Welcome, friends! Today we consider three important words to help us relieve our emotional and spiritual pain, as well as enabling us to experience joy and new life. Click the videos below and let us worship our risen Lord….
O God, who in Jesus Christ called us out of darkness into your marvelous light; enable us always to declare your wonderful deeds, thank you for your steadfast love, and praise you with heart, soul, mind, and strength, now and forever. Amen, and amen.
Then Jesus cried out, “Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me. I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.
“If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So, whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.” (NIV)
Jesus is the light of the world. (John 8:12)
Jesus told his followers they are the light of the world. (Matthew 5:14)
Simple observation: Neither Jesus nor his followers become light. They are light. So, what does that mean?
To be light means we take a particular posture toward the world. It means we have a unique role in society.
Sometimes its important to say what something is not before we talk about what it is. To be light means we are not:
The Judge. The incarnation of Jesus was not for the purpose of playing Sheriff in the Old West, riding into the town of this world and gunslinging the bad guys either out of town or into the cemetery. Just because the world shot the sheriff, does not mean they’re off the hook for not shooting the deputy. There is judgment coming. It’s just that you nor I are the judge. “Do not judge,” said Jesus, unless you’re interested in getting judged yourself. (Matthew 7:1-2)
Cave-Dwellers. Rabbit-hole Christians. Dorm toads. Or any other metaphor for separating oneself from society and hiding out. Cave-dwellers want to hide out and start little fires that will only warm themselves. A rabbit-hole Christian scurries from hole to hole trying to avoid the world. Dorm toads never leave the friendly confines of their apartment swamp.
Rather than judging and hiding, people of the light possess are:
Encouragers. They speak constructive words of edification. Encouragers know there is a bit of light in everyone, so they see through the darkness to the good which can be enlightened and called forth in others. People who encourage have a glow about them which is attractive and winsome.
Aware. Being light causes one to see themselves in high definition. Both the image of God and the fallen nature of humanity is seen and held together. People of the light are aware of their identity. They are then able to act with humility, gentleness, and meekness. Since they know they are infinitely loved by God, this brings a great freedom to speak and act with confidence.
Believers. Faith begins with receiving grace. It then works its way from an internal truth to an outward expression. People of the light follow in the footsteps of their Lord Jesus. They love, lead, and linger in society as spiritual beings who help illumine the path.
Merciful. Since they were once in darkness themselves, people of the light set aside pre-meditated judgment and deal compassionately with those who are spiritually blind.
Pure. The light has its way of exposing impurities. People of the light squarely face their own reality and purposely seek purity in all their dealings with society.
Peacemakers. Being characterized by the light means we not only possess personal peace; we also make peace through creating and sustaining harmonious relations with others. The light enables us to be spiritual ombudsmen who carefully and effectively bring peace between warring factions.
Jesus is the light of the world. We are the light of the world. That means we do not hide but are present and involved in our families, neighborhoods, communities, local institutions, national affairs, and world problems. Being characterized as followers of Jesus causes a person and a faith community to be visible, to show the world who Jesus is, and what he is like.
The earliest followers of Jesus allowed their light to shine in the world through:
Taking in unwanted children, orphans, and babies left exposed to infanticide.
Ministry to the sick and dying during times of plague and disease, as well as visiting those in prison without families.
Help and kindness to the poor, foreigners, immigrant strangers, and widows, especially when no one else would.
Where light is present, no one needs to remain in darkness. Even a small flickering flame can illumine enough to make a way. And when many small flames come together, there is a great light for all to see.
Our message is not about ourselves. It is about Jesus Christ as the Lord. We are your servants for his sake. We are his servants because the same God who said that light should shine out of darkness has given us light. For that reason, we bring to light the knowledge about God’s glory which shines from Christ’s face. (2 Corinthians 4:5-6, GW)
May the light of Christ, the living Word, dispel the darkness of our hearts so that we may walk as children of light and sing the praises of a merciful God throughout the world. Amen.
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomband they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”
But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was exceptionally large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”
Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone because they were afraid. (NIV)
“Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” So asked the three women on Resurrection Sunday when they came to anoint the dead body of Jesus. Turns out they didn’t need to find the security officers, so to speak, to come and unlock the door. The tomb was already open. What is more, lo and behold, the women did not find a dead body. Jesus was not there – he is risen!
I sometimes find myself asking the same kind of question the women were asking each other:
Who will move this huge object (or objection!) to what I want to do?
How can I get to Jesus so that I can do something for him?
Who will take care of the immovable obstacles that stand in my way?
I must admit, these are questions born more of a small faith and a limited understanding than of knowing the power of God.
It also turns out the plan the women had for taking care of Christ’s lifeless body was completely irrelevant. Which causes me to ask even more questions of myself:
Are my questions completely off the mark?
Do I have my ladder up against the wrong wall?
Is my plan of caring for Jesus an adventure in missing the point?
