Monday, April 5, 2010

What does this mean FOR you!

Sermon Preached for Easter Sunday, the Resurrection of Our Lord, April 4, 2010.

    What a great day!  Wonderful news!  Wonderful music!  Wonderful liturgy!  Wonderful food!  But to what end?  What does this mean for YOU?  Easter is not for Jesus but for you.  Jesus does not need Easter but we do.  Yet, as much as we need it, it is like a nice ornament until we connect it to what happens today, to who we are, and how we live. Unless this Easter is connected to who we are and how we live, it is like visiting an art music and going home to blank walls... like walking past a glorious buffet of food without having a plate...  Unless we connect what happens here with who we are and how we live, it is a royal waste of time.  If this Easter celebration is worth coming here to watch, it is worth even more to take it home with us and have it transform our faith and daily life as people.
    Would you order a meal in a restaurant and then not sit down to enjoy eating it?  Would you get all dressed up and drive to the symphony hall never to listen to the sound of the orchestra?  God has called us here for the celebration of a lifetime – not his lifetime but OURS!  Jesus was once dead but lives anew; death has no power over Him.  This news is for Jesus only but for all those who hope for a life stronger than death, for forgiveness that can wash away sin, and for hope that sustains us through every trial and trouble.  The news of the resurrection is life changing news – but for whom?  The question of the day is not what does this mean TO me but what does this mean FOR me?
    What does it mean that Jesus was dead and now lives never to die again?  This is not some great philosophical question but the deeply personal and practical question of who you are, what is the foundation of your life and how you answer death.  What does this mean for ME?  That is what we need to ask ourselves.  What does this mean for me and the guilt I carry around for a mountain of good intentions gone awry and failures beyond measure?  What does this mean for me with my countless secrets hidden inside of me that I never want revealed and wish I never had to face myself?
    What does this mean for me and my struggle to find meaning and purpose for my life?  What does this mean for me living in a world which defines success and value according to looks, bank accounts, and accomplishments?  What does this mean for me and maze of choices I face each and every day?  What does this mean for me and the impossible balancing act of my busy life and competing priorities.  What does this mean for me and for the pleasure I seek or the peace and contentment I want to know?
    Unless we can say today is about me, we are here to celebrate something that belongs to others but not me – like going to a party where to watch others have fun.  So take a moment and walk with me to the grave empty of Jesus’ body but filled with hope for our own resurrection to life eternal.  Take just a moment to look at what happened when Jesus walked the lonely road of death and rose to mark out the trail to a life without end, to forgiveness that makes you new, and to peace beyond understanding.
    I am not here to convince you your sin is real.  You know it only too well.  You carry with you each day the weight of yesterday’s failures.  They have become the unwelcome baggage that burdens us every where we go.  Like the extra cost of those bags we check on the airplanes today, we pay a big price for all these failures.  We pay for it with the excuses we make for ourselves, for our angry words, our bitter hearts, our self-seeking ways, and the lies told to cover it all up.  I am not here to beat you up; neither is Jesus.  Jesus is not risen to point His finger in judgment but to extend His hand to lift you up from your fallen condition, to raise you from your sin, and to release you from death’s captivity over your life.
    I am not here to convince you that death is real.  You know it only too well.  You wear the watch on your wrist and live by the calendar because you know your time on earth is limited.  You have already lived with the death of loved ones you only reluctantly released to death’s darkness.  Grandparents, parents, a spouse, a brother or sister, a child, or a best friend; death has stolen too much from you already.
    It has left you wounded, and sad.  Some of you have already begun making plans... what to do when you cannot care for yourself... to keep you from suffering, to prevent you from being a burden to your loved ones... Is this what our Lord meant for our lives?  Is this what we were created to ponder?  Why do we think this way or talk this way?  Because as real as life is, deal is also real to us.  I am not here to scare you or threaten you; neither is Jesus.  There is enough sadness in our world.  Jesus is alive to end death’s reign.  He is risen from the dead so that the dying like you and me have hope.
    What does Easter mean – not to me – but FOR ME?  This is the question.  We come today not to watch what is good news for others but to lay our own claim upon this news for our own sinful and lost lives.  We come here to claim what Jesus did and to make it ours by faith, both here on earth so that it may carry us through our troubles and trials and for the life which is to come.  Because He died and rose, I am alive in Him and death is no longer the feared enemy I once thought but the gate and door through which I go to the real life of eternity.  This is not some sham hope or fake good news but the promise of our own joyful resurrection and the freedom to live today to its fullest.
    Jesus did not die for sins in general but for your sins in particular.  Jesus died for the sins that have your finger prints on them.  He did not die for a principle but for YOU.  He bore the burden of your sin as a choice He made out of love for you.  It was the price of loving you that He willingly paid.  What ever it cost, He was willing to pay it for YOU to be redeemed and born anew.  He became death’s prisoner to grant you the gift of freedom.  He rose again so that in every cemetery where people gather to say good bye they might find the surprise of life awaiting them.  He rose again to crash death’s party.
    We work so hard to make death easier on us.  We put make up on the body to make it appear the person is not dead.  But avoiding death cannot make it easier.  The only way to make death easier is to stand with Him who is Lord not only of life but also of death.   And now He stands among us, the ever living One who died and rose again and now is alive forevermore.  He asks us to trust in Him... to trust in what He has done and where He has been...  He has walked in our shoes, in this fragile world.
He has born the burdens we bear every day.  He as tasted the bitter cup of sin and felt Himself the cold touch of death that steals life away.  Now He invites us to walk in His shoes the new life that is His alone to give.
    So today He bids you come... Trust Him with your worst nightmares of sin and its death... Trust Him with your most precious possession of life... Today He bids you come and feast upon the only earthly meal that has the taste of heaven in it... Today He bids you come and lay at the cross your every sin and failure... Today He bids you come and try on the clothing of immortality by faith until you wear it forever in eternity...  Today each of us has the opportunity by the Holy Spirit to move from the shadows and fringes into the Light of His presence....  to take a seat at His table... to be more than spectators but participants in the celebration of a lifetime... to stop watching what is there for others and start living what is there for YOU!
    This Easter celebration is for the Good News that transforms YOUR life, the celebration of YOUR own personal victory through the victory of Jesus Christ... Don’t shrug off the gift He gives to you... Don’t you dare go back to the old life lived in fear, in bondage to sin and its death?  Don’t willingly exchange the promise of tomorrow for the burden of a past that He has already paid for... Christ is alive.  Death is undone.  His victory has become Your victory by baptism and faith... but don’t just watch from the fringes... don’t live your life on the edges of His Church or on the perimeter of His mercy.  Stand here in the center, in the Light of Christ, and let His Light shine in Your darkness.  Let Him lighten Your journey by carrying the old weight of your sinful past.  Let Him light the way to a future you do not have apart from Him.  Let Him enlighten Your hearts with the joy of an endless life beyond our imagination.  Let Him carry You by His grace through each and every today until You live the endless tomorrow with Him in Paradise.  Amen and Amen.  Christ is Risen.  He is Risen Indeed!

1 comment:

Rev. Allen Yount said...

Gorgeous message, Pr Peters! Thank you for posting it so those who couldn't hear it could at least read it. And above all, thanks be to our crucified and risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!