Wednesday, April 15, 2020

With Fear & Great Joy

Sermon for Easter Late, preached on Sunday, April 12, 2020, by the Rev. Daniel M. Ulrich.

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

I. It’s a unique Easter this year. Our church isn’t full, just like many churches around. There’s no Easter breakfast going on in our Fellowship Hall. There’s no brass quartet joyfully playing. It’s quiet and there’s a bit of uneasiness in the air. We’re not used to this feeling on Easter morning, but it’s probably pretty close to how it was on that first Easter day. There were no horns or shouts that morning. It was quite, just a few voices joyfully sharing the Good News of Jesus’ resurrection.

II. The first people to share this News were the Marys. They went to the tomb early that Sunday to finish burying Jesus. They expected to find His lifeless body still wrapped in His burial cloths. But when they got there, the tomb was empty and they saw an angel sitting on the great stone rolled away from the tomb. But they weren’t the only ones who saw that angel. The guards also saw him. And Matthew tells us they were afraid; so afraid they became like dead men.

The first feeling associated with Jesus’ resurrection was fear, deathly fear. That isn’t a feeling we usually associate with Easter. But seeing that angel, experiencing that earthquake, the guards were afraid. They feared for their life. They had no idea what was going on, and whatever was going on, they knew they weren’t prepared for it.

The Marys also feared, but they weren’t paralyzed by it, they weren’t left to be afraid. The angel of the Lord spoke to them, “Don’t be afraid. I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. But He’s not here, He’s risen, just as He said.” [Matt 28:5-6]. The angel spoke comfort and assurance. He told them what was going on. He reminded them of Jesus’ words; “He’s risen just as He said.” And when they left the tomb to go tell the others, they left with fear and great joy!

The women still feared. There was still uncertainty. There was still an element of not fully knowing. Even when they saw their risen Lord, there was still a bit of fear. But along with this fear, there was great joy: joy seeing their Savior, joy in hearing the Good News of His resurrection, and joy in getting to share that news with others. And today, we feel the same.

III. Today, like the women, we fear, but at the same time, we have great joy. We fear because of what’s going on in the world around us. We fear the threat of a virus. We fear economic struggle. We fear a complete change to our way of life. We fear a government mandate to stop worshiping. We fear the uncertainty of life, not knowing what’s going to happen day to day. We fear what the future may hold. But even in the midst of this fear, we have great joy.

Fear and joy are two things that we don’t usually think go together. We assume you can’t be joyful when you’re full of fear. But these two go together more often than we think. Parents know this. There’s great joy on the day our children are born, but at the same time, there’s fear. We fear we’re not ready to care for this helpless life. We begin to fear dangers in everyday life, dangers we’ve never thought twice about before. But joy is still there because of that new life. That’s why we’re always joyful, because of the life we have in Christ, life that is ours because He’s risen from the dead.

We’re not like the guards at the tomb , unprepared for what lies ahead. We’re like the Marys having great joy in the midst of fear because we know the Good News of our Savior’s resurrection. This News prepares us for whatever lies ahead. It prepares us for all the fears of life because none of it can take our life away. Whether it be economic struggle, a complete change to our way of life, a virus or some other pandemic, whatever it may be, none of it can take our life away. Christ has overcome death. And because He’s risen from the dead, you will rise too. You have everlasting life in Him. That’s the promise God has made to you. That’s the promise fulfilled in your Baptism. That’s the promise fulfilled in the Supper.

We have a never ending great Easter joy knowing the Good News of Jesus’ resurrection. This joy is there even in the midst of fear. When fear attacks, we set our mind not on the threat, but on the things that are above. We look to our Savior who died on the cross and rose. We look to our Savior whose resurrection wins us everlasting life. This is the Good News of Easter, and it will never change, even if churches stand empty from now until our Lord returns.

Everlasting life is yours. Great joy is yours. Salvation is yours. It’s all yours in Christ Jesus. In Jesus’ name. Amen. Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great sermon. Thank you. John 16:22, "So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you."
Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart