Easter affirms that love works! There are no limits to God’s love!
is first and foremost a day of celebration. We join with all the various
expressions of the Western Church in each successive time zone today, and with
all the expressions of the Eastern church in their time zones next Sunday, in celebration
of the Resurrection. For the next forty days, we will continue to celebrate the
different forms by which our risen savior appeared to his disciples during the
forty days between the Resurrection and the Ascension. As part of that
celebration, we will also explore some of his teachings about his vision for humanity
from the perspective of the empty tomb.
Manuscript of the sermon preached on April 9, 2023, at Briensburg UMC [Audio Podcast]
Bible Readings for Easter Sunday, The Resurrection of the Lord:
Acts 10:34-43 or
Jeremiah 31:1-6; Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; Colossians 3:1-4 or Acts 10:34-43; John 20:1-18; Matthew 28:1-10
[Video of readings by Briensburg UMC lectors]
Resurrection is not only an event in the life of Christ but stands as an
eternal metaphor for universal new beginnings that are constantly happening in
our lives and will be forever, even beyond the death of the body. In our Service of Death and Resurrection at
the passing of our loved ones, we reaffirm the resurrection promises of Jesus
even as we “look to the resurrection of the dead in the last day and the life
of the world to come.” (UMC Internment Liturgy). Hear what comfortable
words the Scripture saith to all who truly believe.
I am the resurrection, and the life: [they] that
believeth in me, though [they] were dead, yet shall [they] live: And whosoever
liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? (John
Because I live, ye shall live also (John 14:19
voices of compassion such as those expelled from the Nashville legislature,
ironically on Maundy Thursday, can never be silenced. The voices of the martyred
Old Testament prophets still speak of mercy and justice. The voices of the martyred
New Testament apostles still speak of hope and inclusion. The voice of the
crucified Christ still speaks of unconditional, universal love. The
Resurrection promises that such voices will resound from both sides of the
Resurrection paints a picture of a life – our life – that continues regardless
of our body’s condition. Jesus came from
Heaven, was born as a baby, became a man, died on the cross, was raised from death,
and ascended back to Heaven. He was the same person in all of these stages of
life. Likewise, we are the same person in all the stages of our lives. We grow
and mature spiritually even as our bodies age. Eventually, when we lay aside
our earthly tabernacle as Peter described (2 Peter 1:14 KJV) we have
another as Paul wrote, “a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” (2
Corinthians 5:1 KJV).
the mystery of Christmas, we celebrate the mystery of Easter. The Nativity begins
to unwrap the mystery of the life and teachings and vision of Jesus. The
Resurrection begins to unfold the mystery of our own eternal lives as
participants in the divine nature of Christ. The Resurrection finalizes the new
and everlasting covenant in his blood and spiritualizes the Promised Land “flowing
with milk and honey.” The Resurrection we celebrate at Easter is echoed each
Sunday as we gather for worship and invites us to constant renewal every day
and every week.
And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let [them]
that heareth say, Come. And let [them] that [are] athirst come. And whosoever
will, let [them] take the water of life
freely. (Revelation 22:17 KJV).
In Matthew’s account, Jesus sent women to men as the
first preachers of the resurrection.
Then said Jesus unto [the women], Be not afraid: go
tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me. (Matthew 28:10 KJV)
In the "Gospel According to St. John," Jesus sent Mary Magdelene to preach
his resurrection instead
of the two men who had
already been right there at the empty tomb.
saith unto her… go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father,
and your Father; and to my God, and your God. (John 20:17 KJV)
sent the women to proclaim the Resurrection. Last month was Women’s history
month, and this appointment at the first Easter is a momentous historical affirmation
for women in ministry. The only disciples not scattered at Jesus’ arrest were
women. Women accompanied Jesus along the Way of the Cross. Women, except for
John, were the ones who were present with Jesus at the Crucifixion.
called and sent by God to minister any spiritual gift should not be
discriminated against for any reason, especially for any issues related to gender.
All persons should be encouraged in fulfilling God’s call on their / our lives.
God promised to pour out God’s own “spirit on all flesh” (Joel 2:28, Acts 2:17)
regardless of any age, gender, social economic position, or any other
distinction used by some humans to divide and oppress others.
