Listen to the sermon here:
Scriptures: Acts 10:34-43 Psalm 118:1-2 1 Corinthians 15:19-26 Luke 24:1-12
This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. But why? This death on the cross and this resurrection was designed so that we – each of us – can claim salvation for our souls in the name of this one who died and now lives. Luke wrote in the book of Acts, chapter 10: “All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
One such prophet was Isaiah in the years around 700 B.C. Isaiah wrote words from God in Isaiah 65:17-19 (NRSV): “For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress.”
Last Sunday, Palm Sunday, we found Jesus crying over the city Jerusalem because the people would not listen; would not believe that he, the Messiah, came to make them a new people. Here we find Isaiah prophesying that Jerusalem will be full of happy people. There will be no sorrow in that city. This prophecy includes other wonderful aspects of the new creation such as: No child will die in infancy. We will all live to be as old as trees. Wolves and lambs will graze together. This passage in Isaiah ends with “I, the Lord, have spoken!” In Revelation 21:1–6, the writer shares a vision of this new heaven and a new earth.
We say, “That certainly has not yet happened!” That is true. Just as people waited for the Messiah to appear after hundreds of years of waiting, so we now wait for the next part to happen. However, we do have today – this Alleluia Easter Day! A new day on the first Easter, on each Easter Sunday, each and every day. This is the day! This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us be glad and rejoice in it!
Let us rejoice in this day. Let us claim this day as we wait for the life of perfection; the life of no sadness; the life of complete peace. We are blessed to be in the middle between the cross and the coming of the kingdom. The anticipation is exciting. We read in Revelation 21: “And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away. And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.”
We do not hear that he will send our souls to the drycleaner. We do not hear that God will put us through a car wash or even in a lake or a shower to become clean. Jesus came to wash our sins away. And indeed we do believe that our sins can be gone completely by confessing that “Jesus is Lord.” But in Isaiah and Revelation we are hearing NEW. A new day! How soon will this happen? People do calculations. Dates come and go and this “kingdom come” has not happened. But we do live in God’s kingdom today. It still has many imperfections. There is still weeping. But every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer we say, “Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” We are saying that we want goodness and kindness to fill the earth; to fill the world.
We can spread kindness and goodness. Each day we hear and read of people doing good things. Each day people are praying for each other and the world. People are carrying this Easter message to the ends of the earth and to their neighbors. We can let these Easter words drop into the air when we are with people. We don’t need to shout. We can sneak these resurrection words into conversation very nonchalantly, very casually. But today we need to be shouting, “Christ is risen, He is risen indeed. Hallelujah!”
We have this yearning to know when this new heaven and new earth will happen? We could be gamblers and guess when it will happen. God does not care for that kind of guessing. What God does care about is our faithfulness; our excitement for this very day as each day comes and goes; as Easter comes and goes each year. This is a day of renewal of our lives; this is a new day. Today is the day that the Lord has made.
Let us relish the Easter story. Let us cherish the story. Let us claim the story as reality for you, for me, for every person who lives on this earth. This is the greatest story of all stories!
Jesus is on the cross. Jesus dies. Jesus is removed from the cross. A secret follower asks for his body and is given permission. Jesus is placed in a never-before-used tomb. End of story! Not so! Friday night passes. Saturday night passes. At the dawn of Sunday several women make their way to the tomb with burial spices, noticeably not wondering how they will get into the tomb. Whoa! The tomb is open. No body is in the tomb. While they are perplexed, Luke tells that two men in dazzling clothes appear beside the women. The women are terrified but these angels ask why they are looking for the living among the dead. The women are puzzled at this strange bunch of words. “What does this mean?” they are thinking. The angels remind the women of Jesus’ prediction of his death and rising on the third day.
So, as Luke tells the story, these women tell the eleven disciples plus other people. Peter alone goes to the tomb and sees its emptiness and goes home amazed. Each gospel writer tells the story a bit differently but the essential core is the same. Jesus died. He rose on the third day. Yes, Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Hallelujah!
This story of resurrection has substance. It is not a fantasy. There is historical and archeological proof that this story is real – that Jesus lived and died and lived again. The wonderful part of this event in history is that it lives still – today – tomorrow. Each new day can be a resurrection day for us. We sin, we confess our sins, we confess that Jesus is Lord, we are forgiven, made new.
Some of us believe that in our baptism we died with Christ. Did Jesus rise and leave us dead? No, Jesus did not leave us dead! Because we are believers, we are raised with Jesus. We are resurrection people. Over and over, our sins are dissolved in the death of our baptism and in the death of Jesus. As we are resurrected over and over, we rise from the water with clean hearts, with living hearts.
Remember how peace was prominent in our Palm Sunday scripture passages? Peace has followed us to our Easter lessons. Part of this new heaven and new earth is peace. We can expect a peaceful kingdom. Isaiah tells of animals, who are now antagonists, lying together. The meat-eating animals will be content with plants as food. We imagine the miserable, cruel, self-made leaders of this world living contentedly side-by-side. We might think of no bullying. Wonderful, blessed peace! But the fulfillment of this state of being is not ours to rush. We need to wait.
While we wait we shall not be idle. In the belief that we are presently living in the partial kingdom come to earth, we should expect God to call upon us to serve Him for some special purpose. We need to be ready to sprint into action. If we are already doing as much as we can for the care of the earth and the care of the people, great! If we are just enjoying life without serving, we should think twice and triple. We shall not be surprised if God confronts us.
Paul gives us a slant on what needs to be happening while we wait. Do you remember King David’s words in Psalm 110 about Jesus putting his enemies under his footstool? Well Paul takes that theme in 1 Corinthians 15:19-26. “Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” That fits with Isaiah saying that when this new kingdom comes in all its fullness, children will not die at birth or from diseases. That fits with Revelation 21 where we read, “Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more; for the first things have passed away.” When all the enemies have been captured under the feet of Jesus, this new heaven and new earth will arrive.
What about this enemy idea? Who are the enemies of Jesus? Perhaps the list is quite long. Are we on that list? Are we hindering the completion of this new kingdom. Is Jesus trying to herd us under his feet? We need to do some self-examination? Are we hindering the work of the Lord on earth? If so, we are one of the enemies. Is our destiny to be squashed under Jesus’ feet? Have you pictured yourself there? I must confess that I picture myself in the arms of Jesus. I feel his hand upon me keeping me calm and healthy and making me more loving. Under his feet?
Wow! We need to get busy and check our thoughts, our actions. We want to be one of the new creations; we want to be renewed daily; we want to be blessed by the grace of Jesus, by the salvation that came by the cross and moved to the resurrection. Paul started as persecutor and became follower. Peter denied Jesus and became the rock of the church with keys, no less.
Where are we standing? What are we doing as resurrected people? What song are we carrying in our hearts. Let it be: Christ is risen, He is risen indeed. This is the new day that the Lord has made. Let us be glad and rejoice with each other, gathering people as we go. Hallelujah!