The Defining Moment


This my Easter sermon from last year.  I knew that it would be my last one in that church, so I wanted it to express something crucial about Easter.  This was the best I could do.

Essence

•        It’s Easter!  And along with chocolate bunnies, jelly beans, and dyed eggs, Easter baskets are stuffed with Peeps – those blue and yellow marshmallow treats

What do Peeps and Christianity have in common?

in the shape of baby chicks, with the sugar-coated outsides.  If for some reason, you removed all the sugar from Peeps, you wouldn’t have much left; a little food coloring, and who knows what else.  Because the essence of Easter Peeps is sugar.  Without sugar, there would be no Peeps in Easter baskets.

•        According to Paul, the resurrection is to the Christian Good News, what sugar is to Easter Peeps.  The essence of Christianity is the resurrection.  It is what Paul and all the other apostles preached, and it was central to what the Christians in Corinth had believed.

•        Without the resurrection, Christmas and Good Friday are nothing more than sentimental events.  Without the resurrection, Paul wrote the Corinthians, the message of salvation – of rescue – is useless.  If Jesus stayed dead, the whole Good News collapses, because evil and death would remain undefeated.  If Jesus stayed dead, it might be possible to die forgiven, but die still in the grip of death.

  • Without the resurrection, Christianity means nothing:  “if all we get out of Christ  is a little inspiration for a few short years, we’re a pretty sorry lot” (1 Corinthians 15:19, The Message).  If the resurrection of Christ never happened, any good news Christianity has to offer is nothing more than a myth; an interesting, perhaps symbolic, story resulting from humans wishes, but who in their right mind would want to sacrificially dedicate their life to that?
  • If the resurrection never happened, Christians would all be better off living life with all the gusto they can manage, sucking the marrow out of life here and now, because that would be all there was and would ever be.  There would be no reason to give Jesus allegiance and put trust in him.  That would be ridiculous.  One writer notes: “no one can give himself to a dead man, no one can expect anything or receive anything from a dead man.” 

•        No, Christ’s resurrection was more than God’s noble experiment to test a theoretical possibility.  Christ’s resurrection is the source of eternal life for everyone who believes the good news that God has rescued us.  According to verse 20 of our passage, Christ’s resurrection is the guarantee that those who have “fallen asleep” will rise to new life.  Christ is God’s down payment, God’s pledge, of the bodily resurrection of everyone who believes.

•        Like sugar in an Easter Peep, Easter gives Christianity its flavor, its color, and character.  If Jesus wasn’t physically raised, then death has the last word, Evil wins, and there is no rescue.

  • Easter is the essential ingredient of the Christian existence.

The Difference

•        The idea that Christ’s resurrection is the defining moment for Christians may sound inspirational on a spring morning, but will it really matter tomorrow in the grinder of everyday life?  I believe it does.

•        In the book of Acts, something completely remade Jesus’ followers from the end of the story in the gospels.   It is interesting that the gospels don’t deal very gently with these first heroes of the Christian faith in the days following Jesus’ crucifixion.  His death completely shattered them.  Even though Jesus had been telling them this was coming, they were caught off-guard.   They are described as huddled behind locked doors and windows, afraid, depressed, and despondent; completely confused about what to do next.  But somehow, beginning with that very group of people, Christianity spread across the entire Roman Empire in the next few decades.  What happened to this group of depressed and fearful people who had lost the one person that bound them together?  The resurrection – Easter.  Christ’s resurrection completely turned them around.

•         First, Christ’s resurrection rewired their reaction to difficult circumstances.  In Acts we see their despair turned into hope, their sorrow into joy; their fear and indecision transformed into clear purpose and determination.  That first Easter proved that there is no situation so bleak that God doesn’t prevail.  Think about it: God’s own son became the victim of corruption, political maneuvering, miscarriage of justice, treachery, and savagery – God had finally been defeated by his rebellious creation. I can’t imagine anything bleaker than that.  But the resurrection proved that God is victorious (present tense) over all the manifestations of evil.  Jesus’ resurrection guaranteed that God’s love will never quit, can never be defeated, no matter what happens, that even death is no longer a threat.

•        The result is a new reality, where every day can be an Easter day – full of joy, celebration, happiness – because there is nothing left to fear.  That is the reason that In Acts, Paul and Silas sang praise songs after being beaten and thrown in prison; why down through the centuries Christians have kept following Jesus despite prison, torture, murder, and execution.  Christians have the hope that even death can’t beat God.  They have known that Jesus had paved the way, so they could have the same resurrection life that he did.

•        Second, the empty tomb gave the disciples a sense of purpose; because of the Resurrection this life isn’t all there is – this life is merely the warm up for what follows.  Therefore, the resurrection purpose of this life is to get prepared for the life to come.  Summarized, the purpose of the resurrection life is to practice how to love God with all that you are, show other people how much God loves them too, and urge others to join in the resurrection life.

Belief

•        Easter is so much more than a fluffy promise about what happens after you die.  It can completely transform how you live tomorrow back in the grind.

•        You can view life’s circumstances with the Easter perspective; that they can never defeat or destroy you – not even the threat of dying.

•        You can have the Easter purpose for daily living; getting prepared for the life to come.

•        Go celebrate that today – eat some marshmallow Peeps!

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