Sunday, April 16, 2017

Just the way things were. . .

Sermon preached for Easter First Service on Sunday, April 16, 2017.

You get back from vacation and you want things to go back to normal. You recover from illness and you hope that things will go back to the way they were. You suffer a death in your family, and you long for the days as they were, the old ways, the normal that now seems so wonderful in retrospect. So, when Mary Magdalene finally recognized Jesus, it is no wonder they she was hoping things would finally go back to the way they
But that was not to be. Jesus pushed her away when she sought to touch Him. It was not that Jesus was untouchable.  Thomas and the rest of the disciples would touch His wounds.  No, it was what was behind the touch that caused Jesus to push away blessed Mary. She was happy to have Jesus back. She was looking not to the future, but for a restoration of yesterday.

We can be exactly the same way. We expect from God a return to what was, more than the gift of what was not. We dream of heaven in ways that look a lot like what we do today. We define our heavenly lives in earthly terms. But there is a danger in this. Jesus has not some to restore our past but to deliver us a new future - one in which sin no longer holds us captive and death no longer threatens us.

Today we come to meet that new future. Before we can begin to embrace this new future, our Lord has to push aside all our narrow expectations shaped more by our yesterdays than His tomorrow. And key to all of this is our baptism into the new life of our Risen Savior.

Long ago the Israelites passed through the Red Sea under the mighty intervention of God. Yet they had to wait for those who remembered Egypt and thought maybe it was not so bad after all. Before they could enter the new land, God has to disavow all memory of their yesterday. God was not giving them back a past but giving them a future

So it is for us in our passage through the waters of baptism. We are tempted to believe it is the same old life but only better.  Nothing could be future from the truth. God has not rescued us in Christ to restore to us the old ways of sin, doubt, and fear.

No, God has delivered to us a new future, a new life, and a new destiny that we might no longer live as the sinful comfortable in our sins but as the redeemed who love holiness and righteousness.
God has given us the new life in which we no longer live in terror of God but we know the fulness of His heart in the mercy shown to us on the cross. In this new life God wants us as uncomfortable with the old ways of sin and its death as He is. Think about that. God wants us as uncomfortable with death as He is. He has given us not a rescue and a return but redemption and a bold new future. We do not belong to the past alone, we belong to the future God has prepared for those who love Him.
We may be tempted to think of the resurrection as a restoration of what was, but Jesus points us to something far grander. We died in Christ in our baptism so that death can no longer claim us. It surrender's its power and becomes merely a door to the new flesh and blood and eternal life Christ has prepared for us. Sin must also surrender its power to forgiveness and to the Holy Spirit who lives in us. The Spirit teaches us to love the Law that once could only accuse us, and to walk in its ways where once we could only sin.

Today is the dawn not of a return but of a future, a whole new future for you and for me. On Easter, we do not watch what happens to Jesus. We stand at the door of our own future, all wrapped up in His death and resurrection, a new and eternal dwelling place that death cannot steal, and a life without any of the weakness of this mortal life.

The worst things we can do on Easter is to settle for less than God desires to give. That was Mary's desire and Jesus would have none of it. Let us have none of it also. All of Easter and its new life and nothing else. Christ is Risen!

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