Sermon for Easter (B) preached on at 9 am & 10:45 am on Sunday, April 1, 2018, by the Rev. Daniel M. Ulrich
Christ is risen! … He’s risen indeed! ... Alleluia!
Words are powerful. They can make us feel loved and secure, or they can hurt us and make us feel unsafe. The right words spoken by the right person can influence us to do things we normally wouldn’t do. We recognize the power of words early on in life, and we try to fight against it. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” We recite this school-yard saying to convince ourselves that we’re more powerful than words. We assert our dominance over words by changing them, redefining them to fit the ideals we want. Over time we’ve begun to believe that all words are weak, even God’s Word. We’ve convinced ourselves that we can change it however we see fit, but the truth is God’s Word is all powerful and never changing. Instead, it changes us. It brings us from death to life!
In our politically correct postmodern world we’ve tried to strip all words of their power. There are limits to what we can and can’t say. Colleges publish writing manuals to instruct students on forbidden words. Speakers are prevented from speaking because their words are offensive to some. We’ve redefined marriage so that everyone can live out their sexual desires. We debate what it means to have life so that we can kill off those we don’t want, from the young in the womb to the elderly in their beds.
We look at words simply as letters on a page or sounds that come out of our mouths that we get to add meaning to, and we get to change that meaning whenever we want. If we don’t like a word, we ignore it or change it. We even do this to God’s Word.
When we come across something we don’t like or we don’t understand in Scripture, we change it. “God spoke everything into existence in just 6 days! That’s unbelievable. Let’s redefine day to mean thousands and thousands of years. And instead of God creating, it was evolution.” “God ordained marriage between 1 man and 1 woman until death parts them. No, that doesn’t sound good. Marriage is for any two people and only as long as they want to be married.” “Baptism saves you. That’s not right. It’s just water and a sign of my decision to accept Jesus as my Savior. And there’s no way the bread and wine are Christ’s body and blood, even if that’s what Jesus said.” When we say and think things like this, when we ignore God’s Words and commands, acting as if they don’t matter, we claim to be more powerful than God and His Word. But God’s Word is all powerful. It never changes and we can’t change it no matter how much we want to.
Our desire to change God’s Word, to assert our dominance over it, is a product of sin. This was the first sin. God told Adam that if he and Eve ate the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil that they would die. But Adam and Eve decided that wasn’t right. They listened to the devil’s lies instead and they ate the fruit. With this sin, with this changing and ignoring of God’s Word, our first parents brought death into the world. Our sin brings death upon us. This is God’s Word and it can’t be changed. The wages of sin is death. … But God’s Word doesn’t stop there. He continues to speak the Word that overcomes death, the Word of Jesus Christ.
Jesus, the Son of God, is the Word incarnate. Christ was born on Christmas day so that He could die on Good Friday, so that He could die your death upon the cross, so that through His death you could be forgiven. This is the message of God’s Word. This is the message of all of Scripture. Jesus Christ died for you and He rose on Easter for your life. This is a powerful Word and through it God gives you the life Christ won with His resurrection.
It’s interesting what the angel at the tomb told the women to do. He said, “Go, tell [Jesus’] disciples that he is going before [them] to Galilee” (Mk 16:7). The angel didn’t tell the women to go and bring the disciples back to the tomb so they could see that Jesus was risen. No, he told them to speak the word of Christ’s resurrection. This is the same message that Paul spoke. He preached God’s Word. He spoke first and foremost the Word of Jesus dying for our sins and rising from the dead. This is the Good News. This is the Gospel, and it’s proclaimed here today and every Sunday.
The Word of Christ crucified and risen is central to our faith and worship. We confess it in the Church’s creeds. It’s there in our liturgy, in what we say and do. It’s in our hymns and songs. It’s there in our prayers. And it’s present in God’s Sacraments: in the waters of Baptism, in the Confession and Absolution, in the bread and wine that are Christ’s body and blood. God speaks His all-powerful Word to you here, and through it, He brings you to life.
The very Word that proclaims Christ’s death and resurrection is also the very Word that overcomes death and gives you life. Because Christ was raised from the dead, you receive everlasting life. The death of your sin is swallowed up. It’s powerless against Christ and His Word. Being baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection, receiving with faith the message of Him crucified and raised for your salvation, eating and drinking the body and blood of your Lord in His supper, you are brought to life. You receive the forgiveness of sins and everlasting life and salvation.
The Good News, the Gospel, the Word of God, the message of Jesus dying for your sin and rising for your salvation is the most powerful and most important word ever spoken. This Word is the very Word we hear today, and we continue to hear it every Sunday. This Word overcomes death. This Word brings you to life in Christ. It gives you the very forgiveness and life that He won on the cross. Praise God for this Word and praise God for the life we’ve received through it. Christ is risen! ... He’s risen indeed! ... Alleluia!