“Today, God Has Acted”


Easter

April 16, 2017

 

Text:  Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; Matthew 28:1-10; Colossians 3:1-4; Acts 10:34-43


 

    The world at the time that Jesus walked this earth was in many ways a world of unspeakable cruelty.  It was a world where the high and mighty often mistreated the poor and lowly.  It was a world where people who were different were often treated with disrespect.  It was a world where dissent was often not tolerated and was punishable by death.  Indeed, that is what happened to Jesus.  He dissented against the religious leadership of his people.  Many who followed him believed he was the one who would lead his people to freedom from the Romans.  This led the Romans to see him as a threat to their security, and they responded with violence.  They crucified Jesus.  They subjected to him to perhaps the most brutal form of capital punishment humankind has ever invented, one that was intended to inflict maximum pain and suffering before the person being crucified finally died.

    Yet when all was said and done, death with all its unspeakable cruelty did not get the last word.  The Romans and the religious authorities did their level best to secure the tomb in an attempt to keep Jesus’ followers from stealing the body.  Instead, God did a bit of rock and roll--he took the big rock that sealed the tomb and rolled it away, and raised Jesus from the dead, leaving the women, the remaining eleven of the twelve disciples, and everyone else amazed.  God defeated death and raised Jesus to life.  He put the death-dealing powers of this world in their place.  This is the day our God has acted.  Let us rejoice!

    We still live in a world of unspeakable cruelty.  Hardly a day goes by without our hearing about powerful people mistreating the poor and lowly, about people being verbally, emotionally, or physically harmed because they are perceived as different, about people being harassed and killed because they register dissent against the prevailing social order.  The ways of death and destruction are still very much with us.

    Yet, because as followers of Jesus Christ we believe in the reality of the Resurrection, we dare to proclaim that even in this broken world death does not get the last word.  We dare to declare that God does not play favorites, but that all who worship him and do what is right are acceptable to him.  We dare not give in to despair even when it seems like the whole world has gone crazy.  We must not allow ourselves to become mean-spirited even though that is how others choose to be.  We must continue to proclaim the love of God in Jesus Christ who is Lord of all, a love that is stronger than death and victorious over the powers of sin and evil.  We must declare that our ultimate allegiance is to God and his ways, not to the powers and authorities of this world and their ways of death and destruction.  We must trust that this present day is also the day in which our God has acted and is acting, just as much as on that first Easter two millennia ago.  Let us rejoice!

    The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Colossae:  “Therefore if you were raised with Christ, look for the things that are above where Christ is sitting at God’s right side.  Think about the things above and not things on earth.  You died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.”

    Now I do not think Paul was telling us that life in this world does not matter.  I do not believe he was telling us not to care about how people are being treated.  After all, a core tenet of the Christian faith is that God acts in human history and human events.  I believe that what Paul is saying is that we are not to base our decisions on how we live and how we treat others on the values and behaviors of this corrupt world.  In the death and resurrection of Christ, we have died to sin.  We have died to the values of this world.  They are to be our values no more.  Instead, because our lives are hidden with Christ in God, God’s ways are to be the source of how we live and how we treat others.  We are called to turn away from violence and cruelty, away from rejection of those who are different, away from mistreatment of those who challenge the status quo--for these are the very people who often in retrospect turn out to be prophets, people who speak for God by challenging injustice and wrongdoing.  We are instead called to live God’s ways of impartiality toward all people, for anyone who worships God and does what is right is acceptable to him.

    This is the day our God has acted.  Let us rejoice!  God acted on that first Easter long ago by raising Jesus Christ from the dead.  God is still acting, even today, to raise us from death into life in him.  His Holy Spirit continues to work in people’s lives to bring about salvation, wholeness, and well-being for all people, both in this life and to all eternity.  Let us live according to the resurrection life we have been given.  Let us seek the things of God, and live God’s ways in this broken, troubled world.  Amen.

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