Sunday, April 20, 2014

An earthquake event that transforms all of life!

Sermon for Easter late, preached on Sunday, April 20, 2014.

    Earthquakes happen all the time.  Most are just rumbles that shake us for a moment and life goes on.  Some cause great destruction and define an era.  In 526 AD an earthquake in Turkey killed a quarter of a million people.  Big but not the biggest.  In 1202 one in Syria killed an estimated million folks.  A few years ago 200,000 died in Haiti.  Earthquakes can be potent destructive forces . . . except for one.
    On Sunday, the first day of the week, some 2,000 years ago, an earthquake like the world had never seen struck in Israel.  It has transformed life for every person.  Its potent force signaled the destruction of death and ushered in a new way of life.  This was no natural occurrence or a manmade event.  An angel of the Lord caused it.  He descended from heaven, rolled back the stone from the one grave that affects all our lives.
    He sat down on that stone - not because he was weary but to sit upon death itself.  The best of the guards fell to the ground frozen in fear like dead men.  The fearful women who watched  heard a voice telling them not to be afraid.  Jesus was not there.  He is risen as He said, and will meet them in Galilee as He said. This was the earthquake that forever changed the world.  Here was life strong enough to take death prisoner.  Here was truth.
    The women had come expecting a body in a grave, death as the end, left to their tears and grief.  "I know why you have come," said the angel.  "Jesus is not here.  Look for yourself. He is risen.  See where He was.  Go to meet Him where He is."  Who among us could handle such a shock.  But there was more.  On their way they met the Lord Himself.  They touched Him.  He was no ghost.  Once more He encourage them.  "Do not be afraid."  And He bid them to go where He promised to be.  The earthquake moment of transformation takes sin and death and turns it all upside down because He paid our debt to sin and defeated the grave and death.
    We come like those women of old.  We carry with us our struggles, our scars, and our fears.  We might settle for a few answers or a little wisdom to ease life's uncertainties but what we get is an earthquake.  Christ is risen.  Death is done.  The deceiver is deceived.  The trickster has had his bag of tricks emptied.  Satan has now eaten the poisoned fruit.  He is done.
    Our good and gracious Lord has pointed all of history to the Friday where He died and the Sunday where He rose.  These have become the twin peaks on which all our sins and all our death have been overcome.  There was an earthquake on the day Jesus died for us on the cross and another one on the day He arose.  And there is another earthquake to come when we shall enter our graves only to rise with Christ to eternal life.
    Often we complain God is slow but His actions are decisive.  God is not easy; the devil bit hard but Jesus crushed him dead. The powers of sin, death, and fear have been broken once for all.   There is now no power over us except our own refusal to believe, our own refusal to repent, and our own refusal to meet the Lord where He has promised to be in Word and Sacrament. 
    So we come today to the grave that once held us captive to our fears, to our disappointments, to our sins, and to our death. There is nothing left in that grave.  Christ has emptied it.  The stone has been rolled away.  Our sins can no longer condemn us.  Our lives are no longer captive to the power of fear.  And the grave is no longer the end.  That is today’s earthquake event.
    But there is one more thing.  Go to meet Jesus where He has promised to be.  That was what the angel told them so long ago.   It is still the right word for the day.  Christ is more than a memory, not just a feeling, and not imagined.  He is as real as the splash of water in baptism, the taste of bread and wine in the Eucharist, and the voice that speaks absolution to our ears.
    Don't go looking for Jesus where you think He might be.  You go where He has promised to be.  In the means of grace, in the Word of the Lord and His Sacraments, there is Christ the crucified and risen one.  There is the end to your fears.  There is the end to your sins.  There is the end to the devil's power over you.  There is the end of your death.  What is Christ's is now yours but to get them you must go to where Christ is.
    Every earthquake in history has been a destructive force in some way.  We have learned to fear them.  But not the Easter earthquake.  Its destruction was focused not on us but on our enemies.  The angel sitting on the stone is laughing – not at you or your sins or your fears or your death.  No, he laughs at Satan.  The grave is empty and with it the power of sin, fear, and death.
    Today on Easter we come to laugh.  Those who sow in tears will reap in joy says the Scripture.  The saints who went before us are ahead of us in time but receive the same victory that is ours.  No earthquake has ever shown such power and this power has saved us.  We come today to meet the Lord where He has promised to be.  The good and the bad.  Greatest and least.  Come to the feast.   This day we raise the song of praise that in alien days had all but silenced and drowned the ancient true and eternal melody.  Today we sing with voice that no one can silence.  Today we blow the trumpet in Zion for all the world to hear.  Christ is Risen.  In Him we too shall rise.  Come to the Easter feast!  Amen!

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