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Sermon for Easter Day

Note:  this sermon was preached at both the 8am and the 10:30 services at Heavenly Host.

As usual, you can hear the audio by clicking the triangle in the embedded player below.


Sermon for Easter Sunday

Heavenly Host, 2014

Alleluia!  Christ is risen.  He is risen indeed .  Alleluia!  Amen.resurrection-Christ-1

You know what Good News feels like.  When you’ve gone in for tests and then you have to wait scarcely able to breathe.  But then the call from the pathologist comes back, and never before has one word sounded so good.  “Benign.”  “Oh, thank God!  Everything’s gonna be okay!  You know what it feels like when you hear Good News.

The women who went to Jesus tomb early Sunday morning after the horrific events of Friday were not expecting Jesus to be alive.  They had watched Him breathe His last.  They had watched the centurion plunge his spear into Jesus side and see the blood and water flow out.  They had helped Nicodemus and Joseph get Jesus’ body hastily half-prepped for burial on Friday and now, after the Sabbath, they were coming to finish the job and they were not expecting the news that awaited them at the empty tomb of Jesus.  They were not expecting anything other than what had always happened when someone died.  Everybody knows that people don’t come back from the dead.  Jesus has upended that idea just recently in Bethany with his friend Lazarus and there was that synagogue leader’s daughter up in Capernaum, but had she really been dead?  No doubt Lazarus has been dead.  He’d been in the tomb four days.  But the only one that could do anything about Jesus now was Jesus Himself and He was dead.  The dead can’t raise themselves.  The women weren’t expecting Jesus to be alive when they arrived at the tomb.

The angel met the women and said, “He is not here, for he has risen, as he said.”  That should be Good News for all of us.  But you know what the problem is?  The problem is this isn’t Good News, for you.  You know the difference is between good news and good news for you, right?  Sure you do. There’s a difference between hearing that someone got hurt in Afghanistan and didn’t die and hearing that your child got hurt in Afghanistan and didn’t die.  That’s the difference.  It’s personal.

I’ve never really been a sports guy, especially football, and that makes me kind of different from a lot of people.  But as an outside observer, I’ve always been fascinated at how personal fans take their team.  One fan will start talking about the game the next day to another fan and they’ll say something like, “O man, we killed Detroit yesterday!”  We.  Really, we?  Last time I checked there Leroy, you didn’t play for the Titans.  And if there was a key player who got badly hurt in the game yesterday, the fan will say something like, “I don’t know how we’re going to recover from that for next week against Charlotte.”  There it is again; we are playing against Charlotte next week.  That’s a pretty personal identification.  Think through it with me.  If “we” happen to win the Super Bowl that’s pretty good news but I’m sure it’s even better news for the actual players.  They actually get the bonuses.  That’s the difference between Good News and Good News for me.

The Good News today is that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.  And I think I know why that might not be Good News for you.  It might be that for you today is really more about tradition and spring and the Easter Bunny for the kids than it is about the conquering of death Jesus accomplished in His death on the cross.  That kind of thinking takes us into deep waters of theological debates and we don’t feel comfortable there.  Suffice it to say that one who is not a sinner is not eligible to die and by dying, cancels the power of death.  Christ is risen is not Good News for you because you’re not really sure you believe all of it but you go along with it all because it’s nice.  Or you might not really be a functional unbeliever, but you doubt.  You feel like the facts around Jesus’ resurrection aren’t nearly as firmly fixed in your mind as they are in the mind of the one voice of the Church for two thousand years: that Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified is both the eternal God who was crucified and died (I know, the paradox almost hurts to think about) and who was raised never to die again.  For that unanimous voice, see Peter’s sermon at Pentecost in Acts chapter 2.  You have doubts because you’ve been tripped up by the so-called experts of the Bible question every detail of the hundreds of witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection that they say are out of sync with each another.  What they say are contradictions that events did not happen the way we have them recorded, I say, is precisely the evidence against a grand conspiracy by the earliest Christians to create a “Christ of Faith” out of the Jesus of history.  The Good News isn’t good news for you because of unbelief and doubt.  There are other reasons too, of course.

It could be because of fear.  You might believe that Jesus is really raised but not necessarily for you.  A preacher I’m listening to more and more these days was telling a story about his daughter.  He was telling how he and his daughter read in their story picture Bible before bed and somehow the question came up, “How do you think God feels about you?”  Now, I should add, I think this preacher is a good preacher.  He preaches the Gospel of Jesus Christ clearly and unequivocally and if anyone should know she was a blood-bought daughter of God the Father, it should have been his little girl.  But he asked his daughter the question, “How do you think God feels about you?”  And she said, “Disappointed.”  Let me ask you, “How do you think God feels about you?”  I think I might know what lies at the root of that, too.  You think the Good News is for the good people, for the people who don’t forget to pray for others, not for people who doubt or people who have stopped believing or people who aren’t nice all the time or people who aren’t just filled with the love of the Lord all the time.  You think God only really loves the people who have it all together, who aren’t struggling, who aren’t hurting, who aren’t addicted, people like you.  Can I let you in on a the secret?  The Gospel is not for nice people.  The Gospel is not for good people.  The Gospel is for people who are suffering and have failed, the broken people, the people who have crashed and burned, the ones who are not in control.  The Gospel is for people who are flat on their back from where life put them and the only way out is up.  The Gospel is for people who sick and tired of the lies that pass for public discourse on any and every issue.  The Good News is not for the “I feel so blessed” people as much as it for the people who are worn out by war and violence and hatred and life.

The story of our Lord’s suffering and death leading up to Easter proves everything I’m saying.  Jesus died and was raised for sinners.  “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.”  (Mt 9.12)  The reason why I know how some of you might be feeling is because I have felt all those things and more over many Easters, some not nearly so long ago as it might be appropriate to admit.  And if Jesus can love a doubting, fearful sinner like me, you can be assured He loves you too.  Let me ask you again, “How do you think God feels about you?”  And if the answer is anything less than, “He loves me.” “God is delighted with me on account of Christ Jesus,” I may need to start over here.  God put me here this morning to say it and He put you here this morning by the Holy Spirit that you might hear it for yourself.  Christ is risen, for you.  The angels might have just as well met you at the tomb this morning to say the same words into your ears.  “He is risen.”

Jesus is raised from the dead.  God has done this.  It has happened.  It is an empirical fact.  The tomb is empty.  Jesus risen body was seen by eyewitnesses.  Thomas even put his hands in his side where the spear went in.  Jesus said Friday, “It is finished.”  It is and now Jesus is risen.  You are free from the chains of fear and doubt and even death itself.  We are free.  And God has done it all in Christ for you.  Because of Jesus for you, God is well-pleased with you.

We were not there when Christ was raised from the dead.  But the angel told the truth.  “He is not here.  He is risen, just as he said.”

Everything’s gonna be okay.

Alleluia!  Christ is risen.  He is risen indeed .  Alleluia!  Amen.

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