Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sermon for 24 April 2011, The Resurrection of Our Lord: Easter Day

The Rev. Paul J Cain
Matthew 28:1-10
What’s Next?
The Resurrection of Our Lord: Easter Day, 24 April 2011
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

In the Name of the Father and of the T Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
The date of Easter is really unique this year. Observing Easter on April 24, means celebrating three weeks later than 2010 and a month later than three years ago. Easter Day cannot be earlier than March 22 or later than April 25. The next time Easter will be as late as it can be is in 2038. When we observed Easter on March 23, 2008 it was only one day later than the earliest it can ever be in Western churches (March 22nd). That hadn’t happened since 1913 and won’t happen again until 2160.  (It's doubtful any Western Christians [alive today] will still be around to celebrate Easter again on March 23.) Even more remarkable, no one alive today has ever, or ever will celebrate Easter earlier than March 23. The last time Easter fell on March 22 was in 1818, and the next time will be in 2285. http://christianity.about.com/od/easter/qt/easter08trivia.htm
But those details are not the most remarkable thing about Easter. This Easter morn we celebrate the very first Easter morn. On that day, nearly two thousand years ago, something exceptionally unique happened: Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Like the virgin birth of Jesus, His Resurrection from the dead only happened once. They are not repeatable, but we shall celebrate Christmas and Easter forever! Jesus’ physical, human body was given the breath of life once more. Sin lost its power over humanity. Death lost its sting. And the devil was reduced to an annoying, snarling, barking dog on a tight leash. He is defeated and under control—unless someone decides to get into his cage with him.
Unlike our annual celebration of Easter and the movable dates for its celebration, The Resurrection of our Lord took place once and only once. You didn’t come here to hear about bunnies and eggs—not even those delicious chocolate bunnies and crème-filled eggs. We are gathered here by the Lord Himself around His gifts because of Jesus. And so we hear of Him. Good Friday was three days ago, according to the ancient Jewish way of explaining time. Back then Jesus’ disciples where asking, What’s next? Now we know.

1Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. 5But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” 8So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. 10Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”
And so they did. They believed what the angels proclaimed. And it came to pass! Open up your New Testament this week to the very end of the Gospel according to Matthew. What you heard this morning is fulfilled there. The disciples saw Jesus in Galilee. Some worshiped Him. Others still doubted. Can you imagine? Yet our Lord gave them a great commission to make disciples by means of baptizing and by teaching. A new disciple was washed in the blood of the lamb this very Easter morning. Again we go and tell. And we look for those who have not yet been told, those who have not yet been baptized.
You are not your own. You were bought with a price. That price was not paid in gold or silver but with the holy, precious blood and the innocent suffering and death of Christ our Lord. You are His. Are we really His disciples if we refuse (even for a time) to follow Him? Have you ever dreamed of having the joys of Christianity without the cost of discipleship? Our Lord died and rose for those sins, too. He purchased and won you from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil…that you may live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness. You are His. And He has need of you—body and soul. What we think we own is merely entrusted to us for a time. We are actually stewards, custodians, and caretakers.
Consider everything you have in this world—everything and everyone that is important to you. Who and what will accompany you to heaven? What can you take with you? The Lord would answer: not much. Cars wear out. Money evaporates. Wood rots or is eaten by termites. Blacktop crumbles. Metal rusts. Electronics have a short life. What endures forever? The Word of the Lord. What else? The Lord’s love for you in Christ and that love reflected through you to others. Anything else? The fellow Christians you know in this life, knew in this life, and those you read about in history and in Scripture. What endures forever? These things: God’s Word, God’s Love, and God’s people.
When we ask the question, “What’s next?” we run to the Lord’s Word for answers we know to be true and sure. Therefore, the Lord calls you to use the things of this world that will pass away to reach those who do not know Christ, do not know of Him accurately according to the Bible, and those who do not follow or love Him. Our Lord does not desire eternal death for sinners, but that they should repent, believe in Christ, and live with Him and us together forever. That is the hope of all those baptized in water according to Jesus’ Word and will. As a response to the gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation, we are given to respond to the Lord by making the Lord’s priorities our own.
You are not alone. These are things we have been given to do together. The Lord has gathered us together as His congregation for His purposes. The Law is proclaimed to those who don’t think they’ve done anything wrong. The Gospel is proclaimed to troubled sinners. The Gift of salvation is preached for your comfort and to remind you that it is not earned or deserved. While good works may not be necessary for salvation, good works are still necessary because people in this world need our help. They need physical gifts and the gifts that endure forever—spiritual ones. Together we are given to care for one another’s needs as the Lord provides us with the means to do just that. Today is Easter. What’s next? Monday. I pray that it will be a Monday, an Easter Monday that still remembers Easter Sunday.
We are a baptized people given to celebrate all that Jesus is and all that Jesus does. Every Sunday in a place like this, we celebrate the Lord coming among us—a little Christmas—and we celebrate the new life He gives—a little Easter, too!
At Easter Sunrise we heard the song of praise by the people of Israel after the Lord brought them on dry land through the Red Sea, Exodus 14 and 15. The Lord rescued His people from the oppressive Pharaoh by His servant, through water, and led them to the Promised Land. This morning is no different. The Lord still rescues His people. He rescued you from Pharaoh Satan by His servant Jesus through the waters of Holy Baptism and has prepared you for the Promised Land of Heaven. That is what’s next. You are not there yet. And so He urges you to stay close to His Word and His gifts while you journey through the wilderness of this life.
The Church continues to sing renewed Alleluias! This summer, we will sing it this way in Divine Service, Setting Four, page 205:
C       Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
C       These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.
C       Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

Alleluia! Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! Amen.
In the Name of the Father and of the T Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Divine Service, Setting Four from Lutheran Service Book
Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Created by Lutheran Service Builder © 2006 Concordia Publishing House.