I preached my first Easter sermon thirty years ago. Like any neophyte, I wanted to say something about Easter – the most talked about event in history – that had never before been said. I wanted to give people a chance to think about the reality of resurrection – to understand this gift – in a fresh way. My toddler son gave me my big chance.
He had completed potty training days earlier. As we celebrated his graduation to a new level of “big-boy” life, I noticed the combination of joy and terror with which he greeted it. And Easter came to mind.
I preached that Resurrection was a lot like potty training. We tend to greet it with the joy that can only be the natural response to the revelation that all of our separation from God and from authentic life itself is just an academic issue if we embrace the most down-to-earth-up-to-heaven Person who ever lived. But we also tend to greet it with the terror of knowing we have no further chance to avoid responsibility for living our life with, for, and toward God – no binding history, no seductive temptation, and no ‘but-I-didn’t-know’ excuse. The Resurrection – the Easter event – has brought us home to stay and given us every means for staying there forever. Any place in the world we go becomes home because we bring the blood, the living water, and the Spirit of the Living God with us. He is in us. Forever and ever; for better or worse.
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After the service, the senior pastor approached me, eyes wide with horror. “You said ‘poop’ in church!” Actually, I did not use the word; but it was a fine distinction at best. I gave a graphic summary of what resurrection is like for us mortals who experience it – this new life in Christ. Every parent in the room – and most of the congregation was parents and their children – knew exactly what I was trying to say, and commended me for it. Even the senior pastor had to confess I had achieved my goal – to say something new about Easter.
Truth is there is nothing new to say about Easter. It was, is, and will be the greatest day of all time. Anyone familiar with the addiction and recovery process knows the addict chose to self-medicate rather than seek authentic healing for whatever thorn is wounding his flesh. Just as familiar is the fact that there comes a point in the addiction cycle where choice is no longer an option; the addict is enslaved to the choices repeated too many times to be undone by effort – even repeated effort. Along comes the Son of God through Whom all are created. He lives among us, suffers with us, and shows us how to return to God – knowing full well it can only be accomplished through the sacrifice of His life and the gift of His Spirit. In the time ordained by the Father, He does exactly that – and rises again on the third day with the promise in His rising that all of us may rise with Him if we only consent to His being the only resurrection game in town.
What is the fruit?
Over the millennia, Christians invented social welfare. The Jews began to care for the poor first – their own – and Christians spread this God mandate throughout the world. Christians invented respect for life at all stages; Jewish prophets birthed the concept, but again it was the Christians who addressed mighty empires with the Word of God for life. (Christians – giving their lives in the arena – brought the Roman Empire to its knees over this issue and others.) And it was Christians who began and pursued the process of abolishing slavery all over the world – a process completed only with the destruction of human trafficking and Islam-fascist groups such as ISIS and Boko Haram. Christians are the only effective – read: compassionate – voice against racism today.
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Christians have fed hundreds of millions via miracles and the hard work of developing new ways to grow and distribute food through the scientific disciplines they invented. Christians have healed – in the power of God – more hundreds of millions through prayers and medical advances that are also fruit of their scientific advances. More than two billion people – alive today – know joy and peace because they accept the Lordship of the Resurrected One. But it is still as scary as it is joyful.
Each time we celebrate our joy, we are reminded that its cost is the surrender of authority over our lives. It’s the same story of what is still the greatest day of all time.
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