Do you remember the Etch-A-Sketch? You had the two knobs and you could magically draw on the screen. And whenever you made a mistake all you had to do was shake the thing up, turn it upside-down and wa la — clean slate — you could start over.
We’re here this morning to celebrate Easter, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, God’s shaking the world up and turning it upside-down so that we, you and I, could start over. All the death and sin that had been written and drawn has been erased and God has begun a new creation.
We’re here to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, that singular event in human history that not only paved the way for life eternal, but gives us the promise that sin and death have been defeated and that new life, resurrection life, begins here and now!
Now, I need to tell you right off the bat that I feel absolutely no need to try and convince anyone that the resurrection “actually happened.” I can’t prove the resurrection to you scientifically or otherwise. Neither can I convince you of the truth of the resurrection, only the Spirit can do that. But I can proclaim the resurrection as good news. I can testify to it’s impact upon humanity, upon our lives. I can point you to reflections of the resurrection that happen all around us.
My esteemed colleague, the Rev. Steve Fraizer, talks about it this way: “Alcoholics are raised from the dead when they sober up. Drug addicts are raised from the dead when they clean themselves up and break the chains of addiction. Nations are raised from the dead when they admit their faults and commit themselves to new ways of living (like Germany after WWII).” And I would add, whenever friends, neighbors, or enemies reconcile there is resurrection. Every sun rise begins a symphony of resurrection. Whenever and wherever lives are changed and transformed there is resurrection (whether God gets the credit for it or not).
There are literally millions of mini-resurrections happening all around us in which God is effecting change, bringing life out of death, victory out of defeat. Mini resurrections that all point to that great and wonderful day when God’s promise in Jesus Christ will be realized and we will know resurrection life most fully in the Kingdom of Heaven.
But we don’t always see these things, and even when we do see them, we don’t always connect them to God’s greater plan for us and for all of humanity, we don’t always connect them to the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the love of God for the world.
I was flipping through the radio dial the other day and I heard the DJ on the local rock’n’roll radio station mention that “Easter is like the Super Bowl for Christians.”
That’s right! The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the pinnacle of the good news we proclaim. It marks both the beginning and the end of our life-season as Christians. It’s the best news we have been given, without which, the Apostle Paul says “we are most to be pitied.”
I mean, if there is no resurrection, then Paul is right in saying, “our proclamation has been in vain; our faith has been in vain; our love has been in vain; and we’ve misrepresented the truth! — it’s all meaningless without the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If there was no resurrection then there was no divine act of sacrificial love in Jesus Christ and we are not only a pitiful bunch of people but people without hope, and without hope you’re as good as dead.
But we do proclaim the resurrection! And we proclaim it through faith with joy and enthusiasm!
You know, if the whole of Scripture could be summarized in one sentence it would be this: God loves us! And the resurrection would the exclamation point at the end of that sentence.
Still, we’d be lying if we didn’t admit that many people don’t seem to get it. Even those of us who work hard at living lives of genuine discipleship don’t always get it. There seems to be a disconnect between the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the living of our lives. We’re all guilty of this to a certain extent.
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It reminds me of the contest New Science magazine ran a couple of years. First place was “to die for.” Cryogenic freezing upon death, with the idea that someday you would be revived when the technology reached that stage.
That’s a lot like how we sometimes view the resurrection. We tend to put Jesus on ice, thaw him out for special occasions, like Easter, and then slip him back in the cryogenic tube until we decide to take him out again.
Because, after all, a frozen Jesus is much easier to handle than a risen Lord who makes demands upon our lives, and who, as the Gospel of Mark says, “goes on ahead of us.”
But the resurrection isn’t about us being in control. It’s about admitting that God is in charge of the big picture. The resurrected Lord we proclaim is one that cannot be controlled or manipulated, one that has already moved ahead of us, one who prepares the way for us to follow, and one that at any moment could shake-up our Etch-A-Sketch lives and turn us upside-down. That’s the Lord we proclaim! And we continue to proclaim him because there are still a lot of folks who simply haven’t heard the good news.
I’m not talking about the mission field in the jungles of South America, I’m talking about right here in Tulsa.
Did you know that only in the state of Texas is June 19th a holiday. “Juneteenth,” as it is called, commemorates the day in 1865 when Union Troops landed in Galveston, Texas, and General Gordon Granger fulfilled order number 3 by enforcing the Emancipation Proclamation and freeing all the slaves in Texas. Now, if you remember your history you’ll recall that by this time the Emancipation Proclamation had been law for two-and-a-half years, but this news hadn’t reached Texas. The Emancipation Proclamation had been the law of the land for two-and-a-half years but the slaves in Texas didn’t know anything about it. They had been freed without knowing it. Someone had to tell them.
That’s a lot like the good news of the resurrection we have to share. There’s a whole world out there that has been freed, raised to new life, re-created but doesn’t know it.
Do you know the reason why we as Christians worship on Sunday?
It’s because of Easter. Easter is the day of resurrection, the day of new life, the day of new beginnings, the first day of the week that gifts us with the opportunity to begin again. The Church has talked about this as the “8th day of creation,” Jesus’ resurrection marks a day of new creation, when God did a brand new thing that changed the world forever.
That’s what’s symbolized by eight-sided baptismal fonts. Have you ever seen one of those? Each side represents a day of creation, with the eighth side representing the resurrection and the new creations we are through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, symbolized through baptism.
“So,” you may ask, “what’s baptism got to do with Easter?” Well I’m glad you asked.
A lot of times we get caught up in the moment, especially when we’re baptizing babies. “Oh, that little baby looks so cute! And oh, look how he just peed all over the minister, isn’t that just the cutest!” It becomes easy to miss the symbolism of dying with Christ and being raised to new life. The fact of the matter is, baptism is a dramatic reenactment of Christ’s death and resurrection. Perhaps, if we Presbyterians used a little more water, we could more easily see the connection between going under water and dying, and coming out of the water and rising.
Look around you, at this room. Do you notice anything unusual about it? How many sides does this room have? Count with me: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.
How about that. We’re in a giant baptismal font! And look where our cross is. It’s hanging there in mid air giving the appearance of rising up out of the water.
Every Sunday that we worship in this place we worship in a giant baptismal font, we worship in the waters of baptism, we come in here covered with the death that permeates our lives and we are cleansed, and recreated, and raised up and sent back out into the world as God’s new creations, as God’s good news to a world in desperate need.
My friends, this is good news because there’s not one of us here that does not need a fresh start. This is where it happens. This is where every Sunday —- every eighth day, is a mini-Easter. Every time we gather like this, we gather in the presence of the Risen Christ, and every time we gather like this God names us and claims us and gives us the opportunity to start over, to be changed, to be transformed, to be resurrected. Every time we come together as God’s people we are baptized into Easter and life begins again!