Sermon for Easter Sunrise, preached by the Rev. Daniel M. Ulrich on the Resurrection of Our Lord on Sunday, April 21, 2019.
Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
It’s still pretty early in the morning for most of us...so, why did you get up this early? Why, instead of sleeping in and coming to one of the later Easter Services, did you get up, probably before the sun? Mary Magdalene rose before the sun to go to Christ’s tomb, to finish the rush burial job that was started on Friday. She got up to mourn the death of the Lord. But that’s not you got up early. We didn’t rise early today to mourn, but to rejoice and praise the One who rose from the dead so that we might also rise and have everlasting life!
We’re a people who are very familiar with death. Death is all around us. Everywhere we look, there it is, before our eyes. It’s on our TVs in our movies and shows, even in the commercials for this medicine or that drug. Every night there’s a report on the news about death in our town and in our world; death from accidents and death from wars. We construct buildings in our cities to deal with death and dying: doctors’ offices and nursing homes. In every community, the hospital is one of the largest, if not the largest, building in town. We see death on a daily basis, and because of that, we begin to think that death is a natural thing, that it’s just part of the circle of life.
But if death were natural, if it were normal, then why do we try to stop it? Why do we go to the doctors when we’re ill? Why do we donate money to organizations who are trying to find a cure for cancer? Why does it hurt so much to mourn the death of loved ones? If death was a natural part of life, all of this would be contradictory. But death isn’t a natural part of life. Death is foreign to life. It’s the complete opposite of life.
When God the Father created all things; when He breathed the breath of life into our first parents, death wasn’t part of the plan. God’s plan for us was to have everlasting life with Him. But we ruined that with our sin. Our first parents brought death into the world when they refused to listen to God and listened instead to the temptations of the devil, eating from that forbidden tree.
We walk in death every day of our lives because we continue to walk in our first parents’ footsteps: like father like son, like mother like daughter. Every day we choose sin over the life of God. We refuse to listen to the good commands of our Lord and instead we listen to the temptation of the devil and the world around us. And because of this, the judgement of death is rightly ours. And there’s nothing we can do to fix.
We can’t stop death. We can’t cure every disease. We can’t prevent death from accidents or death from violence and wars because we can’t fix the root cause death. We can’t fix sin. Born with sin in our heart we continue to sin. And because of that death continues in our world. But again, that wasn’t God’s plan. Death isn’t what the Father wanted for you, so He sent His Son to fix it.
Christ undoes the death your sin causes; and He does it in the most paradoxical way. Jesus overcame death by dying Himself. His sacrificial death on the cross fulfilled the judgement of God against your sin because Jesus was sinless. Christ was without sin, completely perfect, and yet He died a sinners death, He died your death, and thus won the forgiveness of sins for you. Because Jesus died, your sin is forgiven, and where there is the forgiveness of sin, there’s life and salvation. This is what Christ's resurrection on Easter Sunday proves.
When Christ walked out of that tomb, He claimed victory over death. The war against Satan, sin, and death is over. Victory is Christ’s, and it’s for all of those who are in Him, including you. Satan and death have no more claim over you. Christ won you everlasting life, and this life He gives to you right now.
You receive life in your Baptism as your old sinful nature is drowned and your new self is raised to walk in the life of Christ. You receive life in Christ’s Holy Supper as He gives you His very body and blood to eat and to drink for the forgiveness of your sins. You receive life in the word of God’s Absolution as He takes the guilt of your sin away. In these you have everlasting life right now. You have the promise and the guarantee of the resurrection of the dead.
The everlasting life won by Christ’s death and resurrection is a present reality. It is yours already, today ... and yet we still see death in our lives. This is a continued result of sin, but yours is the promise of everlasting life.
Paul assures you that death won’t reign forever. “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality” (1 Cor 15:51-53). The work of salvation that our Lord began with His death and resurrection; the work of salvation that He works in you as He forgives you your sin; that work will be fully completed and fully realized on the last day. On that day, all His faithful saints, including you, will rise to the glorious everlasting life He has prepared for you. Your mortal bodies, bodies that are plagued with death, will be put off and you’ll receive the imperishable body the Lord planned for you. It’s this life that we look to. It’s this life that we hold on to in the midst of all the death we see and experience.
We mourn death because it’s not natural. It hurts because it’s not supposed to be there. But we can endure this pain and sorrow because we have the hope of the resurrection because Christ rose from the dead. This hope isn’t the wishing we do when we throw a penny in the fountain. No this hope is confidence as we live a life of faith, knowing that Christ is our Savior. We face death daily, not with fear, but with faith. With faith, we know the outcome. With faith we look at death head on and say: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor 15:54-55). Death’s sting and victory are no more. Death sting and victory are gone; they’re destroyed. Death has been defeated in Christ’s death and His resurrection has won you everlasting life.
We know death well and we act as if it’s natural...but it’s not. Christ died to undo the death our sin causes. His resurrection early on that first Easter Day overcomes death, and it won for you everlasting life. This is why we’re here so early today. This is why we rose before the sun, because the Son of God rose so that we might rise and fully know the glory of the life we have in Him!Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Allel