So . . . What’s the Big Deal about Easter?

Text: Easter Gospels

Hymns
Open – The Strife is O’er, the Battle Done – No. 464

Day – Now All the Vault of Heaven Resounds! – No. 465

Offerings – Christ the Lord is Risen Today = No. 463
Communion 1 –  I Know That My Redeemer Lives – vs. 1-4 – No. 461
Communion 2 –  I Know That My Redeemer Lives – vs. 5-8 – No. 461
Close – He’s Risen, He’s Risen, Christ Jesus the Lord – No 480

Theme: So . . . What’s the Big Deal about Easter?

Goal: Getting us to the heart of Easter

Malady: We have even become superficial about Easter!!

Means: Employ the Gospels and other texts to highlight the Resurrection as the highlight of The Incarnation of Jesus(!) and our blessed news that death truly no longer has a hold on us.  Alleluia!  He is Risen!

+          +          +

I girded my loins – Easter week, with its special days of worship and observation and serious contemplation.  It is also that time of year when folks purchase new outfits for themselves and children, with all the nice frills, everyone in general realizes that “Yes, dress is important this week.”

And it has happened again – the annual Easter event, when the media highlights any scholar or would-be scholar who claims Easter, like the rest of the One Holy Faith, does not truly, logically exist.  Or, when the appeals are made that tell us that we make a big deal of Easter as the Church, when Christ and the Apostles supposedly did nothing of the kinds.  And the annual favorite – Easter is really just an outgrowth of ancient fertility rites and that the Church appropriated them to its own purposes.

This morning I am here to stress – that I am not stressing any of the points above.  They have been so soundly debunked that even most Study Bibles mention them, while blowing them out of the water.  To those of us fortunate enough to have obtained a serious, theological course of study such as the Seminary provides, we can easily debunk such nonsense.  But most Pastors find it sleep inducing boh-ring to even make an effort.

So why, then is the Title and Theme of this sermon worded as it is?  Well, it is really quite simple.  Easter IS a big Deal – the biggest deal this sinful world has ever known, and that we, for all of our many activities and services and all, we simply do not MAKE a big deal about Easter.

There is the old quip about Christmas and Easter Christians showing up for worship that never do so the rest of the year.  That is one manifestation of the problem, but in and of itself a small manifestation.  It is by no means justifiable – it is clearly an open sin, but it is not the worst way we ignore Easter.

Before I go on further, I am not trying to impugn the faith of the many whose genuine faith leads them here week in and week out.  Not at all!  However, what I am trying to say is that so many do not take the full measure of what Easter is, and means to each of us, and so, while we do celebrate, we are not able to give it the full celebration it deserves because of sa-tan always trying to ruin best of moments, which in turn has caused all of us to lose the full nature and expression of the only response to Easter possible.  That, I motion, is terrible, and horrible, that we should all to be taken, or take from ourselves that which is the greatest thing about Easter!

The true, unalloyed, inexpressible and impossible JOY that IS ours to have and to know – the joy beyond that of a miserable Job, still knowing that his Redeemer lives.  Greater than the joy Mary knew when she conceived God Himself in her womb.  Far greater than even the wondrous joy of singing the wonderful hymns and carols of Christmas.  Far greater than any joy we can know in this life – joy we partially hide, even this morning, for seeming to be a bit of a fanatic or Jesus freak. For all those we loved who have died; for all of us here who will certainly die – all of it due to sin and all those to come who will die all of us have been given a secret to that joy that is ours.  What is it? – you ask?  Listen up, cup your ear and lean forward and hear it whispered even as God is whispering it to us: (lean into the mike – keep it just a bit lower than full shouting)

WE WHO HAVE SINNED AND WILL DIE — ALL BEFORE US WHO SINNED AND DIED IN THE FAITH, AND ALL TO COME – ALL OF US – EVERYONE OF US – WILL LIVE BEYOND OUR DEATH, AND FOREVER!

(pause – let them take hold for a minute – look around with huge smile, and then say in normal voice)

And today, is the proof of that fact!

+          +           +

Okay.  Now let’s get down to brass tacks.  We have a man, the subject of one of our favorite hymns – of which we will sing ALL eight verse during Communion, sitting in his rags, sober, but otherwise worse than anyone we might find in the back alleys of one of our cities. He has seen all his property demolished and his beloved family killed.  He had been through the harsh words and accusation of those who were supposedly his friends – saying there was something wrong with him because it was obvious God didn’t love him (think of that whevever you see a real down-and-outter on the streets!).  He had to look up to see “the bottom” – it was that bad.

Then suddenly, the fog seems to clear, and you can almost hear his voice crying out the words of our beloved hymn! —

23 “Oh, that my words were recorded,
    that they were written on a scroll,
24 that they were inscribed with an iron tool on[b] lead,
    or engraved in rock forever!
25 I know that my redeemer[c] lives,
    and that in the end he will stand on the earth.[d]
26 And after my skin has been destroyed,
    yet[e] in[f] my flesh I will see God;
27 I myself will see him
    with my own eyes—I, and not another.
    How my heart yearns within me!  (Job 19:23-27)

Now I ask you. how could that Ole Son POSSIBLY cry out in such obvious JOY in his situation???  The answer is our celebration this day.  When modern scholars tell us that way back then ain’t nobody knew nothing about that Jesus fellow and a Resurrection to eternal life – here is a miserable old soul who knows his flesh will rot, yet he can utter those words:

 25 I know that my redeemer[c] lives,
    and that in the end he will stand on the earth.[d]
26 And after my skin has been destroyed,
    yet[e] in[f] my flesh I will see God;
27 I myself will see him
    with my own eyes—I, and not another.
    How my heart yearns within me!

