Sunday, 12 April 2009

A Short Easter Resurrection Sermon with Baptismal Overtones

Jesus, our Lord and Saviour, crucified and risen from the dead, is the reason I stand before you this Easter and every Sunday.

“Alleluia! Christ is risen,” I said at the beginning of this service. And you replied, “The Lord is risen, indeed. Alleluia!”

And there you have the central, key, pivotal, most important— how ever you want to put it—doctrine of the Christian faith; the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead.

St Luke writes it in our first reading from Acts:

God raised him (Jesus) on the third day and made him to appear, not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. (Acts 10.40-41, ESV)

And then we heard from St Paul as he writes to the Corinthians:

He (Jesus) was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, …he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. (1 Cor 15.4-8)

Consider the details: eating and drinking, names and numbers of real people. John records a breakfast on the beach of fish roasted over an open fire. It doesn’t sound like a myth.  And those were written while most of the people about which Luke and Paul were writing were still alive and could easily have refuted the story. But there is no evidence of anyone doing so. We’re not here celebrating a myth this morning. The historical and scholarly evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is compelling.

Bishop of Durham and respected New Testament scholar Tom Wright puts it this way:
Jesus of Nazareth was certainly dead by the Friday evening; Roman soldiers were professional killers and wouldn't have allowed a not-quite-dead rebel leader to stay that way for long. When the first Christians told the story of what happened next, they were not saying: "I think he's still with us in a spiritual sense" or "I think he's gone to heaven". All these have been suggested by people who have lost their historical and theological nerve. (See the rest here.)
How’s your historical and theological nerve this morning? How’s your “faith nerve”? Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. Literally. Actually. Unmistakeably. That fact defined and generated the church and has been its message when it has been faithful and true. It must also define us and it must be our message.

Tomorrow, the 13th of April, it will be ten years since Jude and I began our ministry, in His name, among you at St Barnabas.

This is and has been my heart’s desire for these past ten years:

  • For those of you who already have a saving faith in the literally risen Jesus Christ; that your faith be increased and strengthened.
  • For that those of you who have not yet come to such a personal, saving resurrection faith, that you will do so.
  • That you all become convincing and fruitful witnesses of the Resurrection of Jesus.

You see, “grace flows like a mighty river,” Robin Mark sings in one of his songs. That grace is flowing all around and through us this Easter morning. Robin draws a lovely lyrical image as he goes on to sing, “and one day I just dipped my finger in, and a love caught and dragged me to a deeper place, I laughing and flailing some some water babe when grace flowed like a mighty river.” (Central Station, East of the River)

Colin Stabler and Donna-Lee Sheardown have decided to dip their finger in that mighty river today on behalf of their little son, Rylan. 11 year old Christopher Sheardown has decided to dip his finger in on his own. Will you join them? As they make their Baptismal covenant, and we renew ours, will you assure your salvation by making that an Easter “yes” to Jesus. Will you allow the love of God, uniquely and wonderfully expressed in the person and the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, to catch you this morning and sweep you into that  deeper place where life is richer, where chains fall off and where amazing grace abounds?

If so, make your renewal of your baptismal vows today be a new personal “Yes” to belief in the risen Jesus. Make the Eucharistic prayer a new personal thanksgiving for all he has done and a new offering of yourself for his service.