…“whadda ya mean he’s not here…”
(a post-Easter edit to Sunday’s message of April 16, 2017)
If it wasn’t for Easter, we would know nothing about Jesus… his story would have ended with the crucifixion! That’s it. That’s all. Just another insurrectionist zealot trying to topple Rome and take out a few Pharisees along the way… and for the Roman government… just another day at the office. But, there’s more. When it comes to Jesus, there’s always more.
If it wasn’t for Easter, we would never have known of Jesus’ descent into hell to announce victory over death and the grave. You see, Good Friday was humanity’s ultimate “NO” to God and our world’s collective rejection of all that God offers. But, remember, when it comes to Jesus, there’s always more. The resurrection, then, is God’s rejection of our selfishness… Easter is God’s rejection of our own neglect of all the things of God… Easter is God’s announcement to the cosmos that the power of God cannot be nailed to a tree or placed in a tomb… The nails could not keep Jesus on the cross and the tomb could not hold him… with the purpose of dying and rising for a world that has always needed and still needs his love, grace and power!
If it wasn’t for Easter, Jesus last supper would have been just that… his last Passover meal with friends and the meal we know and savor as the Lord’s Supper would hold no value to us all.
If it wasn’t for Easter, all of Jesus’ teachings would have faded in a few sunsets… unlikely would any of us have access to a pamphlet titled, “The Sayings of Jesus!”
If it wasn’t for Easter, all the stories of Jesus healings and his conversations with God’s people and parables about life, love, community, prayer, work, integrity, and, hope would have never been recorded…. And we’d never hear the phrase… “Jesus once told this story about…”
If it wasn’t for Easter, we would never have known of Jesus’ battle with Satan on the top of a hill to teach us that temptation will come to anyone of us at any time but that the power of God is a power that the Prince of Darkness cannot overcome!
If it wasn’t for Easter, we would never have known of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan by his cousin John and his great commission for his followers to go into the world and baptize and preach and teach in his name…
If it wasn’t for Easter, no one would recall that even the Son of God can run away from earthly parents at a religious revival. And he did, and when his parents found him, he was teaching the religious teachers of the Temple… who were amazed.
If it wasn’t for Easter we would know nothing of Jesus’ birth and the story of God taking on our human flesh and God’s entry into the story of us that makes each and every day of our lives worth living…
If it wasn’t for Easter, we would never have known of Jesus’ sending the Holy Spirit to us… to guide us… to lift up faithful leaders, servants and followers for now two thousand years!
If it wasn’t for Easter… ponder that for a moment… If it wasn’t for Easter…
And remember, when it comes to Jesus, there’s always more…
If it wasn’t for Easter, none of us would be here today! There would be song or prayer, or a chancel decked with Easter lilies or a stark empty cross draped in a black veil now filled and alive with the color of Spring flowers…
If it wasn’t for Easter, the rhythm of life from Sunday to Sunday for us would not exist. Jesus was the model of the Godly life for… the one who balanced worship, work and play… the one who went to the synagogue on the Sabbath, as was his custom and one who went around Galilee and Judea from town to town as an itinerant rabbi teaching people of the Kingdom of God. He played with children. He told funny stories and made weddings more joyful.
If it wasn’t for Easter the words we speak each Sunday would be less than a whisper and never a shout… that “This is God’s house … and we are God’s people… called to believe… called to belong… called to be bold and called to be love…”
If it wasn’t for Easter, the staff at New Life would be doing something else. All of us! The Sunday’s Cool teachers would never have to prepare a lesson… there would be no LYO or WELCA or Men in Mission… and the Church Council wouldn’t exist and therefore never have to meet…
If it wasn’t for Easter, New Life would be purposeless… the verbs “pray, worship, study, invite, encourage, give and serve” might still be in our vocabulary but they would take on a whole different meaning… and the sense of community and partnership in the gospel we share would be non-existent!
If it wasn’t for Easter, New Life church would not be supporting the efforts of Water to Thrive and building water wells in Ethiopia and Tanzania changing the lives of 1000’s of people whose names and faces we’ll most likely ever know…
If it wasn’t for Easter, there would be no Camp HOPE for our youth and their friends each year, no Camp Lutherhill… no mission trip to OK this Summer for HS students… no ELCA National Youth Gathering in Houston in Summer 2018…
If it wasn’t for Easter, New Life would not have been one of the founding churches of Christian Helping Hands providing food and services to those in this area whose way of life is very different from our own… and there would be no ‘pop-top’ ministry to help a homeless person live better one more day…
Are you hearing all this… what the world would be like… If it wasn’t for Easter…
Early in the 4th century a monk who became the archbishop of Constantinople now known as St. John Chrysostom (some refer to him as “Chrysostomos”—the ‘goldened tongued!’) shared a brief but oh so powerful message on Easter Sunday… and as New Life in Pearland seeks to be a teaching church using an ancient future model … that is our moving forward will be fueled by our paying attention the faith and practices of the early centuries of Christianity… here are some words that should bring us encouragement and hope… on THIS Easter Sunday… as I know not all that much about what some of you bring into God’s house today… and then I know others much better…so listen to St. John and find your place in his preaching…
“If anyone is devout and a lover of God, let them enjoy this beautiful and radiant festival.
If anyone is a grateful servant, let them, rejoicing, enter into the joy of the Lord.
If anyone has wearied themselves in fasting, let them now be revived.
If anyone has labored from the first hour, let them today receive the just reward.
If anyone has come at the third hour, with thanksgiving let them feast.
If anyone has arrived at the sixth hour, let them have no misgivings; for they shall suffer no loss.
If anyone has delayed until the ninth hour, let them draw near without hesitation.
If anyone has arrived even at the 11th hour, let them not fear on account of their tardiness.
For the Master is gracious and receives the last even as the first; He gives rest to those who come at the 11th hour, just as to the one who has labored from the first.
Christ has mercy upon the last and cares for the first; to the one He gives, and to the other He is gracious.
He both honors the work and praises the intention.
Enter all of you, therefore, into the joy of our Lord, and, whether first or last, receive your reward.
O rich and poor, one with another, dance for joy!
O you ascetics and you negligent, celebrate the day!
You that have fasted and you that have disregarded the fast, rejoice today!
The table is rich-laden: feast royally, all of you!
The calf is fatted: let no one go forth hungry!
Let all partake of the feast of faith. Let all receive the riches of goodness.
Let no one lament their poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one mourn their transgressions, for pardon has dawned from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the Savior’s death has set us free.
Christ who was taken by death has annihilated it!
He descended into doom and took Hell captive!
He embittered it when hell tasted His flesh!
It was embittered, for it was abolished!
It was embittered, for it was mocked!
It was embittered, for it was purged!
It was embittered, for it was despoiled!
It was embittered, for it was bound in chains!
It took a body and came upon God!
It took earth and encountered Heaven!
It took what it saw, but crumbled before what it had not seen!
O death, where is your sting?
O Hell, where is your victory?
Christ is risen, and you are overthrown!
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life reigns!
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in a tomb!
For Christ, being raised from the dead, has become the first-fruits of them that have slept.
To Him be glory and might unto the ages of ages. Amen.
When it comes to Jesus, there’s always more… and more there is to come… as the Easter life we live is now and forever!
CHRIST IS RISEN! CHRIST IS RISEN! CHRIST IS RISEN! ALLELUIA!