Sermon for Easter Sunday – April 21, 2019

Acts 10:34-43, 1 Corinthians 15:19-26, Luke 24:1-12

Dear friends, grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

 It is no exaggeration, no rhetorical hyperbole, to say that these three words are the most important words you will ever hear in your entire life.

The first word, “Christ,” tells us who is risen. The Lord Jesus Christ, who came to give us forgiveness, life, and salvation, who took our sin upon himself on the cross, was raised up from death.

The next word, “is,” tells us that his ministry continues to this very day, to this very moment. This proclamation is in the present tense! This statement is true here and now, right here this morning!

The word “risen” tells us what exactly happened. Jesus was not merely revived or resuscitated. Jesus was raised up to a new reality, to a new existence beyond death. He was raised up to live anew and forever in the power of God

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Why are these the three most important words you will ever hear in your life? What does it all mean for you?

It means that you have a savior, and because of this savior you are forgiven. You are no longer defined by your brokenness, your weaknesses, your shame. You are no longer defined by your failures, your sins. Instead, you can live in the freedom and joy of forgiveness. As Peter proclaims in our reading from Acts for today, “everyone who believes in Christ receives forgiveness of sins in his name.”

It means that this is a present reality. Christ’s work isn’t just in the past. He continues to be at work as his Word is spoken to give you this new life here and now. This is the day that the Lord has made! Let us rejoice and be glad in it! Jesus Christ is risen today, alleluia!

It means that death, while it is all-too-real, is not final. It means that death, while painful and sad and scary, does not have the last word. It means that death, our biggest fear and our greatest enemy, has ultimately been defeated for all of us. Because you see, this resurrection Jesus experienced is for you too. In our second reading on this Easter Sunday St. Paul describes Jesus’ resurrection as the “first fruits.” In other words, in raising Jesus, God was just getting started! Paul writes: “Since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead will also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ.”

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

 What joy these three little words bring, if only we believe them! What freedom and peace they bring when we trust that they are true. What different lives we could live if we took these words to heart, not just on Easter Sunday, but every day of our lives.

The trouble is, most of the time, we don’t.

The 19th century Danish theologian Soren Kierkegaard wrote a parable about a community of ducks with a duck church with a duck preacher. One Sunday all the ducks faithfully waddled to duck church, where the duck preacher stood to deliver his sermon. He opened his duck Bible to the place where it spoke of God’s great gift to ducks, the gift of wings. “With wings”, said the duck preacher, “we can fly! We can mount up like eagles and soar into the heavens! We can escape the confinement of pens and fences and know the joy of unfettered freedom!”

“We must give God thanks,” the duck preacher continued, “for such a great gift as wings, for we no longer need to waddle – we can fly!” All the ducks in the duck church rejoiced at this message. They stood up and quacked a hearty “Amen!” And then they turned around…and waddled home.

Can you see what Kierkegaard was trying to say with this little parable? Do you think it applies at all to us?

It certainly applies to the apostles! As we heard in our gospel reading this morning, when Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James told the disciples what they saw and heard at the tomb, when they proclaimed to the apostles that Christ had been raised as he told them he would, St. Luke tells us that “it seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.”

The apostles thought the good news of Easter was an idle tale. They thought it was a mere story, going nowhere, changing nothing. The apostles themselves didn’t believe the Easter message! At least not at first! Do we? The good news of Easter might be a joy to hear today. We might quack a hearty “Amen!” this morning. But will we believe it tomorrow, or will it just seem like an idle tale? Will we go right back to our waddling through life?

There are many reasons that it is hard for us to believe the Easter message.

It can be hard to believe the Easter message because we live in a world where waddling is considered normal. It is just easier sometimes to conform ourselves to the behaviors and beliefs of the world around us. It is easy to give in to the cynicism and despair that is all around us.

It can be hard to fly in the freedom of forgiveness because guilt and shame are such heavy weights on our hearts. People like to say that “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” but we know that isn’t true. Our sins, big or small, no matter where and when they happen, have a way of following us around. I talk to people all the time who turn to a puddle of tears at the drop of a hat because of things they’ve done or left undone from decades ago. Our sin weighs heavily upon us, and it is hard to believe that that weight could ever be taken off of us.

It can be hard to believe the Easter message because death seems so utterly and completely final to us. When you have lost a loved one to death and you ache with the pain of their absence, it can be hard to believe anything other than that death is the end. When you see another death notice at the post office, or hear of another fatal accident or tragedy on the news, or stand over the grave of a friend, it can seem like death is an unconquerable enemy. When you brush up against your own mortality, either through illness or ageing, it can seem like death is indeed going to have the last word with you someday too.

These are just a few reasons why it is so hard to believe in the good news of Easter, why we keep on waddling through life, stuck in our old patterns of living with sin and selfishness, apathy and anxiety, doubt and despair. Human power or strength or reason just can’t comprehend what we have heard. It seems like an idle tale to us. We just can’t get our heads around those three little words, no matter how hard we try.

Thankfully, Christ is risen. (He is risen indeed! Alleluia!)

 Our risen Lord is here in the present. His ministry continues right here this morning. Our risen savior come to us on this day of resurrection through his Word to raise our faith and to conquer our doubts. He is here and at work on us on this Easter Sunday by the power of his Holy Spirit so that he would open our ears and our hearts to those three beautiful words today, so that we would believe them, so that we would trust that they are true.

Jesus wants you to know that your sin really is forgiven! It died with him on the cross!

Jesus wants you to know that he really has conquered death! His resurrection is the first fruits of what God has in store for us all. Death is real, but it is not final. Death will not have the last word – Jesus will! One day he will call our names. One day he will call us into the new reality of the resurrection, into a new existence beyond death, to live with him forever in the power and presence of God.

Do you know what all of this means? It means we can stop waddling! We can leave behind the old life and start flapping the wings of faith. We can let go of our sin and our shame and our fear and begin to fly. We can begin to live in hope and joy, soaring with confidence and peace towards the eternal home our risen Lord has in store for us.

Hear it again. This is no idle tale! These are the three most important words you will ever hear in your entire life: Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

 Now don’t you dare waddle out of here today!

Thanks be to God. Amen.

Rev. Jeffrey R. Spencer

Oak Harbor Lutheran Church