April 16, 2017
St. Peter the Apostle Anglican Church, Kingsport, TN
Text: Colossians 3:1-4
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be always acceptable in thy sight, O Lord my strength and my redeemer. Amen
There is a wonderful traditional Christian Greeting for Easter Morning that perhaps you are familiar with. One Christian will greet another and say: Alleluia! Christ is Risen! To which those he has greeted respond, Alleluia, He is risen indeed! So, this morning, I invite you to join me with in this beautiful tradition:
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
Alleluia, He is risen indeed!
As Christians, we share in the surety of the great hope of Christ’s resurrection. In our Gospel lesson, we are left with a mystery. Mary, Peter, and John that is the Apostle whom Jesus loved, frantically run to the tomb where they find it empty. They do not know what has happened to their friend’s body and our lesson ends with them going home, scratching their heads thinking “well, that is odd, who stole our dear friend’s body?” The thoughts that someone had done something wicked to him or moved Him for reasons beyond their comprehension raced through their mind. It is likely that they were angry, or hurt, or sad. If we were in their places we would have surely felt disoriented and a deep pain of not knowing what had happened.
But we have the privilege of knowing how this story ends. We have the clarity to proclaim this day and every day that Christ is risen! It is through his blood that we know the gates of Heaven are open, and it is through his resurrection that we are confident that we will share in His resurrection.
The epistle lesson reminds us that we have been raised with Christ. This is the truth that our hope rests in. We need to remember that in the fall Adam and Eve chose death, not only for themselves but all their descendants, that is for all of humanity. We learn from scripture that when sin afflicted humanity, it afflicted all of creation. This sin separated all of humanity from God and corrupted all of creation. Therefore, our bodies inevitably fail and fall apart and creation aches and groans a tarnished glimpse of what it was.
A deeper tragedy than our physical death is our spiritual death; before we met Christ, we were dead in our sins; the fall of Adam and Eve led all of humanity to face inevitable physical and spiritual death.
Today as we celebrate his resurrection and we reminded of the life to come; we are reminded of the great hope that is found in this promise for all faithful people on the great last day.
It is on that great last day that our bodies will be resurrected, not as they are now — tainted and tarnished by sins, but perfected. We know that the bodies we have now will eventually fail us. We ache when we wake up, we look in the mirror and feel bad about appearance, we are tempted towards those things we know lead to our own destruction. When the great last day comes, we will have no more pain, no more sorrow, no more will we want to tempted by sin. But the promises of Christ are not only for the end of times but we know that in the present time we are a new creation in Christ, our souls are being renewed, and we are drawing closer to God. The resurrection promise of Christ is that we have been saved, that is on the day of our conversion to Christ our sins were washed away. That we are being saved, that is through the process of sanctification our lives are being perfected. Finally, that we will be saved, on that great last day we will be judged innocent not by our merits but by the grace of Christ.
When Christ calls us to share in His resurrection we do not continue as we were, but rather repent, believe and learn to dwell in the Holy Spirit. It is easy to confess God with our voice and not let our hearts and minds be transformed by Him. It is easy to say, “Christ is God, our Lord, and Savior.” But it is a better thing to enjoy the new life in Christ that commands more than a simple acclamation. Christ died and was raised again that our hearts, minds, and souls might be transformed. He died that we might be fully given to the things of above.
The Epistle reminds us to Set (our) affection on things above, not on things on the earth. The world can affect us in two different ways because although it was not created corrupt, in the fall corruption has lead for it to become tarnished and perverted. Sin and the way of the world cause us to lose our focus and hamper our walk with God; the cares of the world cause us to stumble and stutter along the way. They tell us that damnable lie that there is a greater glory than the glory of God.
Then there are the holy mysteries of the world that point us back to God. The beauty of His creation, the Holy Sacraments, the healthy love of a family, and the word of God are a few of these mysteries. They act to remind us of a greater beauty, a greater communion, and a greater love. We must be on guard for though these are good, they can distract us from our walk with God if we do not view them as gifts from our Father. Too many worship beauty instead of letting it point them to their creator, we can prioritize our family over submitting ourselves to the will of God. A right ordering of our priorities teaches us to treasure them not as our precious possessions, but are precious gifts from God. When we have a right view of the world, all good things will point us back to Christ, and the sin we experience and see reminds of our need for Him. On Easter Sunday, we are reminded how temporary today is and we look forward to the day when we dwell perfectly with God, and all will be made right.
We are called throughout scripture to die to ourselves and to be resurrected with Christ. One of my favorite examples of establishing this idea as a Christian habit are the monks of old who when laying down to sleep each night would remind themselves to die to their sins. The next day when they awoke, they reminded themselves that they are risen in Christ. Their nightly prayers were a mini-funeral and each morning was a new celebration of the resurrection.
The daily offices in our prayer book are similar. Each morning and night we are called to repentance for the sins that we have committed in the time between. For some, this might feel too burdensome, but it is a reminder not only of our sinful nature but to repent, to run back to our heavenly Father who waits for us at the gate and comes running to us when we come home. It is a reminder for each little repentance we are greatly forgiven.
Our epistle this morning reminds us that we are buried with Christ, not in a morbid way, but that we might have new life In Him.
When Christ was crucified all our sins were tact upon His cross, and in his blood, we are made clean from the stains of our sins. We are reminded of the saints in the book of Revelation who are as white as snow because His blood is poured out upon them.
It is in dying to ourselves that we are raised to true life, and we can see that the fullness of the things to come in the dim mirrors in the beauty of God’s creation, in the love we experience now, in the life of the church, and in the blessed sacraments. We hope in Christ’s resurrection not as a new aged hope of self-fulfillment, not in a false prosperity hope of your best life now, but as a call to life, a call to dwell securely in the glory of God and to glorify Him in all we do.
The epistle lesson ends with the statement: “when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.”
The Easter promise ultimately points to the Apocalyptic vision, that is the vision that scripture attests to and that which we boldly proclaim: at the end of days Christ will come again and for the Christian, that day will be a day of glory.
Jesus Christ’s incarnation and birth to the Virgin Mary was a humble coming into the world, when he comes again his glory will be seen by all and every knee shall bow. There will be no doubt as to what is happening. In that last great day, we will share in His resurrection and in his glory not by our own merit, but by his merit given to us.
Easter is a time of great joy, a time of looking back with joy at what Christ has done for us, delighting in what he is doing in us through the Holy Spirit, and looking forward to what he will do for us in the last great day.
Perhaps you’ve come here today, and you’re exhausted, you’re worn thin from the race you’ve been running. Perhaps you feel like you’ve been fighting the good fight for too long. Perhaps you can’t see the path in woods, and feel as though you’re no longer walking with Christ. You may share in the disciples’ confusion or anger or sorrow. But take heart dear friends, unlike the disciples on that first new morning we know how the story ends. We know that Christ is risen! We know that Christ will come again in glory! And we know that we will share in that glory! And isn’t that a joy-filled thing?
It is with that promise in mind that we can boldly and joyfully proclaim with all Christ’s Church:
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
Alleluia! He is risen indeed!
In the name of the father and the son and the holy ghost. Amen