S-1182 Easter/3C Hymns #(O)#199; #189; S #191; L.S. (633); #200; #198; #201; (C) #193
Texts: Isaiah 65:17-25; 1 Corinthians 15:19-26; Luke 24:1-12
Theme: “Easter MATTERS!!!” (1 Peter 1:3).
Question: “Does Easter Matter to you?” (9th in sermon series of Life Together).
SOLI DEO GLORIA, Armour, SD
Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! (3x) The text for our glorious Resurrection Celebration is from 1 Peter “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, because according to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).
Introduction: In Nomine IESU
People of God, chosen and beloved, take a moment and look around. Isn’t the church beautiful? Look at all these Easter lilies! They’re so white and fragrant, what a sight! How about the music? Wow! Wasn’t it wonderful to be able sing “Alleluia” again? Oh, and, didn’t the organ sound great this morning as we sang that joyous hymn, “Jesus Christ is Risen Today”? And how about our choir singing on the top of their voices to make our worship extra special? Resurrection Sunday for me is so special. I just get goose bumps all over. After forty days of Lent, we have come to the other side of Easter and it is such a wonderful event in the life the church. Just take a moment and savor it with me. [Inhale deeply, enjoying being on the scene and, especially the smell of the Easter lilies. Pause Then after a few seconds and then say:] That’s it. Amen. PAUSE AGAIN A LITTLE LONGER
Now, what if the sermon had actually ended right now? If it did, I know some of you would be saying, “That’s it? What do you mean, that’s it? You mean to tell me that I got up at dawn, put on my Sunday best, and came to church for this? What a joke!” But then, again, others of you might be saying, “You know, that’s the best sermon I’ve ever heard him preach. It was short and to the point, and now, the best part is that we just might get out of here early! Yes! Yes! We are DONE!” But in all seriousness, my brothers and sisters in Christ, what if that was the end of the sermon? What if that was it? If Easter is only about smelling the lilies and taking in the special emotion of the day, then Easter really doesn’t matter all that much. On the other hand, if Easter is about some profound, eternal truth, then our time together in God’s house and this worship service really matters.
How much does Easter matter for us? How much does our celebration of Easter matter for others? We are living in a time when people are fond of saying, “You have your opinion; I have mine. Maybe your Easter celebration turns you on but don’t tell me it’s God’s truth,” they say. “Jesus? Well, what about Buddha? Mohammed? And don’t you Christians remember that Pontius Pilate asked, ‘What is truth?’ Truth is whatever you make it out to be. What you Christians believe as ‘truth’ is whatever you and your church friends believe is true for you, but it’s not for me.” That’s the way many people look at it today. Easter and Jesus, many people say, may be “true” for us but not for everybody.
To address this, we’ve got to ask a basic question. How much does Easter matter for us—for you and me faithful followers of Jesus? Ponder that for a moment with me: How much does Easter matter for you? Will our celebration of Easter matter for others?
The Apostle Peter says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, because according to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). We couldn’t agree more! Jesus died and rose for the sins of the whole world, especially for you. In fact, it’s because Jesus did die and rise for you, that you can be assured that every stain and stench of sin has been removed and ALL of your sins are forgiven and eternal life is guaranteed. For you, Jesus allowed Himself to be beaten and bloodied, suffered and scourged, mocked and mauled, teased and taunted. And for you, Jesus allowed a crown of thorns to be thrust on His head. But most important of all, it was for you that Jesus laid down on a fateful Friday, and allowed His hands and feet to be nailed to a wooden cross. Bang. Bang. Bang.
Now, at any time, Jesus could have said, “That’s it! I’ve had enough. No more. I’m out of here!” But for you, yes, for you (point at the crowds), Jesus not only endured the cross, Jesus died on the cross. And He did it to pay for all of your sins. He was then laid in a tomb. And just when it looked like all was lost, just when it looked like this Messiah was just some cruel joke, just when it looked like that was it…that was it!… Just then it happened. Jesus rose from the dead. Alleluia! St. Peter says, “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed…but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through Him you believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and glorified Him, and so your faith and hope are in God” (1:18-21). Yes, Easter matters…to you…to me…and to all believers the world over!
As followers of Jesus we believe this is the truth. St. Peter says, “You have purified yourself by obeying the truth” (1:22). That’s what we believe but still others could just wave us off. Remember what we said earlier, that some people say “truth” is simply a creation of community? “That’s your opinion.” We here at Redeemer Lutheran Church are a community. And, as a community that is a part of the body of Christ, we live by faith and hope that is anchored in a past activity that assures our present future. We trust that God’s Word is the truth. Yes, we believe this Word of resurrection is the truth and true for us. Our eternal destiny depends on this Word of faith, that “God has given us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
Let me ask you an honest question: What will it look like to others because Easter matters to us? When Easter matters to us, will it look like this? Once the service, the music, the organ and the Divine Worship is over, we leave and leave Easter in the church parking lot and head out to our daily lives. Maybe we’re headed to that big traditional ham dinner at Grandma’s house. Then again, maybe you go out for brunch. Oh, and if you are really lucky, you’ll even get a nap in this afternoon! But, as fun as that may all be, by about oh, three or four o’clock, life has pretty much returned to normal. And, Easter is over and done with for another year. If Easter matters, will it look like that? No! When we live as though Easter matters, we put a high priority on being community, on our life together as the body of Christ. We continue to come to God’s house to hear His Word and receive our Lord’s Supper. We continue to be fervent and faithful in our daily prayers and devotions. “Lord, we believe Your Word is truth; help our unbelief!”
When Easter matters we continue as a church to do good works in our community. We make sure that our lives touch others. We care for the needy among us and in our community. We help when and where possible. Or, maybe we put a little extra in the collection plate to take care of the needs of our global missionaries like Amy Kashenov (our own SD daughter who is Kazakhstan), or the Bike For Life, or the congregations that are springing around the States; and to make sure that people in our congregation are able take some short-term missionary trips to wherever there might be need for workers for the harvest of souls.
When Easter matters to us, it not only matters to all of us but it matters to each of us personally. The German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. God will be constantly crossing our paths and canceling our plans by sending us people with claims and petitions” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together [San Francisco: Harper, 1954], 99). Since Easter matters, will you allow yourself to be interrupted by God? For example, what if you and your spouse go out for what is supposed to be a nice, quiet brunch? It’s the two of you. No kids, no distractions, just some time alone. But now suppose that after being seated at the table, you notice that your waitress ends up being a daughter of this congregation. You know this girl, even though she hasn’t been in church for awhile. You could pretend you don’t recognize her. But when Easter matters, you are concerned when your sister in Christ misses out on the grace and forgiveness that the Lord gives in the worship service. So you spend some talking with that young girl. You let her know that you miss her, and you pray for her.
Or perhaps you allow God to interrupt your busy schedule just long enough to visit some of our seniors who are shut-in and cannot attend church. Take them a plate of cookies. Visit with them. Read a Psalm together and say a prayer. That’s an excellent way to not only care for others within this faith community, but it’s an excellent way to live your daily life to show that Easter matters. Easter matters to you, and it will matter to the person you visit.
When we think of taking Easter into our daily lives, what can be more daily than going to Walmart or Shopko? What if you’re walking down the aisles, and all of a sudden, there he or she is. This is your neighbor, and they are hurting. Maybe they have been laid off and can’t find work, maybe their spouse has left them, or maybe there’s been a death in the family. The easy thing to do would be to put your head down and pass them without saying a word. But when you live like Easter matters, when you take the resurrection of Jesus Christ seriously, you don’t shun that person. Instead you say something like: “John, I’m so sorry about your job. Jennifer, I can only imagine how much you are hurting. Julie, even though we take comfort that Bob is now with the Lord, it must be hard to be alone. May I pray for you?” PAUSE.
My beloved and His beloved, people will continue to say, “Oh, Jesus and Easter, that’s just your opinion.” But when you live your life like Easter matters, people will get curious. Your co-workers and friends, and maybe even your family will say things to you like, “Why are you always spending so much time helping others? Why are you always caring for people? What makes you the way you are?” St. Peter says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (3:15). Then you can say, “You want to know why I’m different? I’ll tell you the truth. It’s Easter. Easter matters to me and I pray Easter will matter to you. Jesus matters, therefore Easter Matters.” That’s it! Amen.
Now the peace of God…