April 17, 2022 Easter Sunday Sermon

April 17, 2022
The Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ
(Easter Day)
The Rev. R. Allan McCaslin

Readings: Isaiah: 65:17-25; Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; Acts 10:34-43; Luke 24:1-12

From the Gospel according to St. Luke, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” I speak to you in the Name of God, our Father and Creator, God the risen Son, our Redeemer, and God the Holy Spirit, our Sustaining Sanctifier. Amen.

    The Psalmist proclaims, “On this day, the LORD has acted; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” And rejoice we do. Joined by millions of Christians throughout the world and with all the saints from ages past and those yet to come, the entire universe resounds this morning with the sin and death-smashing, hate-overcoming, hope and life-restoring, triumphant news, “He is not here. He is risen.” Jesus’ final words on the cross, “It is finished” have become a reality … Death no longer has the final word. God’s redeeming work is done. Forever. Yes, as the Psalmist proclaims, the LORD has acted, indeed, and we are amazed beyond words for this is the day!

    The Prophet Isaiah, writing in the 8th century before Christ, foretold of a day when God’s people and the faithful of all creation would be restored once again to full unity and communion with God and with each other. That day, Isaiah promised, would be incredible and like no other in history. He writes, “No more shall the sound of weeping be heard among my people, nor will they cry in distress.” This will be a day of redemption, a day of exceeding good. “No more shall (God’s people) labor in vain… they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.” It will be a moment in history that heralds a new relationship with God, for God promises that on that day, “Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear.” Every past wrong and distress, every sin, and even our judgments, all these former things, God promises,: “will not be remembered or even come to mind.” Such is our hope and our faith. And beloved, this isthat day!

    St. Luke tells us that at early dawn, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James along with several other women having come to anoint Jesus’ lifeless body and complete the ritual aspects of his burial, made a startling and, let’s be honest, it was probably a terrifying discovery. The stone was rolled away, and the tomb was empty!Tombs are not supposed to be empty! But this one was because this is the day!

    This is the day when two men St. Luke described as strangers, and St. John described as angels, said to these women, (in the words of a favorite Seminary professor) “He ain’t in there!”[1] This is the day when, St. Matthew tells us, Jesus himself appeared and said to Mary Magdalene, “Do not be afraid.” Friends, “On this day the LORD has acted.” This is the day.

     The writer of the Acts of the Apostles tells us that on this day, every sin and evil thought that had ever separated human beings from a relationship with God – even death itself - had come to an end. “He is not here. He is risen.” Through the horrors of Good Friday, that agonizing death of Jesus that was necessary because of my sins and your sins, by God’s grace now and forever, are forgiven and we are restored as children of God once more. In the words of that marvelous hymn sung moments ago, on this day the risen Christ “Closed the yawning (gaping) gates of hell. And those bars from heaven’s high portals – every barred entryway into heaven – those bars fell!” This is the day.

    And yet this day goes beyond a celebrating or commemorating, beyond a remembering or recollection of a past amazing, life-changing event. It is a day that calls us to respond in this moment, to be living proof of the resurrected Christ’s redeeming presence in us, in this world, in our communities, our state and nation every day of our lives. That is why in the midst of Easter celebrations this morning, we respond, we act, by recommitting ourselves to the promises made at our baptisms. Those solemn vows to be living proof of the resurrection of Christ. How is that proof possible?  By Christ living in and through us, in and through you and me as we proclaim in word and in how we choose to live, the transforming power of forgiveness, the unconditional welcome of God’s love and mercy that has changed our lives. We become proof of the resurrection every time we choose to seek and serve Christ in all persons, whether we like them, agree with them, believe and worship like them, or not. We prove the resurrection, we prove that Jesus rose from the dead and is very much alive today by becoming Christ’s hands and feet in this world: feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, sheltering the homeless and refugee, befriending the lonely and destitute who all too often, to borrow an image Exodus, face their own Red Seas of despair alone; and mercifully forgive and love others as deeply and compassionately as we have been forgiven and loved. This is the day we embrace the risen Christ and he embraces us, and sends us forth to change world in his Name, by his Name, and through his Name.

    The grace to be found in that empty tomb extends beyond that day in history into this present moment as the risen Christ continues to call the world to come out from our own tombs of despair and unbelief, tombs of sin, of hopelessness, and gather at this table and commune with him who makes us his body, his ongoing presence in the world. In many ways, in communing together with Jesus here in this sacred place, the words proclaimed at that empty tomb, “He is not here” become our own reality as the Christ is born again in us and we in him. Those words “He is nothere” change to “He is here: He is in you. He is in us” and that reality and grace of God must change who we are and how we choose to live for this is the day.

    In a world reeling from the effects of a pandemic, acts of violence, war, and fear for the future, in a nation torn apart by lies, scheming, distrust and hatred, the Easter message still rings out, still calls from an empty tomb, “On this day, the LORD has acted” and calls us to do the same, to stand up for God’s truth and justice, stand up and affirm God’s gift of salvation is for all who will believe regardless of who or what they are, stand up and proclaim the joy and peace of mind that comes with knowing you are forgiven, knowing God’s forgiveness, mercy, and grace, for this is the day.

    Friends, hear again the good news of God to anxious hearts and an anxious world: Alleluia Christ is risen! (The Lord is risen, indeed.)  This is the day. Let us not only be glad and rejoice in it, let us now live it always. Amen.

 

[1] The late Rev. Dr. Donald Armentrout