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Friday, April 2, 2010

Alleuia and Joy!!

The Rev’d Stephen E. Stults
St. Barnabas Anglican Church
Easter Sunday, April 4, 2010
Alleuia and Hope!
Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be alway acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. Amen.

Alleluia! The Lord is risen! The Lord is risen indeed, alleluia!

This ancient Easter greeting reminds us why we are Christians. Today is the penultimate feast of the Christian year. It is the most marvelous, most stupendous and most glorious day for the entire Christian year. The Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is the feast of feasts, the day of days for us. Today we celebrate Christ’s victory over death, sin and the grave. It is the most marvelous event because today we celebrate freedom from the greatest fear of man, the fear of non-being, the fear of death, the fear of the unknown. Very simply, the Easter message is this: as Christ is victor over the grave, so are we victorious over fear, over uncertainty, and over doubt, for we Christians know where we are going with courage, with sureness and with faith.

We want you to be excited about that. While we Anglicans are not known for the “excitement factor” in our services, I, for one, am glad of that. Here’s why. Earthly excitement is transitory and instantaneous. It tends to leave one wanting more and better, more and higher. It is illusory. On the other hand, the excitement one feels in one’s soul over the resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is durable, peaceful, and satisfying.
Actually, the use of the word “excitement” in connection to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is in faulty. Excitement means the arousal of a emotional response, a momentary flaring up of the emotions.
While we admit that we are excited by Easter, that we definitely feel a “lift” in our inner selves, we will submit that is due to a elevation of the spirit, not just of an excitation of the emotions.

Yes, there is no doubt about it. We pray that all of us regard Easter as a special day and that our spirits and souls are elated with buoyant joy. Note however, that I use the word “joy” not necessarily “excitement.” Something deep down in my being tells me today that all is well with my soul. It is a quiet, yet vibrant realization that, despite all the various vicissitudes of life, all is well. Furthermore, it is well, today and tomorrow. It is well forever.

That’s why we want you to get excited about this Easter Season. Not in a hand-waving, “happy-clappy” sort of way, but rather in a solid, wonderful knowledge of our salvation. We can be this way because we actually share in Christ’s Resurrection over death, fear, and the grave.

How can we have such a bold assertion? How can we affirm confidently that we share in the most momentous event of all time, Christ’s resurrection? Consider the following texts from the Word of God that clearly delineate this love and our eternal destination:

KJG John 11:25: “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:”

KJG John 14:2: “In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, 1, I would have told you. I go to 2 prepare a place for you.”

KJG John 3:16 : “ For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth 2 in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

KJG Matthew 20:28: “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

Let these verses resonate in your soul.

On Maundy Thursday, our Lord instituted the Holy Eucharist, where we both remember and our Lord’s death and are fed sacramentally with Him each time we participate in the Eucharist. On Good Friday, Our Lord offered himself as the “one, perfect and sufficient sacrifice” for us. On Holy Saturday, our Lord’s body rested in the sepulcher. Today, Easter, our Lord rose from the dead and opened unto us the gates of larger life.

Today we celebrate our victory with Christ. St. Paul tells us that those of us who have been baptized into his death also share in His resurrection. Today is that day. As Jesus told his disciples on Maundy t: “KJG John 16:20 Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.” Today is that day. Today is the day that we have joy like no other, for we know that our Lord liveth and maketh intercession for us.

In the glorious words of Job, chapter 19: “25 For I know that my 1 redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: 26 And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet 1 in my flesh shall I see God.” In the notes to the Geneva Bible, it states: “In this Job declares plainly that he had a full hope, that both the soul and body would enjoy the presence of God in the last resurrection.”

We as Christians know this to be true. As Christ is, so shall we be. Christ, coming to take our manhood upon Him, tasted death for every man, so that we would not have to experience the chilling isolation He experienced on the Cross. Christ, our Captain of salvation, did this for us. Today, we celebrate that fact.
Our Gospel tells us of this fact. Early in the morning, Mary Magdalene came to the sepulcher, perhaps to mourn for Christ, or as other Gospel accounts say, to anoint the body of Christ. Expecting to find the tomb sealed, she finds it open. Immediately, she thinks that Christ has been removed and runs to tell the other disciples. Peter and John, “the other disciple”, run to the tomb. John, being a teenager, outruns the middle-aged Peter. He comes to the tomb, sees the linen grave wrappings, but does not go in. He hesitates. When Peter arrives, bold, strong, brash Peter, he rushes into the tomb. He sees the clothes and amazingly, the head napkin, neatly wrapped and lying by itself.
This is not a scene of confusion, as if some grave robber stole the body. It is a purposeful, designed situation where our Lord arose from the dead, neatly wrapped the cloth that was around His head, and went out.

This passage of Scripture is so instructive, as is all of Holy Writ. It illustrates two approached to the Christian faith, one symbolized by John, the other by Peter. Some people, like John, come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ gradually. They, in effect, look in the tomb to see if they should go in. Eventually, through preaching or fellowship, or the example of others, they make the commitment to believe in Jesus Christ. John, hesitated, then, seeing the example of Peter, came in and believed. Their faith grows over time, being nurtured by the Church and sacrament.

Others, like Peter, burst in to the faith. They are impetuous, or spiritually needy, that they receive an explosion of grace into their lives, taking it greedily with both hands. This is OK too.

The point is, however one comes to the faith of Jesus Christ, it is vital that we all see the empty tomb and believe. This is the fundamental, bedrock truth of Christianity: we have a Lord who came for us, lived with us, died for us, and rose again to new and everlasting life. As he is, so shall we be.

Yet, some Christians look in the tomb, looking for a dead Jesus. That is, they look in the tomb to see if their faith is alive. For some, the answer is mixed. St. Paul talks of this in 1 Cor. 15, where he speaks of those who doubted the resurrection: “13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. 14 And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. 15 Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up -- if in fact the dead do not rise. 16 For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. 17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! 18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.”

If this were the end of the story, we would have to agree. We would be he most pitiful of people. But, the Apostle continues: “20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.” This is the truth of this Easter. This is what we celebrate today. This is our faith, our hope, and our joy. Alleuia and alleluia! He is Risen!

John 20:8 “Then entered in therefore the other disciple also, who came first to the tomb, and he saw, and believed.”