Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Resurrection of Our Lord: Easter Morning Sermon

Resurrection of our Lord–Sermon
4/20/14–Year A

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

What more needs to be said? Is there any message, any word that could be spoken that should out do the angel’s proclamation to the Mary’s this morning; He is not here, fore He has risen? And I am not just saying this because I’d like to end this morning’s sermon here and sit back down, being filled with exhaustion after last night’s tremendous, wonderful, beautiful, and might I add, delicious celebration of our Lord’s resurrection at the Easter Vigil. I say that there are no more greater words to be said or added this morning simply because it is true. As you likely know we pastors work hard and are filled with much anxiety, making sure our Easter sermons are polished perfectly.  Filled with every word…that we could ever say…about any thing. Because today is, so to speak, the the Super Bowl of Sunday’s in the Christian calendar. The pews are filled with more people than usual, as families and friends come on this day, and then go home for their Easter celebration. They are filled by visitors and guests who come to join the Church’s celebration on this day.  And on top of that of course we worry that the council members have their note pads out this morning to make sure the pastor doesn’t mess things up too badly today. I kid, about that. Yet not even they could be harder than we pastors can be on ourselves to make sure we get it right. One might say we find ourselves heading to this Easter morning the same way the women left the empty tomb; with fear and great joy at wondering just what to say. 

But to do so, to worry about flawless words and polished sermons is to miss the point of the day and turns the Easter day of Christ’s resurrection into a day about me. Yes, even clergy, if you weren’t aware, are prone this is most prevalent vice.  Today is one of those days though where fewer words are better, for anything that we would or could say can be summed up in the three words of the Church’s proclamation: Christ is risen! It alone is the foundation of our entire faith and hope in God. It is this Easter morn upon which the Church’s life of faith is built. Not Christmas or any other festival, but rather that on this morning, this first day of the week, the women go to the tomb and find it empty. That is the earth shattering, world turning, and quite literally earth shaking word which the Church is given to proclaim this morning and every Sunday morning. That Jesus whom we crucified by our sins, by our own rejection of God’s love in His Son, has not abandoned us to the abyss of death or the darkness of the grave, but has called forth speech from silence, light from darkness, and life from death. Life for His Son and life for those who cling to the mercy of Christ, his cross and his resurrection.  All of this is there present in the Easter proclamation: Christ is Risen. 
We see this transformative power of these three words in our Gospel lesson this morning. Women who went before the sun had even cast its first rays upon Jerusalem went to the tomb carrying spices ready to anoint and grief again over the death of their beloved. We can only guess how many tears they shed on Friday, on Saturday and early Sunday morning, but undoubtedly they were many. Yet the poor lowly and burdened women are transformed and changed, they are renewed and filled with hope and life at the angelic word. Their sorrows over death give way to the good news of life. Their world is changed as Christ is risen. At these words the lowly are raised. 

We see this transformative power of three words not only in the faithful myrrh bearing women, but we also see it in the strong and haughty guards. Those roman soldiers who had been given leaven by Pilate to go at the Pharisees command and guard the tomb. They had been given what could be one of the easiest assignments a soldier could ever have, to make sure a dead man doesn’t leave his tomb! How foolish they likely were at the easiness of such an assignment! How boring it must of been for them!  But at the shaking of the ground, the angel’s presence, and the stone rolled away to reveal an empty hole in the rock, these “living men” alive to their own wisdom, thought, and trust in their own strength, become as the one whom they were supposed to be guarding. St. Matthew tells us, they became like dead men. Dead, not only because these guards lost their prisoner, which was a capital offense, but they are dead to their own wisdom, beliefs, and strength as they could never be stronger than that dead man.  At these words prideful are brought low. 

We see this transformative power in these three words not only in our gospel lesson, but in the full reality of Christ’s death and resurrection. The victory party in hell thrown by Satan on Good Friday, thinking that he had won and outsmarted God, is interrupted by a special news bulletin. As we heard last night from St. John Chrysostom, “[Christ] descended into Hell and took Hell captive! It took a body and came upon God. It took earth and encountered heaven! It took what it saw, but crumbled before what it has not seen! O death, where is thy sting? O Hell, where is thy victory? For Christ is risen, and you are overthrown. Christ is risen and the demons are fallen!”  At these powerful words the gates of death are opened and the good news is proclaimed to those held captive. At these words Satan who thought he had won the battle, has found out he has completely and forever lost the war. At these words the demons tremble and cower in fear over their own destruction. At these words the sin which marks us for death, is washed, cleansed and forgiven and we are marked for life everlasting. 
 What truly more can be said than “Christ is risen?” For by it earth is raised to heaven; the gates of paradise are thrown open to all who believe in Christ’s free and unending love for them given in Holy Baptism and sustained by faith, prayer, Word and Holy Sacrament; and humanity is clothed with divinity. It has the power in these words to transform mourners into celebrants, the prideful living into the humble dead, bring the dead to life, turn the roaring sharped toothed devil into a fangless enemy and make we sinful rebels of God into His most loved and precious children. 

If these three words have the power to do all of that, to transform the world, how much more do they have the power to transform you and your life. This day the Resurrection of Christ comes to you and you are witnesses of it. By His glory and power YOU can not come witness this and NOT be changed. You CANNOT LEAVE the same as you CAME this morning for today you have beheld the Risen Lord in Word and Bread and Wine.  As St. Paul writes, “When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. (Col 3:4).”  He who is your life is here and he comes to glorify Himself in you by claiming you as His own, setting you free from the bondage of your own tombs, and give you life. Therefore, when grief overtakes you, let “Christ is Risen” be your hope. When the wisdom or strength of the world puts you down or causes you to despair, let “Christ is Risen” be your support and defense. When  you find yourself trusting in your own strength more than in His, let “Christ is Risen” be your humble reminder that He is Lord and you are not. When the devil seeks to thrown your sins in your face and lead you to despair of God’s grace, let “Christ is Risen” be your battle cry! When the hour of your own death draws near, let “Christ is Risen” be your anthem to everlasting and eternal life! 

“For Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice! 
Christ is risen, and the life reigns!
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in a tomb.” (St. John Chrysostom)
To Him be all glory, honor, and might now and ever and unto the ages of ages! 


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