Faithlife Sermons

No, Really.

Holy Week 2018  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Isaiah 25:6–9 ESV
On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

Psalm 118:
Psalm 118:1–2 ESV
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.”
Psalm 118:14–24 ESV
The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. Glad songs of salvation are in the tents of the righteous: “The right hand of the Lord does valiantly, the right hand of the Lord exalts, the right hand of the Lord does valiantly!” I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord. The Lord has disciplined me severely, but he has not given me over to death. Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it. I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Mark 16:1–8 ESV
When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
Acts 10:34–43 ESV
So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him 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. And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
My brother-in-law jokingly refers to Easter as “Zombie Jesus Day”. No, really, he does. He’s got a weird sense of humor, even when it’s not April Fools’ Day.

No, Really

For reflection
Because it’s both Easter AND April Fool’s Day, I thought I’d start off with an Easter joke this morning. The theology of it is sketchy, but it’s still funny.
One Easter a priest and a taxi driver both died and went to heaven. St. Peter was at the Pearly gates waiting for them.
'Come with me,' said St. Peter to the taxi driver.
The taxi driver did as he was told and followed St Peter to a mansion. It had everything you could imagine from a bowling alley to an Olympic size pool.
'Oh my word, thank you,' said the taxi driver.
Next, St. Peter led the priest to a rough old shack with a bunk bed and a little old television set.
'Wait, I think you are a little mixed up,' said the priest. 'Shouldn't I be the one who gets the mansion? After all I was a priest, went to church every day, and preached God's word.'
'Yes, that's true.' St Peter rejoined, 'But during your Easter sermons people slept.  When the taxi driver drove, everyone prayed.'
(From: http://www.guy-sports.com/funny/christian_easter_jokes.htm)
I’m going to do my best this morning not to put you all to sleep. I was up at the crack of dawn - literally - for a sunrise service this morning, so I can’t promise I won’t myself to sleep.
I was actually pretty torn when preparing the worship service and my sermon for today because I desperately love a good joke and the temptation to add Christmas hymns or do everything completely backwards was strong. But my sense of decency and my love for the flow of worship and the church year won the internal argument.
And I also love Easter so very very much. It truly is the high point of the church year. We get to read some of the weirdest, most interesting passages of scripture together. We talk about redemption and forgiveness and miracles and all the good stuff after spending Lent dragging our feet through all the hard stuff. My son doesn’t wear sweat pants to church.
My brother-in-law jokingly refers to Easter as “Zombie Jesus Day”. No, really, he does. He’s got a weird sense of humor, even when it’s not April Fools’ Day. He’s not alone in realizing the absurdity of this holiday. Even the disciples who first got word about the resurrection were completely at a loss as to what to do with this information. “Trembling and astonishment had seized them”
Think about it. This is a weird, weird story. Just a few days ago, The authorities put to death a man who was saying things that shook them up a bit. That’s pretty easy to get behind. Happens all the time in one form or another. There will always be people - even or maybe especially people in power - who just want to maintain the status quo. And those people will often go to drastic measures to do so.
The weird part is how God used that.
The weirder part is that not only did God use it, God redeemed it.
The weirdest part is that not only did God use that and redeem that, God redeems US.
Sometimes, I think that is the real miracle of the story. It seems like it would be easier for Jesus to rise again from the dead than to forgive and redeem the rottenness of humanity.
I don’t know if ya’ll have noticed this lately, but humanity is a hot mess. People are shooting each other en masse in public places.
It’s almost impossible to have diplomatic dialogue between two people or groups on opposite ends of the political spectrum.
DO NOT - I REPEAT - DO NOT read the comments of any online news article if you want to retain any hope for mankind.
North Korea is breathing threats down the backs of our necks every other day and at least appearing to make nice on the days in between.
And good luck figuring out who’s right and who’s wrong in Israel/Palestine. I’ve been spending a ton of time researching the history and culture and religion of that part of the world in preparation for a peacemaking conference there next month and the more I read, the muddier the whole thing looks.
I know that there certainly IS goodness in the world. There is phenomenal love and compassion and kindness in this world. I’m looking out into this congregation and I see pews full of love and compassion and kindness. If you’re visiting today, trust me on this - these people are some of the most wonderful and good people you will ever meet.
A static understanding of history always looks backward. Yet for humans, there is no way to return to the past. The only option is to move on. The risen Lord is always “ahead” of us not behind ().
(From: “Faith in the Face of Empire” by Mitri Raheb)
But there are also many mean people out there. This is just a reality. There are mean people and mean systems and mean circumstances. Sometimes, there are even mean people in church. I haven’t met any of those here yet, but I’ve met them in other churches - one was even a pastor. I’ve heard about them from other people too.
I’m not saying it’s all bad. It’s just that it can feel pretty exhausting. It can feel like fighting for justice and compassion and goodness in the world is an uphill battle.
A static understanding of history always looks backward. Yet for humans, there is no way to return to the past. The only option is to move on. The risen Lord is always “ahead” of us not behind ().
(From: “Faith in the Face of Empire” by Mitri Raheb)
(From: “Faith in the Face of Empire” by Mitri Raheb)
https://www.amazon.com/Faith-Face-Empire-through-
Peter says in our passage today from Acts that God loves everyone. God doesn’t show partiality to anyone. God loves all people - even the mean ones. And in fact, Jesus spent his life bringing healing and compassion specifically to people who were under the oppression of sin.
Everyone.
EVERYONE.
Everyone who believes in him is granted forgiveness. Jesus didn’t just do all this for the good guys. Jesus rose again so that all people might be able to experience forgiveness. It’s your choice if you want to live into that or not.
