Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

“Christ is Risen!” 2018 Easter Sermon 04.01.2018

Easter 2018 * John 20:1-18 * April 1, 2018Easter 2018 * John 20:1-18 * April 1, 2018

Brothers and sisters in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus the RISEN Christ. Amen.

So this year, Easter falls on April’s Fools Day. The last time this happened was in 1956 and there will only be two more occurrences of Easter falling on April Fool’s Day this century. In case you didn’t know this, the actual date for Easter changes each year. It’s not a set date like Christmas. If you were paying attention as we received the gospel readings over the past four days of Holy Week worship, you’ll note that scripture doesn’t tell us that Maundy Thursday or any of the other days have a specific calendar date – only a specific day of the week. After all, God’s time is not the same thing as human time. It may surprise some, but God, in fact, does not have an Apple Watch.

I’ve never explored this too far but…the date for Easter is determined as the first Sunday, after the first full moon, on or before the Spring equinox.

OK – before I keep chasing after that squirrel, let’s move on.

Since the very earliest days of the Christian movement, there’s been a very significant, and somewhat foolish I might add, greeting used to signify Easter and the resurrection. Someone will say “Christ is risen!” And someone else will say “He is risen indeed!”

Let’s try it.
Awesome! You guys are great.

BUT – wait a minute. Weren’t you listening? Why are we shouting for joy?

In our gospel reading on this Easter Day, Peter and the other disciple whom Jesus loved have been to the empty tomb, don’t seem to understand what is going on so they decide to head for home in order to continue their Xbox video game tournament. Or something like that.

And Mary, one of Jesus’ closest friends and someone whom I believe we should see as one of the first disciples, is weeping.

So why are you and I, followers of Jesus nearly 2,000 years later, shouting for joy?

Here’s something about the resurrection that has rested on my heart this year. Peter, the other disciple, and Mary Magdalene don’t know what’s going on – they don’t know the end of the story. At this point, all they know is that Jesus – this friend of their’s whom they thought was the Messiah – has been brutally killed just a few days earlier. They don’t see any reason why there is going to be anything more to this story than the horrific, bloody death of their friend on a cross. They have to be thinking – this is the end. Nothing more to see here. Let’s move on with our lives.

Early on this first day of the week, they come to the grave where they thought Jesus was to be buried, and he’s not there. Is that all there is to their story? Is the story of Jesus, God’s son, our Savior, over?

You and I know that death on a Friday we dare call Good, is not the end of the story. The first disciples to witness the resurrection didn’t know that, at least not yet.

As Mary is weeping, she doesn’t recognize Jesus, but Jesus recognizes her. Not because of anything she does, but because of what God does for her through Jesus.

We began worship today by giving thanks for and affirming our own baptism. In the sacred and holy waters and words of promise from God that is the sacrament of Holy Baptism, God claims us. A sacrament when we see Jesus recognizes us. Not because of anything we do, but because of what God does for us through Jesus.

Peter and the other disciple have no idea what is going on at the tomb “for as yet they did not understand the scripture.” Over the next few weeks in our worship life together, we’ll discover that they will begin to understand the scripture as they experience the resurrected Jesus first hand. Again, not because of anything they do, but what God does for them through Jesus.

After all of the Easter candy has been consumed – or hidden by wise parents – and the Easter dinner is over, and family and friends have returned to their homes and busy lifestyles; what does any of this mean? What does it mean to be a follower of this Jesus?

This Jesus who couldn’t even be stopped by death. This Jesus who recognizes and calls each of us by name as precious children of God – loved and claimed and freed – in spite of all of the ways that we try to turn and run from God. All of the ways that we try and put God to death expecting that we, somehow, can keep God dead.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the resurrection of Jesus is not simply a historical event that we remember each year like a national holiday or birthday. And the resurrection of Jesus is not only about some future hope that we have for ourselves and our loved ones after our earthly death.

I’m sorry, but if we focus all of our attention on a past or future event, we are completely missing the resurrection promise that’s right in front of us today. The resurrection promise of Jesus that calls us to live with a hope that we can experience and witness each and every day of our life together as part of the body of Christ. Hope that is only possible because of what God has already done, and is continuing to do for us, through the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the savior of the world.

So don’t worry about Easter falling on April Fool’s day this year. You don’t need to ignore it. It actually might be helpful.

One ELCA pastor, Paul Lutter said – “Through his death and resurrection for us, Jesus Christ is God’s foolish power on the loose among us. Our strength is toppled by his weakness. Our wisdom is toppled by his foolishness. And we are never the same again. We are made new. We are turned upside down for the sake of Christ, who dies and is raised from death for us. We are given new identities. Marked with the cross of this foolish Christ and sealed by the Holy Spirit in the waters of baptism, we are made fools for Christ.” [“Foolish Power,” Living Lutheran, April 1, 2011]

So for today, let’s greet one another as fools for Christ with foolish joy and proclaim “Christ is Risen!” “He is risen indeed!”

And just like Peter, the other disciple, Mary Magdalene and every follower of Jesus since that first resurrection day, let’s not be afraid or stand around weeping. Let’s proclaim truth every day.

The truth that God has, is, and will always be a God of resurrection. A God of resurrection that conquers every death we will ever experience. A God of resurrection that sounds foolish to some. A God of resurrection that brings forth new life, always and in all ways.

And so tomorrow, on Easter Monday, let’s continue being fools for Christ as we greet one another with joy and proclaim “Christ is risen!” “He is risen indeed!”

And next weekend we will greet one another with joy and proclaim “Christ is risen!” “He is risen indeed!”

And later this year, we will greet one another with joy and proclaim “Christ is risen!” “He is risen indeed!”

Thanks be to God! Amen.

“Everything? Truly I Tell You, Everything” Sermon 10.14.2012

Mark 10:17-31 • 10/14/2012

Click here to hear an audio recording of this sermon.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.

A shepherd was tending his flock in a remote pasture when suddenly a brand-new Cadillac Escalade appeared out of a dust cloud, raced toward him and came to a stop right in front of him as the tires screeched to a halt. The driver was a well-groomed and well-dressed young man wearing all the latest in fashion. His suit alone was worth more money than the shepherd had seen in his entire life. This Cadillac driving, designer suit-wearing man leaned out the window and asked the shepherd, “If I can tell you exactly how many sheep you have in your flock, will you give me one?”

The shepherd looked at the young man, then at his peacefully grazing flock, and calmly answered, “Sure.”

The young man parked the Escalade, whipped out his Macbook Pro computer, connected it to his iPhone, surfed over to a NASA website where he called up a GPS satellite navigation system and scanned the area in which the flock of sheep were grazing. He then opened up a database and created a few spreadsheets with complex formulas.

Finally – he printed out a 150 page report on his miniaturized wireless printer, turned around to the shepherd and said, “You have exactly 1,586 sheep in your flock!”

“Amazing! That’s correct!” said the shepherd. “Like I agreed, you can take one of my sheep.”

The shepherd watched the man make a selection and bundle it into his Escalade. When he was finished the shepherd said, “If I can tell you exactly what you do for a living, where you’re from and who you work for, will you give me my sheep back?”

“OK, why not,” answered the young man.

“You work for an agricultural consulting firm from Palm Beach and you have never actually worked in agriculture in any way, shape, or form outside of a corporate board room,” said the shepherd.

“Wow! I guess that’s correct,” said the young man. “How did you ever know that?”

“Easy,” answered the shepherd. “Nobody called you, but you showed up here anyway. You want to be paid for providing a solution to a question I already knew the answer to. And you clearly don’t know squat about agriculture, especially shepherding sheep. Now…can I have my dog back?”

Have you ever tried to be a consultant for God? Showed up out of the blue and asked God a list of questions concerning things that you want or need – or at least think you need. You expect answers from God, of course, even though you have already formulated the answers you are planning to hear long before you even bothered to ask the question?

Or does something like this sound familiar, “OK God, just get me out of this jam that I’m in and I’ll be in church every Sunday for the rest of my life.”

I think the rich man in our gospel reading today is being genuine when he approaches Jesus. He kneels before Jesus after all as he asks the question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” He is a successful person in the community. And a large measure of his success has probably been because he’s had complete control in most of the decisions he’s made. I don’t think the intent of his question is to trap Jesus like the Pharisees do when they ask him questions. I think this man is genuinely interested in his relationship with God. I think he really is seeking to become a follower of Jesus. He wants to know what he has to do. By doing something though, he remains in control – not only of his stuff, but also of his eternal life. After all, he seems to have maintained pretty good control when it came to keeping the law – why can’t he do the same with eternal life? But Jesus knows there is something in the way. You and I and the rich man have things like wealth that constantly get in the way of our relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

Jesus tells the man to go and sell everything he owns. The point Jesus is making is that you can’t do something to inherit eternal life. You can only receive.

Author and Pastor Max Lucado once put it this way as he envisioned what Jesus might say to the rich man. I think his thoughts speak to you and me today too. Lucado wrote, “What you want costs far more than what you can pay. You don’t need a system, you need a Savior. You don’t need a resume, you need a Redeemer…God does not save us because of what we’ve done. Only a puny god could be bought with tithes. Only an egotistical god would be impressed with our pain. Only a temperamental god could be satisfied by sacrifices. Only a heartless god would sell salvation to the highest bidders. And only a great God does for his children what they can’t do for themselves.”

The rich man’s wealth, and your wealth and my wealth too, can’t buy anything in God’s kingdom. All we can do as children of God is receive.

We have all probably heard the saying, “Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.” It’s a thought that I see limiting our life in Christ in a very negative way. It simplifies our life in Christ to only be about a final journey to heaven. Heaven is some place “out there” or “up there” out of our reach or experience. And if we live good lives and are not bad little boys and girls, when we die, we will go to heaven.

Theologian Frederick Buechner said, “We think of eternal life, if we think of it at all, as what happens when life ends.” Buechner says this instead, “We would do better to think of it (eternal life) as what happens when life begins.” [Wishful Thinking: A Seeker’s ABC, Frederick Buechner, pg. 25-26]

Jesus was never controlled by possessions, as the rich man was, or as you and I often are, as our churches seem to be at times. The rich man in today’s gospel held so tightly to his stuff that his stuff had completely taken over who he was or would ever be. He couldn’t let go in order to simply receive what Jesus was offering.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, take note of what Jesus does in verse 21 of today’s gospel reading. Even though the rich man can’t let go of his stuff, Jesus looks at him and loves him. Jesus wasn’t adding to his burdens or wealth or possessions, he was offering him a loving and gracious invitation to begin life.

What’s possessing you today? Your wealth? Your job? The stuff in your garage? Needing to feel like you are in control of everything that happens? Jesus doesn’t want you to add more things to your life that burden and possess you. He simply wants you and everything that makes you, you – including the things that keep you from God, in order for you to live. And you know what – Jesus looks at you too. And loves you, simply for being you. Amen.