Easter Sunday, 2019

Easter Sunday, 2019. What a great day! What a beautiful morning! This morning we celebrate the most amazing event our world has even known. Thank you for being here to celebrate this day with us! The earliest Christians, those who lived within a couple generations of our Risen Lord Jesus, they went-out from Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria. They went out, lighting fires of faith everywhere they went, by telling about Jesus, His life, His death by crucifixion, and His resurrection. From the grave. The world around them was pagan, with people worshipping false gods, images, and idols. They were superstitious, fearful, and cold-blooded. Those who were born slaves would die as slaves. Women had little value; life was cheap. When children were born with a handicap or disability, their parents simply left them out in the wilderness to die. The emperor’s sword was the law. Taxes kept everyone oppressed and poor. When people got frustrated or bored, they got drunk. There were no hospitals to care for the sick and injured. The average life expectance was 40 years. Because of all that, the world was swarming with false prophets, messiahs, and philosophers, each offering their own promises of a better life and future. In that dark and sin-filled world, those few Christians were different from everyone else. They worshipped a God-man named Jesus of Nazareth, Who was crucified as a common criminal by Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem. He then rose from the dead 3 days later. Some of those followers of Jesus Christ, who were called Christians, were eyewitnesses of both His death and His resurrection. They were telling people that this Jesus had come into the world to rescue them from sin and death. They say that those who believes in this Christ will not die, but will live forever. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave is a fact! Easter is the most amazing, game-changing, earth-shaking,event our world has ever witnessed. St. Paul writes, “You have been raised to new life with Christ.” That’s why you live and act as you do, different from the ways of the worldly people around you. You are a follower of the risen Lord Jesus. When you were baptized, everything worldly within you was washed away and replaced by a new and better way of life as a Christian. You belong to Christ. This morning, as we worship God and celebrate Jesus’ spectacular resurrection victory, we feel empowered to continue our Christian attitude and behaviors. But over the next few days and weeks, this “Easter glow” will begin to fade under the pressures and temptations of this sinful world we live in. We’ll grow weary of ‘fighting the good fight,’ and at times we may even lose sight of our ultimate goal – heaven, and the new world beyond. But this we know: the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ has changed us from the epicurean, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die,” to the more stoic,“Christ died for us so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and was raised to life for their sake.” By the late 1st and early 2nd century, the world could see evidence of the Christian’s commitment to Christ and their faith. Pagans and unbelievers watched as Christians lived as they believed, loving one another and confident of eternal life. Many marveled at what they saw and said, “See how they love one another!” Today, Christians all over the world are celebrating Jesus Christ’s victory over sin, death, and the grave. There is no other event in all of human history that fills so many people with unspeakable joy and confidence. Today we thank and praise God for the glorious resurrection of His Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. We thank the Holy Spirit for the new life and faith we received in baptism. You belong to God; you are His, top to bottom, front to back. Today death has no power over you. Life has triumphed! But here’s where we must establish and maintain the distinction between Christian hope and baseless human optimism. When Europeans began sailing the South Pacific, majestic ships from the west began bringing cargo – cloth, clothing, and shoes; tobacco, tools, beer, whiskey, and things the people there had never seen before. Soon the majestic ships sailed into the harbor on a regular basis, bringing their precious cargo for trade with the islanders. The islanders were deeply impressed by the ships and their cargo. They watched the white men closely, trying to discover the secret of what made the precious cargo come to them. Soon, a “Cargo Cult” developed, where the islanders imitated white men as closely as possible, hoping that cargo would somehow come to them, too, not just to the white man. They danced, sang, sacrificed and prayed to the cargo gods, but when the ships stopped coming, the cargo stopped coming. The final stage to their “Cargo Cult” was despair and collapse when the islanders finally realized that no more cargo was ever going to come to them. St. Paul reminds us, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By His great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Your hope is centered squarely on Jesus Christ. Today, we remember how powerful Jesus’ resurrection from the grave really is for us. The resurrection is the very foundation on which our faith, hope, and trust is built. And Jesus’ resurrection guarantees our resurrection. We are united, by faith, with a Savior Who will surely lead us to paradise, and the new world that lies beyond. Your God-given faith, hope, and trust have made you a new person in Christ. The ship carrying your earthly wants and dreams may never come-in. But your ship of faith has our Savior Jesus Christ as its captain and pilot. Your ship of faith will carry you safely into God’s harbor, with its precious cargo on board. “What unspeakable joy and wonder fills you as you are now receiving the goal of your faith – the salvation of your soul!” Amen.