Sermon for Easter Sunday April 17, 2022

“He is Risen Indeed!”

Luke 24:1-12

 

    That great and committed preacher within British Methodism W.E. Sangster found that he had an incurable disease that caused progressive muscular atrophy. In his time he was a great speaker capable of keeping the attention of thousands, but his illness soon rendered him without a voice. On Easter morning just a few weeks before his death, he wrote to his daughter, “It is terrible to wake up on Easter morning and have no voice with which to shout –“He is Risen!–but it would be still more terrible to have a voice and not want to shout.”

W.E. Sangster understood the faith of Easter. It is about proclaiming the very real resurrection of Jesus from the empty tomb and within our own hearts this very day. So let us not keep silent. Let us lift up our voices loudly in song, and celebrate as a people who has indeed been set free to know God better and walk with the promise of eternal life.

I say: He is risen! (You say: “He is risen Indeed”) Such is the ancient affirmation of faith within the early Christian church. Do you believe it? The disciples heard reports of angels, and appearances of the risen Jesus from the women and others. They were given a message as to what they were to do next. They witnessed the empty tomb, and the Bible tells us that it all seemed like nonsense to them. They wandered away from the empty tomb wondering what it all meant.

If someone tells you of a resurrection, the natural human response is to doubt it. That is what the disciples did, and yet the proof of Jesus resurrected life and his presence eventually came to them in such a way, that they could doubt no more. Not only that, but as they shared their experiences and convictions with others, even those who were not Jewish, heard them without doubting and believed. The risen savior that they met following the crucifixion, became as real to others as he was to them. They would meet and say: He is Risen! (He is risen indeed!)

As it is often said the greatest proof of the resurrection of Christ is that he is alive in my heart. When we believe we receive faith, and faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1) Faith is not wishful thinking and fantasy. It is not simply believing without fact, but it is the God given knowledge that something is true, and the evidence that that truth is effective for others and oneself. Millions have come to believe in Jesus as the life and the resurrection, and in countless ways this truth has been affirmed in the lives of many. Easter is the celebration of God’s truth found within us, that indeed Jesus did not die, but he is alive, and the tomb is empty.

    This proclamation of faith is most important for our world today, because in so many ways our world is struggling against issues and events; many of which are unlike anything we have ever seen, and only the grace of the risen Christ can make a difference. What was it that carried the Disciples from the fear of death after seeing Jesus crucified to the hope of faith? What was it that moved them form the confusion of an empty tomb to the certain proclamation of eternal life? The scripture record in the days ahead that the hearts of 1000’s of people came to believe in the message of forgiveness and life in Jesus’ name. What made the difference? Only one thing changed their world and changed their lives and energized them toward action. They realized the truth that Jesus was not dead, but “He is risen!” He is Risen indeed! That is what moved them from fear to faith; from inaction to action, from despair to hope.

    Life has not changed. We too need the risen Christ within our lives. Consider our world. Today can be as fear filled and worrisome now as it was then. The forces that rule over our lives are as vexing as ever.

    As a country the political divide seems deeper than ever. Ketanji Brown Jackson was nominated to be on the Supreme Court and like most votes the break down took on partisan outcome split between the parties. Can’t people in congress just vote their own conscious. I find it hard to believe that everyone in each party thinks identically about every issue. What can save us from the group mentality of a bunch of lemmings heading for a cliff? Maybe we need a greater focus for the truths we live by. Maybe we need to be a people with our hearts and eyes fixed upon God above rather than a political party below.

If you study the Psalms you find an abundance of place where you may read such things as:

27 All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, 28 for dominion belongs to the LORD and he rules over the nations.

Or

10 The LORD foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. 11 But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations. 12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he chose for his inheritance.

    Truly there are too many places in the Psalms for me to review all the times the scriptures remind us of who is truly in charge. God is the one with the plan, and God has installed his chosen one as king of kings and Lord of Lords, and I know that He is risen! He is risen Indeed! It is God that delivers and grants us a greater vision and wisdom of our earthly reality. This is what we must rely upon.

