Easter C – Sermon. April 31, 2013
“Don’t dwell with Good Friday, move on to Easter”
The Rev. Leonard B. Oakes
Happy Easter everyone!! May the resurrected Christ be with you!
Christians all over the world celebrate the Risen Christ as an act of a loving God whose unconditional love transcended in His Son our Lord Jesus Christ.
At the enthronement of Justin Welby as the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury, he knocked three times using his bishop staff at the door of the 900 years old Canterbury Cathedral in London. As the door of the Cathedral opened, he was greeted by a young youth with these words, “We greet you in the name of Christ. Who are you and why do you request entry?” The Archbishop replied, “I am Justin, a servant of Jesus Christ, and I come as one seeking the grace of God to travel with you in His service together.” Then he was enthroned at the very seat St. Augustine seated 800 years ago in that very Church and installed as the spiritual leader of 85 million Anglicans in the whole world including the Episcopal Church in the USA. Anglicanism is the third largest Christian communion in the world next to Eastern Orthodox Church with 300 million members and the Roman Catholic Church of 1.2 billion members.
A week after that, the Roman Catholic Church on the other side of Europe, installed Pope Francis I as the spiritual leader of 1.2 billion Roman Catholics in the world. Pope Francis displayed the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi who loved the poor and the needy. He certainly practiced the life of humility just as Christ taught his disciples to wash the feet of the tired and kissed them.
Christianity is alive!! And who do we have got here in our very midst? We have in our presence the remnants of the protector of the temple of Jerusalem, the Knights Templar, who during the time of Crusades in 1100, they defended the temples of Jerusalem from the hands of those who wanted to conquer the city and protected Christian pilgrims on the dangerous roads leading to Jerusalem. We have here with us leaders and members of the York Rite Masonic brothers who uphold Christianity. These Christian men are united with us to celebrate Easter in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Of course they are also here to announce of my election as their recommended candidate to tour Jerusalem through their program. Every year, the York Rite elect Christian Clergy and Lay leaders to their Jerusalem tour to experience the pathways Jesus and the early Christians have travelled. They are indeed a product of the Risen Christ.
We are all products of the resurrection. We are the “resurrection people.”
In the early church, the season between Easter and Pentecost was called “The Great Fifty Days.” During that season the church celebrated the Resurrection with special fervency. Every Sunday is a “Little Easter,” but the Great Fifty Days are a special celebration for the “Resurrection People.” For Christians are, indeed, a “Resurrection People.” The Resurrection of Jesus is the defining event in our faith. The Apostle Paul makes this clear in his First Letter to the Corinthians when he said:
“Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain ….. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. “ 1 Corinthians 15:1214, 20
The Apostle Paul is here dealing with a difficult question which troubled the church at Corinth. Apparently many of the Christians at Corinth thought that death was the end of human life. The Christian message which had reached them had probably included many things which clashed with their cultural upbringing in the Greek world of their day, or which seemed absurd to them. Some of them had ignored the idea of a resurrection of the dead as either incomprehensible, or impossible. They were “OK” with the idea that Christ had experienced a Resurrection, but did not see the connection between his Resurrection as the idea of the resurrection of the dead – a core teaching of the Apostle Paul, and of the church. So Paul tackles the issue head on. If death has not been conquered by the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead, then maybe Jesus himself did not rise from the dead. In Paul’s words, if that is the case, “then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain.” But then the apostle goes on to affirm his faith that “in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.” And this “Resurrection Faith” is what the Christians at Corinth – or some of them – were missing.
Ours is, indeed, a “Resurrection Faith.” We proclaim it almost every Sunday when we recite the Nicene Creed together. When we proclaim the mystery of faith: “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.” And because our “Resurrection Faith” is based on the Resurrection of Jesus – the “first fruits of those who have died,” in the words of the Apostle Paul, we celebrate Easter as a “Resurrection People.” We also now have the Hallelujahs that we buried at the beginning of Lent, resurrected at Easter Vigil.
In the Gospel according to Luke read this morning, we heard that how peter, upon hearing the news from the women who were the first witnesses that Jesus had risen from the dead, got up and ran to the tomb, stooping and looking in, he saw the linen clothes by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what happened.
What was in Peter’s mind that made him ran and became amazed of what had transcribed?
Remember that Peter denied Jesus three times. His denial bothered him so much that his conscience imprisoned him with pain. The only way to his freedom was an opportunity to see Jesus again and to show his remorse. Maybe it adds more pain when he learned that Jesus already died. He thought he would never see Jesus again; it was a life agony for him. So when Peter heard from the women that Jesus rose from the dead, it was the most precious news he ever heard that moment, at last he can have the chance to see Jesus again – to ask forgiveness. It was the day of his freedom. He has to run to the tomb and seize the moment that will lead him to freedom.
|How many times in your lives have you ever had the experience of procrastinating in your attempt to ask forgiveness and be reconciled with someone until it was too late when you find out that that person is gone? We need to learn how to forgive ourselves. You cannot expect other people to forgive you if you cannot even forgive your own self. And you can not appreciate God’s forgiveness, if you do not feel how to be forgiven by your own very self. A lot of times we cling to the past and we never let go of it. When something happens, we dig the past and resurrect the pain. We scratch an old wound until it bleeds. We should not spend our whole life crying with irreversible mistakes, and keep on blaming ourselves, night and day. Give yourself a break; share compassion to your heart. Only when you forgive yourself, only then, you can appreciate the sweetness of God’s love.
Don’t dwell with Good Friday, move towards the Resurrection. Judas thought there is more opportunity to say sorry, and his mistake is beyond remedy. He underestimated God’s mercy and hung himself. Peter hopes for God’s mercy, but Judas didn’t. He stuck up on Good Friday, but Peter waits, and hopes for the possibility of Easter. We too, should not be stuck up with our old sins, as whatever mistakes we have done, as long as we are here in this world, there will always be an opportunity to be reconciled back to God.
Peter ran to the burial site, stooping and looking in. He saw the light of hope and once again tasted the sweetness of the fruits of Christ’s resurrection.
|Let us therefore share the blessings of love to one another, love that is unconditional, love that transcends beyond our own understanding. Let us always be slow to anger and always remember that Christ died for us so that we might be saved. Let us not lose that opportunity by doing things that are pleasing in his sight. Let us contribute things that transform us and one another in this nation, in this community, in our family and ourselves until that time comes when we meet our Lord in the Resurrection and the Life. There is hope of a tree if it be cut down, that it may sprout again and that the tender branch thereof may flourish. There is still hope for us if we only allow ourselves to be buried with Christ that by so doing, we will rise again from being stuck on good Friday.
Just as Archbishop Justine Welby said in his installation as a servant of Jesus Christ, and just as Pope Francis kissed the feet of the people, and just as these Masonic brothers come in peace, united with one spirit in our celebration of the risen Christ, let us come together, united as one seeking the grace of God to travel with each in the service of God.
So please turn to the person next to you, give that person a smile and say, “Happy Easter!”