Did the poor man slip off his rock and bash his head on another rock?

No, Sports Fans, this ancient man supposed by modern scholars to have known little beyond sheep-herding and grief, is still giving US a lesson about our Lord Jesus and His Resurrection this very morning!  Job was crying out in unrestrained, unmitigated JOY – the JOY of which we have right before us, and fail to live!

Let’s go back further, okay?  The first sin of our first parents had just happened.   The Lord God would have been perfectly righteous to have zapped them immediately out of existence and start over.  But no, he chastises the sa-tan – the tempter of each of us yet today – hiding in the serpent. Then God makes this fabulous promise:

“And I will put enmity
    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring[a] and hers;
he will crush[b] your head,
    and you will strike his heel.”  (Genesis 3:15)

Now, how could such words ever point to hope, or joy?  Well – the literal words of Eve in Chapter 4 , verse 1, from the  Hebrew, are these:

“I have begat/birthed a man – the Lord!”

Huh?  How could that woman, who had just screwed up so royally as to almost get the universe and the whole mankind thing blasted into nothingness, know of the Christ?  Just from the one verse – Genesis 3:15?  You want the details – it’s above my pay grade.  But she did, and something within, born of true conviction, caused her to utter those words.  I think it would be safe to say, given all she had been through, that her faith gave her the joy of the Lord to come.  Between Job and Eve, that’s a ton of JOY happening!  How are we missing that today?

Of course, today we have a bunch of charlatans and shysters peddling peace and joy through victorious living, which only they know and “Here’s a flyer and won’t you send in your hundred bucks to keep this vital ministry going?”  We have one of that ilk running the biggest show in town  – downtown.  Ask one o’ them thar sons about the gravity of sin and death, and of forgiveness, and the Resurrection  – and it’s like – you raise your head and look all around!  “Where’d he go???”

Don’t laugh – drive downtown on a Sunday morning, and see 7-8000 pack themselves into Joel Osteen’s bank . . . errr . . . “church.”  The poor, lost, deluded souls of the folks out there looking for true forgiveness for the sins eating at them and their very souls, and the hope of Christ for real and the unimaginable JOY of the resurrection.  Instead, they get Joel Osteen.

Words simply fail me.

Now – we have all these glorious Easter readings today, and for weeks to come, before us.  We have the exquisitely JOYOUS hymns we are singing today.  We have the Holy Elements on the Altar beckoning us and awaiting but a Word from the Lord  of the Resurrection, and He will feed us Himself.  And we have the promise of today – Easter – to assure us of our own bodily Resurrections.  We Pastors are not beating our gums at Church funerals or in Funeral homes, or at gravesides – it is all about the Resurrection and what the Resurrection brings us!!!

The Christ – Jesus – who for the JOY set before him (imagine!) endured the Cross (which killed our sin and beat the devil into final submission) and rose to be seated at the Right Hand of God – to be the power of God in the forgiveness and Resurrection of us sinners – allowing us to do what Job knew in total JOY – with these eyes (point to your own), even thought I will go into the ground and decay – with these eyes . . . I SHALL SEE GOD!

A story.

Years ago, I had one particular Adult Pastors’ Class I shall never forget! But I know it changed the life of the young woman, under 40, very pretty, but her body already gnarled up because of her ALS   She was kinda agnostic, an almost hippie girl who had gone to Burning Man Festical from its initial year in ’86 – long before it became so normal –  so commercial, and was just a hippy camper out in the desert.  Her values floated around nebulously, but her sister, one of my members, had talked to her so often about me and the Church, so she decided to try my class and find out for herself.
So there she was along with the rest of the potential newbies (think I had almost 20 that time around),
So after covering matters introductory and allowing them to get a few classes under it’s belt, I struck!  Holy Week would be the week after they finished and those who wished, were Confirmed and became members.
So I went into detail for two classes – Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, the cleansing of the temples, His fiery sermons directed at the Pharisees – everything up to Holy Thursday.  Then I started in especially about the Eucharist and His betrayal, the trial(s), and finally the crowd’s condemnation of him through Pilate, that He be crucified.  I did my pastoral best to build the tension, the forgiveness of the Gospel everywhere and then, I got to Sunday Morning.
The young woman (She was only in hermid-30’s – I’ll call her “Sue – not her real name which I can’t for the life of me remember), quietly asked me: “Pastor I know all about the forgiveness and blessings and joy you are always talking about, but what about me?  I am going to die soon, very painfully.  What does the Resurrection say to me?”
The three tables were set up in a horseshoe fashion, and she was seated in her wheelchair dead middle on the connecting table at the one end.  I stood in front of Sue like no one else was in the room, explained to her how the Resurrection was crucial – because Jesus rose, so must we!  And how everything brought us to the morning of the Resurrection of Jesus.  You could have heard a pin drop on the carpet.  I was NOT being melodramatic when I fell to my knees right in front of her, took her hand in mine, and said through my tears and with my own voice cracking as much as it is now:
“My dear, dear Sue – ‘The Resurrection is the living, beating heart of the entire Christian faith, and believing it means one day the Risen Lord WILL, because He rose from the dead – will send his angels to take you home to him.  And He will take your hand as I have, lead you into the full glory his Heavenly Kingdom and say to YOU – personally – ‘Young woman, I say to you, rise and walk!’”
“And you will, forever!”
Now I say to all of you – that JOY she knew that night many years ago, is with us here this morning.  All I can say is what Jesus says –
Live in that JOY!!!
Amen

 

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