Sunday, April 1, 2018

Sermon -- Easter (April 1, 2018)

1 CORINTHIANS 15:19-26


In the name + of Jesus.

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

     If you have come to church today, it is because you want to hear good news.  And chances are, you could use some.  The world is broken.  That is proven by daily headlines.  We hear about violence and killing—and not just in war zones; in schools!  We hear about wars and rumors of wars.  People are hurting, suffering, grieving, and dying.  Sin has corrupted the world, it announces its presence every day.  Sometimes it is breaking news.  Other times it comes in a jaw-dropping, heart-rending phone call from a loved one.  So, if you are here today, it is because you are longing for peace—peace in the midst of a broken, violent world; peace to soothe a broken heart; peace to mend a broken, messed up life.
     Jesus understood that this world was broken, and that the lives of people in it are broken, messy, and difficult.  Jesus witnessed injustice, violence, grief, betrayal, and death.  In fact, Jesus was a victim of injustice, violence, grief, and betrayal.  And as far as death is concerned, you may have noticed that Easter has its beginning in a cemetery.  Jesus both witnessed death, and experienced it.  But Jesus did not come just to witness how broken the world is.  Jesus did not come to experience the corruption of the world and its citizens.  Jesus came to restore all things to their right order, to reconcile people to God, and to rectify all that had gone wrong once sin entered into the world.  The risen Jesus gives peace for the broken.
     When Paul wrote his letter to the Corinthians, he was writing to Christians who were still somewhat worldly.  Some sneered at the idea of the resurrection from the dead and the life everlasting.  They wanted a better world and a better life now.  I guess, to some degree, you can't blame them.  We see people assembling together for marches, rallies, and protests, hoping that somehow they can make this world safer, cleaner, happier, and better.  And if that is what you are hoping Jesus will do for you, you will be disappointed.  That is why St. Paul writes, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:19)  
     The fact is that Jesus does not stop people from being sinners.  People will go on lying about people, cheating people, and using other people for their own selfish aims.  We still have to face sickness, natural disasters, plane crashes, political strife, and terrorism.  The world is broken, and lives are often broken because of it.  Since the world will continue to be broken, the Christian hope is not to create a perfect world here and now.  It is to be delivered out of the brokenness of the world.  That means you need to be delivered from sin and death.
     You can lament and rage, march and protest because the world is corrupt, but you also need to recognize that you have contributed to it.  You are sinful yourself.  It has come out of your mouth in rude words and it is felt by others in your impatient and self-absorbed attitude.  And of course, you alone know the bitterness that you keep hidden in your heart.  If you are appalled at the brokenness that you see in the world and in others, you also ought to be appalled by your own.  In fact, you ought to be more alarmed by your own sin.  You don't have to answer for the sins of others or for the way the world is messed up.  But you do have to give an answer for your own sin.
     The risen Jesus gives you an answer.  He has taken your sins away and has suffered for them for you.  He died in your place, accepting God's judgment for you.  Jesus was condemned so that you, in turn, would be pardoned and set free.  So, even though you are broken, Jesus reconciles you to God the Father.  He presents you as one who has been washed clean in baptism.  Therefore, God does not despise you because you are broken; he declares you to be blameless.
     Jesus not only rescues you from your sin, he even delivers you from death.  All that is broken by sin, Jesus rectifies.  St. Paul wrote: “In fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.  But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:20-23)
     The risen Jesus gives peace to the broken.  Jesus has undone all that has been done by Adam.  Adam sinned and brought death into the world.  By his death, Jesus has taken away your sins.  By his resurrection, Jesus puts an end to death.  Jesus is risen from the grave.  He has conquered death.  He lives, and he cannot die again.  What is more, Jesus is the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.  Jesus is the first man who has risen out of the grave, but he will not be the last.  On the Last Day, when Jesus comes to judge the living and the dead, he will raise up all the dead from their graves.  And those who believe and are baptized into Christ will be raised up to live forever with him.  Each comes in his own order.  Today, we celebrate that Jesus Christ is the first fruits from the dead, risen from the grave.  But we also know this means that we will be raised up too.  The grave is not your home; for you are Christ's.
     The risen Jesus gives peace to you by rescuing you from everything that has been broken by sin.  Jesus delivers to you the resurrection.  It is not a reincarnation where you continue through an endless cycle of coming back to a broken world, over and over again.  The Lord does not delight in watching people suffer, and he certainly does not give you multiple lives in which you endure pain and sorrow, shame and regret, disease and disasters and death over and over again.  The Lord Jesus restores everything which has been broken by sin.  At the resurrection, you will be raised up with a body that will never again experience weakness, sickness, sorrow, or death.  You will never know shame or regret.  And God's Paradise will be free from war, violence, pestilence, poison ivy, and paper cuts.  While people in this world march and protest to demand a better world, Jesus will give you one—and not merely better, but perfect.
     The risen Jesus gives peace for the broken.  “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:19)  The hope we have in Christ is for a perfect, everlasting life.  The last enemy to be destroyed is death (1 Corinthians 15:26), and Jesus will put death to death at the resurrection of the dead on the Last Day.  But the hope we have in Christ is not limited to what will come.  The risen Jesus gives you peace here and now as you cope with a broken life, a broken heart, and a broken world.
     The risen Jesus gives peace to the broken by forgiving you of all your sins.  You do not have to bear the burden of shame or guilt over your sins.  Neither denial nor excuses take guilt away; only the blood of Jesus Christ does that—which he pours onto you through holy baptism and which he pours into you through holy communion.  Jesus also gives you peace in this broken world.  While there are certainly wonderful blessings in this world, we can all be honest about its problems.  You may bear scars from the pains of this world, but God does not forget about you.  He continues to uphold his promises.  He bestows his mercy and love.  He reminds you that your current troubles are momentary, but your glory will be everlasting.  Even if the whole world hates you, Jesus Christ does not.  And his judgment is the only one that matters.  Finally, when our last hour comes, we need not fear.  Jesus Christ has overcome death, and he will be our Savior through death and into eternal life.  When that day comes, we will be able to say, “Good riddance” to the broken world and all its problems.  For Jesus will usher us into everlasting glory and unending peace.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.