Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sermon for 3/31/13--The Resurrection of Our Lord

Do Not Be Alarmed!

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

The women came to tend to their Lord’s body as it rested in the tomb, and they fretted over how they would enter the tomb because of the stone. But when they arrived, they saw that the stone which held the tomb closed with Jesus inside has been rolled away. The tomb which held the body of Jesus was empty. Is it any wonder that they were alarmed? But then to them comes the word of comfort and joy from the angel of God: “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here.” But despite that word of comfort, despite knowing, as the angel reminded them, that Jesus had said that He would rise, the women went away in silence and in fear.

Why is it that, when God and His messengers speak to His people, the people seem to do exactly the opposite? No one—not the women, not the Apostles—no one  believed His Word. He told them frequently that He was going to suffer and die and rise again the third day. But it’s not the same for us. It's not as if we were there. Oh, but  it is. We wouldn't have been standing around waiting for Jesus to rise like we believed His Word was going to actually come true!  Just look at your life. You live like Jesus died and is still dead. You still wallow in your sins as if there really isn't anything more to life than approving of the way the world lives and acting the same way.

But Christ is risen! The devil, the world, and your sinful nature have been conquered. That’s more that just your actions. That includes your hatred and murder and lusting and coveting in thought and word too. All that has been buried in Jesus' tomb and left there when He rose. We can no longer live as the world does. We can no longer believe as the world does. When the world allows God to be present, He must be silent about how we live and think and speak. Dear Christians, as you celebrate Christ risen from the dead, do away with your doubt and fear. Rejoice in the Lord Jesus who suffered and died on the cross and is now risen from the dead. Rejoice in and confess the resurrection of the body; that Jesus rose from the dead and so we too will rise from the dead someday. Stop talking about your salvation like you're not sure it’s for you. You are saved. Jesus died for your sins and now is raised from the dead. Cling to the words and promises of God which are yours in the waters of Holy Baptism.

It’s no wonder the women were scared: all their ideas about how things are supposed to work were overturned! Jesus, whom they knew to be God, had died! How could this be? Then Jesus, whom they knew also to be a man, came back to life! How could this be? What could it mean? Notice that everyone was looking for Jesus in the wrong place on Easter. The last place Jesus was going to be was the tomb; His Word said that He would rise again. Easter teaches us to turn away from the sort of religion that looks for Christ somewhere other than in His Word. Jesus doesn’t want you to look for Him in your heart or on a mountain top or in the happy and pretty things of your life—though He is present in all those places. He also doesn’t want you to think He has no place in the dark and ugly parts of your life—He is there with you. He does not abandon you when life hits rock bottom. As the angel reminded the women, instead of looking where you expect to see Jesus, pay attention to where Jesus says He will be: in His church, in His Word, in the waters of Holy Baptism, in Holy Absolution, in His body and blood. Listen to what He says: “Make disciples of every nation, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teach them to observe all I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always to the end of the age.” “Receive the Holy Spirit! Whoever's sins you forgive, they are forgiven them!” “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and Judea and to the ends of the earth as you preach forgiveness in my name.” “Take, eat, this is my body given for you; take, drink, this is my blood, shed for you.” Jesus is right here as He promised to be for you, delivering His forgiveness and His life so that you need never doubt Him or be afraid for yourself.

Do not be alarmed! Christ is risen from the dead! Do not be alarmed! God has made you His child in Holy Baptism! Do not be alarmed! Your sins are forgiven you! Do not be alarmed! Jesus, who was raised from the dead, now raises you from death to new and eternal life! Do not flee in fear from the cross and the empty tomb. Instead depart from the empty tomb with joy and peace, and come to the Lord’s Table, where the risen Lord Jesus offers Himself to you as the living bread from heaven. Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.        

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.  

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