The Jesus who came out of the tomb is the same as the one who was placed in the tomb.
How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy
Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were
oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.
(Acts 10:38 KJV)
How can so many
people portray Christ, “who went about doing good, and healing all that were
oppressed” as being in any way capable of suddenly and wholly changing his entire
divine nature to turn on the most vulnerable people and shower them with
eternal wrath because they are unable to wrap their minds around some abstract theological
concepts we have come to affirm from what Paul Tillich expressed as “the leap
of faith”? (“The Leap of Faith by Paul Tillich). Such a dramatically diametrical reversal of
God’s nature from Love to Hate is not even remotely possible. God loves the
world so much that God sent Jesus to be the savior of all. Any scriptures that may
seem to suggest otherwise need to be reinterpreted.
In his hymn, “Come
O Thou Traveler Unknown” Charles Wesley wrote these words I use as the tagline
for my emails:
Pure, universal love Thou art;
To me, to all, Thy mercies move;
Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.
The Bible says, “Jesus
Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8 KJV).
Jesus turned out to be the most important stone in God’s
whole spiritual building.
The stone which the builders refused is become the
head stone of the corner. (Psalm
The psalmist uses the
cornerstone as a metaphor for the Messiah. Rejected by the religious leaders,
the Messiah would become the most important part of human society. Paul continued
this imagery in his letters, comparing us all to stones in the temple God is
building. Each person has their place in the building with Christ as the chief
cornerstone, built on the foundation Jesus has laid. We all fit together in
this building of God, and until every stone is in place, the building is incomplete.
Likewise, everything in our individual lives, everything in our relationships
with others, and everything in our connections to all of Creation is built up
around our centering friendship with Christ.
The resurrection affirms the everlasting and eternal
nature of God’s love.
The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea,
I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have
I drawn thee. (Jeremiah
What part of “everlasting love” do we not
The spiritual concept of sacramental Israel is a
sign that the whole of humanity is the family of God. God repeated in
Revelation 21 the promise spoken through the prophet Jeremiah,
And I heard a great voice
out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with [people], and [God]
will dwell with them, and they shall be [God’s] people, and God himself shall
be with them, and be their God.
And God shall wipe away all tears from their
eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither
shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. (Revelation
My mother sent me a
letter at a discouraging point in my life about a half-century ago, and she
included this verse from Deuteronomy 33:27, “The eternal God is thy refuge, and
underneath are the everlasting arms.” The voice of God through the voice of
Moses through the voice of Mom still resonates through my soul to this hour,
and will from everlasting to everlasting, through this life and the life of the
world to come. God’s love has no time limits, no end, no conditions, no
exclusionary clauses, and no death. God’s all-encompassing, universal love envelopes
everyone everywhere; it always has and always will.
I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities,
nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor
any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is
in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39 KJV).
Something of our nature has already been
resurrected through our affirmation of the resurrection of Christ. Can you feel
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things
which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. (Colossians 3:1 KJV)
Rather than trying
to bring God’s nature down to our level, the Resurrection invites us to follow
Jesus up to God’s level. We are invited to learn how to see humanity through
God’s eyes. We are invited to learn how
to love everyone the way Christ loves everyone. As Paul phrased it, we are
invited to “let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians
2:5 KJV). Let God’s vision for
humanity become our vision. Let us find ways to implement the teachings of Jesus
in all our decision-making.
Let us take the resurrection
spirit as we experience around this table in this room with this group of
people, to the next table in the next room, and to the next people. Let us establish
that as our pattern throughout this life and into the life of the world to
come. Room to room, table to table, person to person.
We believe in the
resurrection as pertinent to Jesus, ourselves, our family and friends, and the
world at large. We proclaim the risen Christ and God’s love for humanity as
expressed and demonstrated in the person of Jesus. God is stretching our
thoughts to ever-increasing expanses of heavenly possibilities for life and
love and fellowship and unity
Charles Wesley wrote
in his hymn, "Christ the Lord is Risen Today,"
Soar we now where Christ has led,
Following our exalted head!
May we each come
alive in new and fresh ways today! May our congregation come alive in new and
fresh ways today! May we bring our community and world to life in new fresh
This is the spirit
In the Name of Jesus,