Year C — Easter Sunday

Commentary for March 31, 2013
by the Rev. Dr. John Fairless

Click here for today’s readings
Click HERE for the Lectionary Lab Live podcast featuring The Rev. H. Julian Gordy

Acts 10:34-43
Peter’s sermon is an alternative for the first reading for today. Though Simon could occasionally go on at great length in his exposition (can’t we all?) — this is perhaps one of the most concise accounts of the Easter gospel to be found in all of scripture.

God ‘s message of peace has been preached to God’s people through Christ, who has been anointed with the Holy Spirit, has been busy doing good, was oppressed by the devil, and was put to death on a tree. God has raised him from the dead — we saw him with our own eyes, sat down and ate with him — and now we’re here to tell you he really is the judge of the living and the dead. 

Jesus rocks!

Isaiah 65:17-25
Isaiah’s vision is, in a very real sense, what Easter is all about — because it is what God’s vision for the world has always been about.

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
Here we have a repeat (mostly) of the closing Hallel psalm, which was reviewed in last week’s session for the Liturgy of the Palms.

Notably, v.17 ties to the resurrection, which is a concomitant of God’s steadfast love for Israel.

1 Corinthians 15:19-26
Does Paul nail it in this passage, or what?

Our hope in Christ is much bigger than the life we live in “this life.” In fact, as Paul says, if that were it, we would be people who should be pitied. But, those who hope in Christ are no fools!

Lots of enemies that lurk and oppress us in “this life.” But, the Christ has come to tame every enemy — even death, who seems to loom so large (but is really, oh, so small!)

John 20:1-18
All of us who have stood graveside to say goodbye can understand Mary’s tears. Separation hurts — death often brings days of confusion, angst, even desperation.

Facing death, there is so much that we just don’t know!

But, in time, we hear the voice of Jesus as he fulfills his promise — never to leave, never to forsake. Then, it’s all okay. We so often find Christ through our tears.

Luke 24:1-12
Silly women telling idle tales. That’s all the “first” Easter story amounted to in the ears of the first hearers.

Well, fortunately for us all, Peter and the others didn’t stop with their first impressions — notice they got up and went to see for themselves. Ultimately, we all bear the responsibility to go and see for ourselves these Easter tidings we have heard.

Like Peter and the boys, when we do come and see — we will most likely be amazed.

Sermon
by the Rev. Dr. Delmer L. Chilton

They put him to death by hanging Him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day. . .“(Acts 10:39b-40a)

They put him to death on a tree, but God raised him. Those words —  but God —  are the church’s only true answer to the death, destruction, and despair the world has for us.

Trying to reason our way through grief and loss, trying to make sense of the senseless, trying to convince a world gone crazy with the desire for more of everything and anything that that desire is deadly of both body and soul; these things are, at the end of the day, pointless.

There is no reason which can assuage our grief, there is no sense to be made of the raging evil we see around us, there is no way to divert the addicted and bloated from seeking their fix, be it oil or drugs.

The only answer we have to offer to these things, which the church has traditionally summed up as “Sin, Death and the Devil,” is these two words, but God! Beginning with Adam and Eve and the Apple: the Devil tempts, people Sin, Death ensues, and God intervenes with another chance.

This story is the golden thread running through the Bible; this story of God’s redeeming and forgiving love, this story of God’s willingness to act in response to the world’s evil, this story summed up in the words; but God.


Today we celebrate the ultimate but God moment, the raising of Jesus from the tomb. It is both the proof and the promise of our faith. It reminds us of what God has done in the past while promising to us what God will do in the future. 

With both Jesus and the world, the evil trilogy of Sin, Death and the Devil did their best to do their worst. Good Friday appeared to be a complete victory for those forces of destruction which assail all of us, 

Evil reared its ugly head and roared; and Good stood by idly and did nothing. When Mary went to the tomb, 
she went in deep sadness and despair,
 she went into a place of coldness and death, she went to a place 
with no happiness and no hope,
 she went to prepare a body for burial, she went to put Jesus in his grave. 

But when she got there, she discovered that things had changed, the tomb was empty, the body was missing, 
and angels were lurking about.
 Mary had come upon the greatest but God moment of them all.

Our lives are full of difficulty. Natural disaster strikes, friends die, relatives get sick, jobs don’t pan out, 
politicians and teachers and yes,
 even preachers, turn out to be less than they seem or should be. All of life is subject to the painful realities of decline and decay.


But Easter reminds us that the church has an answer and that answer is God; God’s love, God’s forgiveness, God’s power, God’s calling, God’s actions in the world. Easter is more than a promise of life beyond the grave, of happiness in heaven with our loved ones. Easter is a promise that life is good now, that God’s power is active in this moment, in this place, in our lives. Easter tells us that our eternal life begins now and goes with us through death into God’s future. Easter tells us that whatever may happen to us in this world there is an answer, and the answer is but God. 

The world says; “Seek success and glory and material well-being above all else.” But God says; “Seek ye first the Kingdom of Heaven and all these things shall be added unto you.”

The world says; It’s a dog eat dog world, it’s a rat race. It’s every man (person) for himself. But God says; “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

The world says, “Find your self, your bliss. Do that thing which makes you feel most fulfilled.” But God says; You shall love the LORD your God, with all your heart, mind and soul; and the second is just like it; love your neighbor as yourself.”

The world says, “Stave off death at whatever cost. The worst thing that can happen is to die and any action that you take to avoid it is good.” But God says, “Those who would save their life will lose it, but those who lose their life for my sake and the sake of the Gospel will save it.”

The world’s way leads to the death of the soul and eventually the death of the body, with no hope for tomorrow and no joy for today. But God’s way leads first to death and then to life; life both now and forever; life full of the joy of loving and serving God and neighbor with reckless abandon and total trust in God’s will and way.

That is why we are so full of joy as we cry out today: Christ is risen! CHRIST IS RISEN INDEED!

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