Daily Archives: April 12, 2020

Resurrection Sunday: Easter Early Service

Do Not Be Afraid

One of the following readings from the Old Testament:

Genesis 1:1-2:4a [The Story of Creation] 
Genesis 7:1-5, 11-18, 8:6-18, 9:8-13 [The Flood] 
Genesis 22:1-18 [Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac] 
Exodus 14:10-31; 15:20-21 [Israel’s deliverance at the Red Sea] 
Isaiah 55:1-11 [Salvation offered freely to all] 
Baruch 3:9-15, 3:32-4:4 or Proverbs 8:1-8, 19-21; 9:4b-6 [Learn wisdom and live]
Ezekiel 36:24-28 [A new heart and a new spirit]
Ezekiel 37:1-14 [The valley of dry bones] 
Zephaniah 3:14-20 [The gathering of God’s people] 

Romans 6:3-11 
Matthew 28:1-10 
Psalm 114

Do we believe that we are living in difficult times? Our whole way of life is under attack? The future appears to be uncertain? This was true for the disciples of Jesus, after his crucifixion. Fear had taken over most of the disciples. In their minds all had been lost. The miracle worker was no longer with them. The promise of Israel’s had been dashed. Governmental and church authorities were breathing down their neck.

But the scene was about to change. The women went to Jesus’s tomb on the first day of the week. We read in Matthew:

Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”   (Matthew 28:9-10)

Jesus is risen. As Christians, we do not have to live in fear. On this resurrection Sunday, we celebrate the triumph of our Lord over sin, the grave, and Hell. What we could never accomplish on our own, Jesus has won for us, through his death and resurrection. He paid the price of sin on the cross and opened, for us, the door to heaven,

The good news of the Gospel is that our Lord’s resurrection is also our resurrection. The Apostle Paul writes:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.   (Romans 6:3-5)

Does this sound too good to be true? Again, Paul writes:

We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.   (Romans 6:6-11)

Today, Jesus is telling us, as he told to the women at the tomb: “Do not be afraid. I have risen. Go and tell others that you have seen me.”

Are we still so focused on the world around us that we miss what he is saying? The disciples of Jesus were, at first. They had not yet encountered the risen Lord. But when Jesus appeared to them their whole world changed. If fact, the whole world changed for everyone, but especially for those who believed.

Have we encountered the risen Lord? If we have let us encourage those who are in despair with little hope. From the Old Testament reading of Zephaniah:

Sing aloud, O daughter Zion;
shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
O daughter Jerusalem!
The Lord has taken away the judgments against you,
he has turned away your enemies.
The king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;
you shall fear disaster no more.
On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
Do not fear, O Zion;
do not let your hands grow weak.
The Lord, your God, is in your midst,
a warrior who gives victory;
he will rejoice over you with gladness,
he will renew you[a] in his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing
as on a day of festival.
I will remove disaster from you,
so that you will not bear reproach for it.
I will deal with all your oppressors
at that time.
And I will save the lame
and gather the outcast,
and I will change their shame into praise
and renown in all the earth.   (Zephaniah 3::14-19)

If we have not had an encounter with the risen Lord, it is not too late. Today is our day of salvation. Today is the day of our deliverance. All we need to do is to look away from our present circumstances for a moment and look to Jesus. Let us listen to the voice of the Lord:

Peace I leave with you; my own peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.   (John 14:27)

I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.   (John 11:25-26)

Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 2Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.   (Matthew 11:28-30)

If any of us have never embraced Jesus as our Lord and Savior, now is the time to do so. He has been raised up so that he may raise. us up. Let us cry out to him for forgiveness. He wants to give us newness of life. He wants to pour out his Spirit upon us. He wants to impart to us the hope of glory.

