Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Easter Sunday Sermon

My seed shall serve him : they shall be counted unto the Lord for a generation. They shall come, and the heavens shall declare his righteousness : unto a people that shall be born, whom the Lord hath made.

                                                            - Psalm 22:32-33

My text for this Easter Sunday is from the 22nd Psalm. In Matthew's and Mark's Gospels, our Lord's last words from the cross are, my God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me. They are a cry in the agony and torment of physical pain that is involved with execution on a cross, but Our Lord was also bearing the sins of the whole world. I like the illustration of a sin being like a brick—because we all know sin is a burden that weighs down our spirits. Imagine the weight of all of your sins and my sins and the sins of the whole world which our Lord took as his own on the cross. In those last words, Jesus was also quoting the opening verse of Psalm 22, which was read here on Thursday night at our Maundy Thursday service. My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? It is a Psalm that describes great human suffering as the speaker wrestles with God over the trials he is enduring, but at the end of the Psalm it turns into a song of triumph, as the Psalmist sees the victory of God. He says that, no man hath quickened his own soul—in other words, no one has made himself alive again by his own power. And for Christians, we hear in these words again the voice of our Lord. Jesus did not make himself alive again: he was raised miraculously from death by the power of God and working of the Holy Spirit. The Psalm finally concludes with these words, My seed shall serve him (that is, the Lord): they shall be counted unto the Lord for a generation. The Psalmist has gone through tremendous suffering, and has seen his soul quickened not through his own power, but the Lord's, and now he sees his posterity, those who come after him, will be a generation of people who will serve the Lord in righteousness. We celebrate our Lord's death not because it is an instance of unjust suffering, but because there is something good about Good Friday. Out of the side of the reposing Adam, the Lord God took a rib and made the woman. Out of the wounded side of our Lord flowed both blood and water, and the Church is born about of this wounded side. The church is supposed to be the seed, a generation that serve the Lord in righteousness. We, as Christians and as the Church, are engendered to new life by his passion, death, and resurrection. We are his seed, to use the word of the Psalmist, and we are called to be as a generation of faithful souls to the Lord.

This is the idea behind the Epistle this morning. If Christ is truly raised, you are raised with him. Do not focus on earthly externals, but on eternal and abiding truth. We are exhorted by Paul to mortify, to kill, the sin within us that we might live with Christ. And this is what we celebrate this morning. Easter and the resurrection of our Lord is not just remembering an historical event—although it is critical to our faith that we are talking about things that actually happened—but the reason why we gather and celebrate our Lord's resurrection this Sunday and every Sunday is because his resurrection is the power by which our lives can be transformed.

You know, there are a lot of reality shows on television about transformation: someone is going to come in makeover your home, or your physical looks, or even your wardrobe. The problem with these shows, and of our collective appetite for them, is that they are trying to fix internal, spiritual maladies with external changes. The philosophers of long ago observed that simply moving to another place, if you're an unhappy person, won't make you happy; simply changing some external part of your life, won't bring lasting happiness. External changes don't fix internal wounds and maladies.

In the same way, Christianity is not just a set of external actions: go to church, do certain religious activities, refrain from this and that. Rather, Christianity proclaims an inward transformation—a transformation not effected by your own strength and effort—no man hath quickened his own soul—but a transformation that is an internal resurrection. God wants to change our attitudes, affections, and desires, which without him are warped, inordinate, and tyrannical. He wants to put into our mind good desires and give us the grace to act on them, to paraphrase the Collect for Easter. So, the question is do you want to know Christ, and the power of his resurrection? Are you willing to open the door of your heart so that he might come in and renew and transform you? This isn't self-help and it isn't a makeover of the old you. As Paul writes, ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God; when Christ who is your life shall be revealed, ye also shall appear with him in glory.

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