That is so completely counter to the messages of the world today, but it is so very needed. So let me say that again.
Everyone who believes in him is granted forgiveness. Jesus didn’t just do all this for the good guys. Jesus rose again so that all people might be able to experience forgiveness. It’s your choice if you want to live into that or not.
Peter frames his message about Jesus and the story of Israel in with two wider declarations - Jesus is Lord of all () and everyone who believes in him received forgiveness of sins through his name (). How have you seen the power of these messages at work?
Jesus came, taught, healed, died, and rose again so that we wouldn’t have to stay under the oppression of sin and meanness. Not all people choose freedom, but it’s offered to all.
Peter would know about this impartiality of God - he had just been sent to the home of a Roman soldier - the enemy! And even this man, this member of the occupying military was not beyond God’s redemption. This is someone who under Jewish law, Peter wasn’t even supposed to eat with, yet God has sent him to this guy’s house.
Matt Skinner, of WorkingPreacher.org says:
In Peter preaches to a gentile soldier whom he might have previously dismissed as "profane or unclean" (10:14, 28). He preaches, then, as one attentive to God's leading and God's presence. This attentiveness allows him to do more than recite the details of an already familiar story (v. 36); it creates an opportunity to consider the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ in the light cast by the fresh and surprising work of God in their midst. We ask: where (else) is God extending salvation today, within our world? How might our answers to that question lead congregations to discover new, corresponding meaning in the Easter story?
We all have the same creator.
We all need the same salvation, no matter who we are or what we’ve done or where we’re from.
And we’re all at different points in our journey. And that’s ok.
For those who still wrestle with this weird story and figuring out what to do with it - great! Keep wrestling. Call me or email me or stop by the office with questions. God doesn’t judge your questions, so what right do I have to do so?
For those who have wrestled already and have seen and experienced that forgiveness and are on the path of learning how to live into it, AWESOME! Go share that story with others! Share that forgiveness, that grace, that love and compassion and kindness to all those around you who have been picked on by a mean world.
And for all on any point on that spectrum between “Zombie Jesus” and “Risen Lord”, go out to share peace with one another. There are no nations in the eyes of God. There are only beloved people.
We cannot dwell in the past of who did what to whom and we can’t just let our faith sit stagnant in one place because it’s just not like it was “in the good ol’ days.” We can’t pretend the well-being and salvation of another person is less important than that of another.
What Peter offers us in this little mini-sermon is a new and exciting message out of a weird old story that sounds completely nuts to most modern readers. The message of the resurrection is that everyone matters. Love wins. Compassion for one another, no matter how different, is central to true Christian faith.
From Mark Tranvik on Working Preacher:
Peter’s sermon is startling and even destabilizing. He announces God’s radical love is on the move, breaking down cherisehd and long-held borders and categories. . . We tend to build our own “private” faiths, drawing lines around who is “in” and who is “out.” And we get upset when people mess with our religion. . . we try to the and domesticate God as we use him to pursue our own independent goals and agendas.
Regardless of old divisions or hurts, we are called to continually move forward, leaning into and participating in the healing and redemption of all as given us in Jesus.
A static understanding of history always looks backward. Yet for humans, there is no way to return to the past. The only option is to move on. The risen Lord is always “ahead” of us not behind ().
(From: “Faith in the Face of Empire” by Mitri Raheb)
We’re all at different points in our journey. And that’s ok. . . as long as we’re moving forward from wherever it is that we are.
For those who still wrestle with this weird story and figuring out what to do with it - great! Keep wrestling. Call me or email me or stop by the office with questions. God doesn’t judge your questions, so what right do I have to do so? And I love a good theological conversation.
For those who have wrestled already and have seen and experienced that forgiveness and are on the path of learning how to live into it, AWESOME! Go share that story with others! Share that forgiveness, that grace, that love and compassion and kindness to all those around you who have been picked on by a mean world.
And for all on any point on that spectrum between “Zombie Jesus” and “Risen Lord”, go out to share peace with one another. There are no nations in the eyes of God. There are only beloved people.
This year, do not let Easter be the same old weird holiday. There’s nothing wrong with weird, for the record, it’s the “same old” part that trips us up. What a perfect time to find a stranger to welcome, a person to hang out with who is terribly different from you in some way. As we. . . hopefully any day now. . . experience the beauty and newness of spring, let it be a reminder of how God makes beauty and newness out of even mean, messed up, divided, angry people.
2000
Nothing about Easter is routine or predictable.
The same can be said about preaching the Easter story. When we view Christ's resurrection with an understanding that God continues to be concerned with our world, then our situations lead us to perceive that event with new significance. Because our lives and our encounters with God continually provide possibilities for grasping the implications of the resurrection in new--and renewed--ways, we must not assume that the Easter story always communicates the same message. Rather, it accumulates new meaning whenever it is preached, because it continues to say something about God's intentions for humanity with fresh and vital connections to our lived existence.
From Mark Tranvik on Working Preacher:
Peter’s sermon is startling and even destabilizing. He announces God’s radical love is on the move, breaking down cherisehd and long-held borders and categories. . . We tend to build our own “private” faiths, drawing lines around who is “in” and who is “out.” And we get upset when people mess with our religion. . . we try to the and domesticate God as we use him to pursue our own independent goals and agendas.
What would change about your day to day life if you began each day with Peter’s reminder of the importance of redemption? How might you treat people differently? Would you treat people differently?
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