St.George's Anglican Church
Cambridge Bay (Ikaluktutiak), NU
Diocese of the Arctic
Parish of Cambridge Bay
Today is: Wednesday,13 December,2017 05:17:38 PM

Sermon for Easter Sunday 23 March 2008 Cambridge Bay, NU

Somewhere or other I heard of a Sunday School teacher who had just finished telling her third graders about how Jesus was crucified and placed in a tomb with a great stone sealing off the only way in or out.  Then, wanting to share the excitement of the resurrection, and the surprise of Easter morning, she asked: "And what do you think were Jesus' first words when he came bursting out of that tomb alive."
A hand shot up into the air from the rear of the classroom. It belonged to a most excited little girl. Leaping out of her chair she shouted out excitedly, "I know, I know, I know."
"Good," said the teacher, "Tell us."
Extending her arms high in the air she sang out: "TA - DA!"
If you have followed along throughout Lent and into Holy Week and suffered through the crucifixion and my sermon on Good Friday, you too want to say TA DA!  But instead we greet each other with the ancient Christian Easter salutation:

Alleluia, He is risen!  He is risen indeed, alleluia!

We, like Christ, have passed through the dark days and have come into the light.

Martin Luther once spent three days in a black depression over something that had gone wrong.  On the third day his wife came downstairs dressed in mourning clothes.  "Who's dead?" he asked her.  "God," she replied. Luther rebuked her, saying, "What do you mean, God is dead?  God cannot die."  "Well," she replied, "the way you've been acting I was sure He had!"
Many of us have been caught in that trap. That is also what had happened to Mary as she came to the tomb.  But the risen Lord revealed himself to her and the darkness of her soul became light, the despair over his death became joy over life eternal.

In this past week I have had two former parishioners die, one after a long and full life, the other needlessly and tragically.  Many people have had the opportunity to contemplate life and death and the promises of Jesus.  There is no more demanding a time to determine if you really believe in Jesus than when you are contemplating your own or another’s death.

Easter gives us the opportunity, without being morbid, to reflect on the ultimate meaning of things.  Are we mere creatures of the dust who are here only for a moment--or were we created for eternity?  On the southwest coast of Scotland lies the little town of Whithorn.  In its ancient cemetery can be found a tombstone with an intriguing epitaph: YOU THINK I'M FORGOT. I'M NOT.

Forgiveness of sins and absolution for past sins, what we call salvation and redemption, and the promise of eternal life are a reality for Christians.  Notwithstanding Woody Allen's comic assessment? "I don't want to achieve immortality through my work," he said. "I want to achieve immortality by not dying."

We are immortal because Christ has once and forever battered down the gates of death.

Several years ago, The Saturday Evening Post ran a cartoon showing a man about to be rescued after he had spent a long time ship-wrecked on a tiny deserted island.  The sailor in charge of the rescue team stepped onto the beach and handed the man a stack of newspapers.
"Compliments of the Captain," the sailor said.  "He would like you to glance at the headlines to see if you'd still like to be rescued!"  Sometimes the headlines do scare us.  Sometimes we feel that evil is winning, but then along comes Easter, to remind us that there is no grave deep enough, no seal imposing enough, no stone heavy enough, no evil strong enough, to keep Christ in the grave.  And he died for you and me and he rose for you and me.

The priest Erasmus two centuries ago wrote these powerful words.
 
”How much more wonderful the work of redemption is, in comparison with creation.  It is more marvelous that God was made man than that He created the angels; that He wailed in a stable than that He reigns in the heavens.  The creation of the world was a work of power, but the redemption of the world was a work of mercy.”

Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die (John 11:25)."
My friends in Christ, our hope is grounded in the gift of eternal life which we received this day - it is our way out of the valley of darkness and despair through which all of us walk at one time or another in our lives.  This gift of eternal life does not begin at death.  It begins now for all who worship the risen Christ.  This life eternal will then continue beyond the grave into the life to come, for our souls are eternal, and in Christ we become one with the Father who made us.  This is the hope and the promise which we receive this glorious Easter Day.

Some years ago a college student came by his priest's office to discuss theological issues.  Eventually the conversation came around to the subject of Easter.  After all, if you take Christianity seriously, it will ultimately always lead you to Easter.  "What do you think of the resurrection, he asked.  The priest replied: I believe that it happened in reality and not just in the minds of men.  What is your evidence, he asked, like a professor prodding a student.  The priest presented as Exhibit A: the disciples.  Twelve men are not going to give up their lives to simply perpetuate that which they know to be a hoax.
"I don't know," he mumbled. "I just don't know."  There was his problem.  He was seeking knowledge, not faith.  You do not say: resurrected Christ, appear to me and then I will believe.  It is just the opposite.  The resurrected Christ appeared only to those who did believe.  The angel told the men: Go to Judea and there you will find him.  I would suggest that Judea represents the community of believers both then and now.  Judea was to be the place where Jesus would plainly reveal to his followers that he was indeed alive.  He did not reveal himself to the Caiaphas and Pilates and Herods of the world.  Rather he revealed himself to those who accepted and believed in him first.

And today he still reveals himself to those who believe.  As we stand here today and bring six more people into his church, six more believers, we will see revealed in the body and the blood the living Jesus who rose for us and waits for us and listens to us now as he always has.  It is through faith that we become members of his body, not through mathematical or scientific arguments, although those abound.  But in the end, it is, as Luther wrote, it is by faith alone that we receive the grace of God.  

Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die (John 11:25)."

Jesus Christ is risen today.  Alleluia, alleluia.  Amen.

 Last Modified: 26 March,2008