them claim us.

The other day I heard a song on the radio that I haven’t heard in a while.  It was a beautiful day, I had the sunroof on the car open, and the radio turned up loud.  The song is by Joan Osborne, who grew up just down the road in Anchorage and the song, which came out in 1995, is What If God Was One of Us.  I like the song, and today – on Easter Sunday – we proclaim that God indeed was one of us!  The Creator and Lord of this universe came to this world as Jesus.  He lived among us.  He grew tired, thirsty, and hungry.  At times, his heart broke over the reaction he received, as he was sometimes despised and rejected.  He wept over the hard hearts that he encountered.  And, finally, he was betrayed, arrested, crucified, and buried.  But he did not remain in the grave.  We celebrate Easter this day because Jesus was resurrected.

He is risen!  He is risen indeed!  And because he was, we have life!

Happy Easter!

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