Day Old Manna
Here is the sermon I gave for our sunrise Easter service yesterday. Seems weird to be posting a couple of sermons lately, but an Easter reflection really would provide some closure to the posts from Lent. The title of this post refers to posting old sermons, but it might fit okay with the theme of the following sermon, which is based on 2 Corinthians 5.16-6.2 and was originally titled, “Today Is the Day!”
Paschal Greeting: Christ is risen! [He is risen indeed!]
On this day, we do not say, “He rose,” but, “He is risen!” It is a present reality. The eighth day–the beginning of New Creation! Today is the day! We’ve woken up in a new reality, at the dawn of New Creation! We have not come here just to remember something Jesus did a couple thousand years ago. And we don’t come just to repeat promises about a secure future that we’ll meet some day.
When Jesus came to Bethany after Lazarus had died, he told Martha, “Your brother will rise again.” She gave her best attempt at repeating the right answer, squeezing the life out of it in a moment of desperation. “I know my brother will rise again in the resurrection on the last day,” she said.
If it’s just a matter of getting our words in order–if that’s all being a Christian really means is that we talk about things the right way and force our feelings to fall in line with our right answers–Martha got it right. She postures in her moment of pain to make sure Jesus and everyone else know that she’s still got it all under control, that her faith is still holding it all together. “I know,” she says, “No need to teach me, nothing lacking here, all under control. I understand the resurrection idea.”
But what does Jesus say? “I am the resurrection and the life!” The reality that all of our Sunday School answers cannot prepare us for is the present tense, immediate confrontation between the Son of God and the powers of hell at work in our lives. But we put it off for some future date, procrastinating our salvation by mistakenly thinking it will be delivered to us by some future date on the cosmic calendar. Insulating ourselves with all the right words and feelings and behaviors to preserve us while we wait for that day.
But the power is not in the day, it is in the person–Christ himself is the power of God for our salvation. And when Christ comes near, there are no other past or future conditions that need to be satisfied. When Christ comes near, today is the day, now is the time, the Day of the Lord has come, and resurrection power is in our midst when Christ is here.
So when we say that he is risen, we aren’t just remembering something from the past, and we aren’t just looking forward to something in the future. We are doing those things, of course, but we are also proclaiming that this day is different, this day is a day of salvation, this is the day on which all things can be made new because Christ is risen! [He is risen indeed!]
St. Paul writes that we do not regard Christ from a worldly point of view, or according to the flesh. This means two things. First, that we do not think of him like the world thinks of him. But also that we we do not think of him only according to his suffering in the body, but according to his divine power.
Like David anointed long before he was recognized as king–but king he was. And so God’s Anointed Redeemer, the Messiah, the Christ has ascended to the right hand of God, and he has been given all power and authority over the nations, taking his rightful place as King of kings and Lord of lords. And even though billions throughout history have looked back to the cross and have seen only a moral teacher suffering an unfortunate fate, we look forward to the day when all will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.
But Saul the Tyrant is still hanging on for dear life in the world, and maybe even in our lives. He has no authority, and he knows that his time is short, but he hasn’t been kicked out of the palace just yet. He pretends to be the king and he makes life miserable for the faithful servant of God, but his power even now is being emptied because Christ is risen! [He is risen indeed!]
Kierkegaard once wrote that in this life we are all as actors on a stage: one appears rich and another poor, one is mourning and one laughing, one is powerful and another a slave. But after the play concludes and the curtain falls, the players take their bows and they are now all actors, equals, alike in their worth and estimation, even though their costumes still hang loosely around them, a reminder of the story they were just telling. But the one who played a king no longer commands the one who played the servant, for a new reality has emerged, and one so much more real that the previous reality is now just called a play.
And so we tell a story of God’s grace in the costumes he has appointed to each of us. But we do not regard one another according to the costume alone, but according to the fellowship of being caught up in a story that God is telling through us.
For this reason we do not regard anyone from a worldly point of view. We regard our brothers and sisters not according to worldly costumes of citizenship or socioeconomic status, but according to our mutual adoption as the beloved children of God. And this perspective also changes the way we think of those estranged from our Heavenly Father. We regard the prodigal due to return home not according to the stench that sticks to him from serving the pigs, but according to the robe of sonship and glory that the Father is bringing to put around his shoulders.
We do not regard ourselves or anyone else according to the struggles or the failed attempts or the innate abilities, but according to the grace that the heavenly perspective helps us to see. “If anyone is in Christ, that person is a new creation–the new creation has come!” It’s a present tense reality! “Christ is risen!” [He is risen indeed!]
Being a new creation isn’t a matter of making it happen for ourselves. It is not dependent upon our understanding or our strength or our serene emotional acceptance of the situation. In the tumults of life, when we are overwhelmed, when our grip on him is lost, salvation is at hand because and only because Christ is risen! [He is risen indeed!]
You’ve woken up to a day that you may have thought you understood–as Martha thought that she understood the resurrection, even as she did not recognize him when he came to visit her. This day is not about getting the answers right, but about being addressed by the one who is present in our midst this morning and declares to us that today is the day. Christ is risen! [He is risen indeed!]
You’ve woken up to a day that you may have planned out–as the women at the tomb thought they were coming to do some work, but all the work had been done, and there was joy where they thought sorrow would be found. Have you come here this morning thinking that it’s just part of the work you have to do? Have you come expecting to find new life and to become a new creation? It is possible today, because and only because Christ is risen! [He is risen indeed!]