Sunday, April 5, 2015

Easter Sunday

"You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified."

With these words, (the gospel from the Easter Vigil) the young man dressed in white addressed the women at the tomb and announced that the fundamental structure of the world has changed, that sin didn't have the last word, that death couldn't hold the Spotless Lamb of God. But he also addresses each of us. Jesus of Nazareth doesn't belong to the realm of the dead, the tomb doesn't own him anymore. Jesus of Nazareth isn't a doesn't figure from an ancient past. He is alive, to you and me, right now, because of Easter Sunday.

"He has been raised; he is not here."

With these words, every hope that had been destroyed three days prior is now restored, and not just restored, but multiplied a hundredfold. If Christ is risen, if the tomb is empty, then everything he predicted about his suffering and death, and therefore his resurrection, is true. And if everything he said about his resurrection is true, then maybe everything else he said is true too. Maybe my sins really are forgiven. Maybe there really is a place prepared for me in Paradise. Maybe there is hope. Just maybe.

Place yourself in the scene. The apostles on the morning of the resurrection were bewildered and confused, and as their snuffed-out hope was rekindled, their thoughts and prayers as they walked away from the empty tomb seemed to center around that thought. Maybe there is hope.

But then, later in the day when Jesus himself appeared to them, hope wasn't just restored, but a new kind of hope was born. Once we had seen the Risen Lord, then hope was born that death doesn't have the last say anymore. Jesus Christ, the eternal Word spoken by the Father, has risen from the grave, and he forbids death, that ancient foe, from troubling beloved humanity any longer.

When Jesus rose from death, the world was re-created. No longer is it a world where the natural progression is from good to bad, from life to death, but now it's a progression from good to glorious. Jesus has paid the debt so that after this earthly life we have a place prepared for us in Paradise.

This all happened simply out of love. You didn't deserve it, but the most Holy Trinity, Love itself, thought you were worth loving, and so Jesus came on a mission of love simply to reconcile you to his Father. Love requires the forgiveness of past transgressions. Love requires reconciliation.

On this day above all others, Jesus says, "Come, I love you, come share the life I won for you. Come, step out of the old life of sin into the new life of grace." So what is our job on this day? Our job is simply to say yes. When Jesus extends to us this offer of a new joy and a new life, our role is simply to say yes. Our role in this new covenant is to accept the grace offered, and then become a conduit of that grace into the world. The love that is at the heart of Easter Sunday we must spread into the whole world.

Easter highlights for us our absolute need for a savior. Because if we had been killed for our sins, if we had taken on the guilt of our own sins, we would have stayed dead. But when Jesus took on the weight of our sins and died, death couldn't hold him. He rose from death as the first fruits of a new and glorious creation.

So now we live in a new and permanent Easter Sunday, and Paul offers the best instruction on what we do with this: "If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth." There are indeed joys in this world, but every joy that this world can offer ultimately points to the true joy offered in Jesus, and every joy of this world pails in comparison to the joy offered in Jesus. So today we celebrate. No matter what our sins are, they are no match for Jesus's resurrection. Because his resurrection wipes out our sinfulness, we celebrate. So we think of what is above, we celebrate what is above.

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