Is it Jesus who plans on showing up and caring for me?
Perhaps it all comes down to our expectations. The women were most certainly not expecting a risen Lord! They had absolutely zero expectation of encountering an angel who would tell them Jesus is alive. They did not anticipate their question would end up being completely unnecessary.
Maybe believers and lovers of Jesus are asking a set of misguided questions based in our puny creature perspective on life, church, and world. Perhaps we are not grasping what God’s power has already accomplished and/or what God already has up his sleeve.
It could be that all we really need to realize is that God has gone before us, clearing all impediments so that people can see and experience the risen Christ. Methinks our expectations are far too low for a God who has the power and will to raise people from death….
Because the way has been opened to a new and vital relationship with the Lord Christ. That massive immovable boulder has already been moved. Whereas we thought it was some big issue to deal with, just by showing up at the tomb we clearly see that isn’t the issue, at all.
So, here I go again with another set of questions:
How many times have we gotten things all discombobulated in our heads and misinterpreted what’s going on just because we didn’t show up and find Jesus is not dead but alive?
When have we severely underestimated the power of God by believing we must operate in our own power and do things for God because Christ is as good as dead to us?
Are we still expecting Jesus to care about buildings, budgets, and butts in the pew because those things (we think) are within our power and control?
Do we even bother to ask Jesus what he cares about, or do we simply superimpose our wishes upon him as if they are his?
Are you yet sick and tired of me asking questions and offering no answers?
That’s because the answer is already there. Jesus is not where you are expecting him. There is power at work for which you are unaware.
The truth is that we can now encounter and explore a fresh reality with Jesus as the Author and Pioneer of our faith. We need only listen, follow, and leave the moving of big rocks to God.
When our faith stands at the grave, grieving for a stone that’s rolled away, forgive us, Lord. When our faith is short of understanding though the truth is there to see, forgive us, Lord. When our faith, beset by doubt, sees no further than an empty tomb today, forgive us, Lord. Bring to our minds the cry of Mary, “I have seen the Lord!” and grant us faith to believe! Amen.
What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled:
“Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (NRSV)
Throughout my years of conducting Easter Sunday services, I inevitably have someone mention to me after the glorious resurrection celebration how much they enjoy Easter music and cantatas. Then, the conversation oftentimes ends with some sort of statement on how it is too bad we only sing such songs once a year.
Here is my proposal: Then don’t just sing them once a year. Instead, rejoice with resurrection singing and gusto to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ, for the next several weeks.
“I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” – Jesus
John 11:25-26, NRSV
The hopes and expectations of Christians are realized in Christ’s resurrection. The good news of Easter cannot be contained or limited to a single day (Easter Sunday). That is why, according to the Christian Calendar, Easter is only the first of fifty days of celebration called “Eastertide” which leads to the day of Pentecost. Eastertide is a season designed especially for exploring the new life we have in Jesus and the joyful Christian life we can all experience.
Just as we would likely not think of taking only one vacation day in the year for renewal, so it is necessary to take more than one day to enjoy Easter. If nothing else, Eastertide gives believers an opportunity to let Christ’s resurrection percolate in our hearts so that we end up becoming people in real life who exhibit an alive spirit. And, God knows, we could use much more of that in our congregations and our world!
If life, eternal life, and the necessity of being alive are all needs for us, then it only makes sense that we would want to take advantage of what Eastertide has to offer: A deliberate look at Christ’s resurrection, exploring its implications and impact for us. Simply assuming we all know about resurrection will not do, any more than my wife simply assuming I love her without looking her straight in the eye and telling her so.
If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile (1 Corinthians 15:17). Without an Eastertide, there’s a sin-as-usual kind of approach to life with a sort of shoulder shrug that says, “Meh, what’s a guy to do?” Instead, we have the hope of life everlasting because Christ has risen from death. We have the hope of individual renewal, corporate revitalization, and worldwide revival because there is a risen Savior.
Spring is the time of year which can give shape to the rest of our seasons. Christ’s resurrection gives us a reason to rejoice, hope, persevere, and serve gladly, knowing that our labor in the Lord is not in vain.
Easter is not over. It is just beginning.
Therefore, throwing parties for Jesus is in order. Celebrating life, new life, is not only fun but biblical. Maybe some people outside the church look at Christians as uptight and repressed because we are not throwing the best parties and celebrations.
After all, we have the highest reason possible to celebrate loudly with great passion and joy. Our joy can lead us to paint the town red, whoop it up, raise the roof; splurge, and be effusive with our worship. Christians, full of redemption and reconciliation, break out of their staid existence to hail King Jesus not just today but all through Eastertide because Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed!
Almighty God, who through your only begotten son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: Thank you for giving me a reason to celebrate with joy my Lord’s resurrection. May I be raised from the death of sin by your life-giving Spirit and give the best party in the neighborhood; through Jesus Christ who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.