A Sermon for April 8, 2012 || Easter Sunday, Year B|| Isaiah 25: 6-9; Psalm 118: 1-2, 14-24; 1 Corinthians 15: 1-11; Mark 16: 1-8||
The Rev. Margot D. Critchfield
Alleluia, Christ is risen! The Lord is risen, indeed—Alleluia!
Yes! He is risen! As in resurrected. As in, not even the power of death could keep Him down. As in, really dead, then really alive again– in some inexplicable, improbable, admittedly unscientific and mysterious way– that has completely changed the fundamental nature of reality forever. Sound crazy? Well, maybe. And maybe it’s not exactly what you expected to hear from the pulpit when you headed for church on this lovely Easter morning.
But that’s what we’re actually celebrating today! We’re celebrating the fact that 2,000 years ago the same God who created us and the entire cosmos, decided to step onto the stage of world history and launch an intervention—an intervention that would fundamentally change reality. And He did it through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. A life that boldly challenged all the powers of darkness we know by names like evil, sin, hatred, and suffering; a life that looked those powers of darkness in the face and said, “Bring it on, let’s see what you’ve got,” and then took it all in. A life that served as a lightening rod for all the pain and evil those powers of darkness could hurl its way, and absorbed it. A life that “by his glorious resurrection delivered us from the power of our enemy” and “swallowed up death for ever.”
Yes! We’re celebrating the fact that 2,000 years ago God re-claimed His creation. And because He did, death has no claim on us. Sin has no claim on us. The so-called “ruler of this world” (as Jesus referred to the evil one) has no claim on us. The proverbial cosmic battle has already been won, and God won it with the most unexpected weapon in His arsenal: Love. Divine Love. Supernaturally powerful Love embodied in the person of Jesus Christ. Love that never even defended itself and yet was never diminished one iota—not even when betrayed, mocked, tortured, and nailed to a tree. Love that was so wicked-strong that not even death itself could wipe it out. Instead, it wiped out death. As Will Willimon, the former Dean of the Chapel at Duke University once put it, “On the cross, the world did all it could to Jesus. At Easter, God did all God could do to the world.”
Yes! That’s what we’re here to celebrate this morning! Because the empty tomb of Easter morning tells us that God’s Love is unconquerable. And through the power of the risen Christ, that same unconquerable Love is available to each of us, is alive in the heart of every Christian already if we but claim it. That same supernaturally powerful Love is ready to take on our fears, our guilt, our proclivity to sin, and all the spiritual forces that oppose God’s will for us. Ready to take them on, wipe them out, and swallow them up forever!
Writer Martin Smith, Episcopal priest and theologian summarizes it like this:
“No human heart, or community—however eaten up with corruption and violence…however consumed with loathing or committed to death…can hold out ultimately against the penetrating and life-giving power of this death and resurrection. There is no place in me—however dead, however false—out of his reach.” Yes!
You see, Jesus didn’t die on that cursed cross because God needed him to—he died on it because we needed him to. We’re the one’s who needed saving. We’re the ones who needed living proof of God’s love. We’re the ones who could never forgive ourselves, much less each other. But by the supernatural power of God’s love Jesus was raised again, so as they say in the liturgy of the Scottish Episcopal Church, “He broke the bonds of evil and set your people free to be his Body in the world.”
Through Christ’s death and victory over death, we have been set free from the bonds of evil. Think about that! Lay claim to the truth of it! We are free from the bonds of sin and guilt. Free from the bonds of fear and self. Free to accept our forgiveness, embrace our belovedness, and be Christ’s Body in the world: a resurrected people alive with the power of a supernatural Love —a Love that’s strong enough to roll away the stone that entombs our hearts, bold enough to challenge the powers of darkness that give lie to God’s reality, vulnerable enough to suffer with those who hurt, and sure enough to be a channel of grace and healing to others. Because He is Risen, we are free. Free to be his Body in the world, and to set the world free, with His unconquerable Love.
Alleluia! Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia!