Sunday, January 6, 2013
Sunday, April 15, 2012
"A church is in a bad way
Sunday, March 18, 2012
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Monday, April 25, 2011
A Sermon for Easter Sunday, Year A
April 24, 2011
Pastor Laura Gentry
Grace and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Risen Lord, Jesus Christ.
In real estate, they say there are 3 rules to remember. These 3 things will determine whether the piece of property is going to sell easily or not. And the three rules are: location, location, location. It matters most where a piece of property is located. Even if it’s old and crumbling down or has out-of-date appliances, it will sell if it is in a desirable location. That’s what it’s all about. Do people want to live there? And conversely, you can have a beautiful property with everything perfect but if it isn’t in a good location, it won’t sell very well. Indeed, it's all about location, location, location.
And today, as you might have noticed, it is Easter Sunday. This is the highest, holy day of the church year and so I’d like to preach something really inspiring so you’ll be able to understand and appreciate this incredible day. In order to do so, I’m going to preach an old-fashioned 3-point sermon. That’s the traditional model of preaching, by the way. The pastor is supposed to fit every important scriptural matter into 3, easy-to-remember points. That way, the congregation will be able to hear it, go home and say: “Yes, I can still remember the 3 points of the sermon.” And then rattle them off to one another. Now typically, I don’t use this form because I usually have more to say than can be fit into 3 points.
But today—because it’s Easter—I’m sticking with the 3 points. I’ve got to tell you about the Easter message in a way you can remember. Here are the 3 points I’ve come up with after great contemplation on the Gospel text. Are you ready? There may be a pop quiz later in the service so you might want to take notes. They are: He is risen! He is risen! He is risen!
Each of these points is important so I’m going to start with the first one. The story begins on that first Easter morning. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary make their way to the tomb of Jesus. What do they expect to find? I suppose they expect what you would expect if you went to visit the grave of a friend: the grave would look like a grave. It would be undisturbed. Perhaps there might be flowers there, but generally things at graves look pretty much the same whenever you go to visit them. You don’t expect your friend to be risen!
And yet that’s exactly what the Marys encounter! It’s highly dramatic in Matthew’s telling of the story. There’s a great earthquake, which shakes up their perspective and probably everything else in the surrounding area. And then an angel of the Lord descends from heaven before their eyes, and with superhero strength, rolls back the stone of the grave and sits on it. There he looks at them—dazzling like a lightning bolt!
Can you imagine how shocking it would be for these two women to witness all this? It’s incomprehensible, really. The guards behavior tells you how disarming it is. They panic so much they pass out—but the women, the women keep it together (perhaps that's why Jesus appears first to women in all 4 of the gospels). The angel, then, speaks to them and says: “Do not be afraid; for I know you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised from the dead, as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.” So that brings me to the first point of my sermon: He is risen!
They have come to the place of death and found life! This is a game-changer for Mary and Mary. The fact that Jesus is risen completely changes their world. Not even death could defeat their Lord. He is risen. Though they are still afraid and unsure about what this means for them, they know that nothing will ever be the same.
Then, the angel commands them to go quickly and tell the disciples that Christ is risen. He explains that Jesus is going ahead of them to Galilee. And so they respond immediately—leaving the tomb, it says, with fear and great joy as they run to meet the disciples. Obviously, it is very emotional for them. It’s like when you cry and laugh at the same time. As humans, we can have a complicated mix of emotions. The women are afraid because this news is so new and so riveting, but they are filled with great joy at the same time.
Suddenly, Jesus meets them on the road and says “Greetings!” They are so elated that they come right up to him, take a hold of his feet—confirming that he is, indeed, risen bodily—and worship him. This brings me to my second point: He is risen. Not only have the women witnessed the empty tomb, the earthquake and the stone being rolled away by an angel, but now they have experienced the risen Jesus themselves. For them, it is completely clear that Jesus is risen.
Then he says to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” Go and tell, he commands them. Jesus wants everyone to know that he is risen. Death has been defeated for all who will believe. Resurrection is not just for Jesus, but for every one of us, which brings me to my third point: He is risen!
So the women go and tell and those they tell go and tell and those that they tell go and tell. And in this way, the message of Christ’s resurrection is passed down all the way through the generations to you and me today. We have been given the good news of all 3 of these important points: He is risen! He is risen! He is risen!
What does it mean for us? I mean, can we comprehend even one of these points? The fact that Christ is risen may seem confusing, unbelievable, and even irrelevant. But as Christians, we understand that in the resurrection, God turned everything around. Jesus was put to death but God said a resounding “NO!” to death by raising him. Sin and death were defeated and everlasting life was made possible for all who believe in him.
So yes, because he is risen, you and I have the assurance of heaven. That’s all well and good, you say, but what about the problems I'm facing right now? I need Jesus' help in this very moment. What does the resurrected life look like?
Well, let's take a look. For example, you say: what about the price of gasoline? If it hits $4 a gallon, I won't be able to afford to go anywhere. And your response to this should be: He is risen! He is risen! He is risen! The price of gas is important, but not nearly as important as the new life of Jesus within you. That's the thing that matters most. Everything else is secondary and you can trust that God will get you through it.
But what about that grief you’re facing? You say: This is the first Easter without my husband. I didn’t think grieving him would be so hard. Sometimes I wonder if I can even go without him. And your response to this should be: He is risen! He is risen! He is risen! Because of your faith in Jesus, you know you'll be reunited with your deceased loved ones. This separation, which hurts so much, is only temporary. Because he is risen, you are not without hope and healing.
Then there’s the economy. It’s so unstable, you say, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep my job. I can’t imagine how devastated my family would be if I lost it. And your response to this should be: He is risen! He is risen! He is risen!
There’s also health or lack thereof to think about. I know I’m failing, you say. I’m so afraid I’ll end up being a burden to my kids but I don’t think I can live alone much longer. And your response to this should be: He is risen! He is risen! He is risen!
Just as location makes all the difference in real estate, the fact that Christ is risen makes all the difference in our lives. I am not just talking about the hereafter. Easter starts now. Resurrection matters right in the midst of our troubled lives. Everything that you and I face—whether it’s mundane or catastrophic is resurrected with Christ. That means, God is with us—giving us new life to face whatever we have to face with confidence. If your location is with Christ, then nothing is impossible. You can hold your head high in faith and proclaim: He is risen! He is risen! He is risen!
The angel commanded the Marys to go and tell the good news. May we be filled with their joyful enthusiasm and go and tell it too. And I think we can cover all 3 points of the resurrection: He is risen! He is risen! He is risen!