Tribulations are very much a part of this world we live in. But this world is passing away. Jesus said:

In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.   (John 16:33)

His victory is our victory. The Apostle Paul writes:

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.   (Romans 8:37)

Let this be our joyful refrain:

Alleluia!  The Lord is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

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Resurrection Sunday: Easter Day Principle Service

Hallelujah, the Lord Is Risen

On this Resurrection Sunday let us, once more, hear the good news:

Alleluia!  The Lord is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

Let us here from those who were first at the scene of this glorious moment:

After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.”   (Matthew 28:1-7)

Why did Jesus appear to these women? Why did he not appear to his disciples instead? The women’s testimony was, at first, dismissed by the disciples. What they said was not taken that seriously. From the words of Peter in today’s reading from Acts, we learn that the women were specifically chosen by God to be witnesses of the resurrection:

You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ — he is Lord of all. That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”   (Acts 10:36-43)

Why did God choose these women? They were just ordinary people. They were just servants to the disciples. (Let us remember who the chief servant of all.) Despite all the hardships and persecution, thee women were faithful to the end. None of us are more special than others. None of us are great. But we have is a great message. It is the most important message in all the world. Accordingly, God choses faithful people proclaim – people who will not shrink back when the going gets tough.

God depends on people who have received the message and taken it into their hearts. The Apostle Paul writes:

But what does it say?

“The word is near you,
    on your lips and in your heart”

(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”   (Romans 10:8-13)

The resurrection is a powerful message. Nevertheless, it is no more powerful than the eagerness of the person to receive it. But people must be given a chance to hear it.  Paul writes:

But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” But not all have obeyed the good news; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.   (Romans 10:14-17)

We are just ordinary people. But God has called us to be witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus. But we may say that we were not there at the time of the resurrection. That should not stop us from believing. Thomas was there. He was an Apostle. But he did not believe at first. From the Gospel of John we read that the risen Lord spoke to him about us:

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”   (John 20:27-29)

We have not seen, but we have come to believe. We believe because someone else told us about the resurrection and the Holy Spirit confirmed the message within our hearts. And someone else told them.

We have a high calling. It is a calling not to become important. It is a calling to speak an all important message. The psalmist wrote:

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his mercy endures for ever.

Let Israel now proclaim,
“His mercy endures for ever.”

The Lord is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation.

There is a sound of exultation and victory
in the tents of the righteous:

“The right hand of the Lord has triumphed!
the right hand of the Lord is exalted!
the right hand of the Lord has triumphed!”

I shall not die, but live,
and declare the works of the Lord.   (Psalm 118:1-2,14-17)

This is our message. That is our calling. Jesus reigns. He will soon return. He is counting on our voice.

From Isaiah:

How lovely on the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who announces peace
And brings good news of happiness,
Who announces salvation,
And says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”   (Isaiah 52:7)

Let us spread good news of happiness:

Alleluia!  The Lord is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

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Resurrection Sunday: Easter Evening Service

Word and Sacrament

Jesus resurrection appearance to those travelers on the road to Emmaus has great theological significance. They were met by Jesus, who listened to their discussion concerning the resurrection. The travelers had been unable to understand or even believe some of the things that they had heard. After patiently listening to them, Jesus said:

“Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.   (Luke 24:25-27)

The travelers wanted to hear more from Jesus and they encouraged Him to continue talking to them:

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.  (Luke 24:28-35)

It is clear that the travelers were seekers of the truth. That is an ingredient that only we can provide. God will do the rest, but He depends on us to seek after Him. Often we may be confused, yet such confusion should lead us to search out the truth. The Apostle Paul explains that we must be open to new revelations concerning Christ:

Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch, as you really are unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. Therefore, let us celebrate the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.   (1 Corinthians 5:7-8)

Jesus did not fully reveal who He was until the breaking of the bread. This was the first service of Holy Communion after Jesus was raised from the dead. When Jesus broke the bread, which symbolized the breaking of His body upon the cross, the eyes of the travelers to Emmaus were opened. That is when they could say: “The Lord has risen indeed.”

We cannot overstate the importance of Communion in our Christian lives. From what Jesus has said, Communion is not optional.

Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me.   (John 6:53-57)

Word or Sacrament – which one is significant? The answer is both. The worship of the Church is about Word and Sacrament preaching and the Holy Communion. For many churches the Holy Communion is optional. In many cases it is still controversial and often misunderstood. Nonetheless, the travelers to Emmaus found that the communion which Jesus celebrated with them at table was an eye opener and heart opener.

These travelers were eagerly anticipating the fulfillment of the scripture about which Jesus spoke. Through a reenactment of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross they were able to understand His message. In other words, it took a supernatural event for them to fully grasp who Jesus was.

Jesus is risen. He still speaks to us today through his word. He is alive and his real presence is active within the Holy Communion. Let us embrace all of him.

Alleluia!  The Lord is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

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