    Economically inflation is rising. Gas and food prices are up. We are spending billions of dollars for the war in Ukraine –trying to balance the need to counter Russia’s evil with the necessity of not starting a WW III which would be even more devasting. At home the housing market is thin and prices are beyond the reach of many. Worldwide COVID is still a serious problem within our world. Should I fear what tomorrow may hold? Do you ever wonder if there is hope for the world or our nation in the generations to come? We have reasons to fear, but faith informs us that no matter what God is still in control even if the earth trembles and oceans should wash over us. We are still in the hands of a merciful and loving God. Whether we rise or fall in this life, there is a greater glory and greater kingdom that we are a part of and called to serve. And we know this to be true because “He has risen! He is risen indeed!”

    We are not alone and Jesus once told us 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? …. 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. As there is faith in the God that created us, there is hope within tomorrow.

    Or what about global warming. According to scientist today, we have gathered data of the Earth’s temperature and carbon dioxide levels that takes us back nearly 365,000 years. This is done by studying core samples from the ice sheets of Antarctica. What scientist have found is that in all that time there has never been a period where the carbon dioxide levels were as high as they are now. In fact, if the current trend continues the levels are going to be way off the chart. Accompanying this rise in the CO2 levels will be a rise in the temperature of our environment, and along with it swings in temperature that are more sever. In other words, the world does not just get hot, but it will also be severely or unusually cold at times. How much will it take before it becomes hard to grow enough food for everyone to eat? We should be concerned about global warming. Will we survive? From where does our help come from? Now personally I am a bit of an optimist. I think the world will be around for a long time, because I don’t think God is in a hurry to end creation. The dinosaurs lasted for 100’s of millions of years, and I am not sure why we should not be suited to do better. I think humanity will find the answers that we need; perhaps, with divine guidance on someone’s part. Times will change and as a people we will adapt, and eventually find the right way to live. But even if the world should end, and as the Bible says when “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.” What comes next is the return of Christ “Coming in great clouds of power and glory.” And Jesus said that in that day, “he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.” In that time we will meet him in the air and be with him forever. If the world ends, I shall not fear, but rejoice, because He is risen. He is risen indeed.

    Finally let us consider the religious attitude of world today. Do people celebrate the real truth of Easter today? Often there is the push to secularize the message or replace the truth of why we Easter is important. Easter is to be seen as a Spring Festival and the celebration of new life as the trees begin to bloom and the cycle of nature once again comes around. There is an atheistic or agnostic, if not pagan, interpretation that is being pushed to set aside the Christian message. Now people are free to ignore religious celebrations if they wish, but we should beware of how our world avoids the issue these days. Often schools no longer are a place where Easter is celebrated. Easter break is called spring break, and sometimes offset from the Easter season. Or one of my favorites, Malls have picture taking time with the “Bunny,” but they don’t call it the Easter Bunny. It is like some bad cartoon where the evil twin bunny called just “Da Bunny” kidnaps the Easter Bunny and tries to take over Easter. It would be comical if not for the fact that it suggest the sad truth that people as a whole are falling away from the church and a religious understanding of life.

    And then we hear of an increase in younger people taking their own lives during these times or resorting to taking guns to school. Well, you know what times are always difficult in some way, but there is a difference between the days when God and church were more central to life and now when I think too often people have forgotten that they have a friend in higher places. Young people should not loose hope so easily because “He is risen.” He risen indeed. There is no problem that God can not turn for the better through faith and persistence. There is always the hope for a better day and even in the worst of times God will find a way to bring a blessing upon you and others. The trick is to know that life has a purpose and God really does have an answer. They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.

    Have courage people of God. You belong to the one who lives and gives all eternal life who turn to him. We are the branches, and he is the vine. We are the body of Christ, and he is the head. We are waiting our inheritance as children of God and he is the first born of creation. We need not worry but rather live in faith and remember in all things that He is risen.
He is risen indeed!

    We are more than conquerors in him who loved us. Easter, the resurrection of Jesus, celebrates God’s sustaining love in the midst of the difficulties and fears of this life; where ever those fears may be. What a difference it made for the disciples and what a difference it should make for us. Easter is not just for one day of the year, but everyday we must proclaim the name that has the power to change us and give us life for all time. Have no doubts. Have no fear, but know and believe. Have faith. He is risen. He is risen indeed.
He is risen indeed. Amen.

 

    


 

Published by Rev. Russell

Pastor at the Lake City United Methodist Church in Lake City, Michigan.

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