"The Old Brick Church"

National Register of Historic Places in the United States of America: Reference number 83001136.

Monday, April 18, 2022

The Message: Easter Sunday, April 17, 2022

 The Message


"A Celebration of New Life"

Would you pray with me: Lord, as we gather on this Easter Sunday to celebrate your Glorious Resurrection, let the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight. For you O Lord, are our Strength and our Redeemer. Amen.

Today, Roman Catholics and Protestant Christians from around the world are celebrating the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. “We hold in common” “a faith in the mystery of salvation in and through Jesus Christ.” [1] “At the heart of the gospel of salvation is God’s incarnation in Jesus of Nazareth,” and “the redeeming love of God in Jesus’ life and teachings, his atoning death, his resurrection,” and in “his triumph over the powers of evil and death.” [2]

Today is a celebration of Christ’s gracious life.

It is a celebration of God’s great love for us.

And it is a celebration of new life, that we find in and through Jesus Christ.

While Christ was raised on the third day after dying on the cross, the resurrection story actually begins much earlier. It begins with God’s creative nature and “the universe itself” being “God’s first incarnation.” [3] God brought all things into existence and created humankind in God’s own image. Even today there is an “ongoing incarnation” that is “always in the process of becoming creation, recreation, [and] new creation.” [4] Our God is transforming all things before our eyes.

Just look around at the blossoming of life as we transition from winter to spring. New life is budding forth from the earth, and when we take time to notice, we see God’s good creation. We see God’s love poured out upon this earth in all of its beauty. God’s presence is everywhere, transcending “time and space” renewing all things and even transforming us.

Each time, we lift our voices in song and praise, each time we pray, God is transforming our hearts, leading us to becoming more like our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

“The redeeming love of God in Jesus’ life and teachings, and his atoning death,” [5] is our Easter story. Our story begins with the fall of Adam and Eve which broke the perfect relationship between God and humanity. Our story is about humankind’s desire and struggle to get back to the untainted Garden of Eden; something that we cannot do on our own.

Rebellion and disobedience to God’s commandments has led humanity down a path of self-destruction. Throughout history humanity has fallen into power struggles and materialism, lust and coveting, waging war upon one another to satisfy earthly desires for power, prestige, and wealth. We live in a broken world, and we ourselves are broken people. Yet we cannot fix our own brokenness.

It is only when we place our trust in Christ, that the brokenness within us and in this world begins to heal. For “Everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.” [6] And we can begin afresh, living into the new celebration of life. The sin that once separated us from our God has been washed clean in the blood of Christ.

And it is here, upon the cross that God’s healing and redeeming work begins, fulfilled by Christ’s resurrection. Hearts of stone are made into hearts of flesh as we get proximate, as we have a closeness in relationship with Christ. Recall the words of Isaiah 53:5, “He was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed. [7]

On that cross, Christ represented all the broken people. While innocent, his blood was shed for our sins, for our transgressions. And in our human brokenness he was wounded, crushed for our iniquities. He asked not for relief from his suffering, as we so often do. Instead, he asked for our forgiveness: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” He suffered and died so that we could be made whole. By his resurrection Christ sets us free from sin and death.

Yet are we truly set free, if we do not learn from his teachings and model our lives after him, by living in him?

There are a lot of things happening in this world which are beyond our control, but not God’s control. We ourselves cannot stop the war in Ukraine, nor the pain and suffering imposed by war. We cannot stop the pain and suffering of those who live in our own communities who are homeless, hungry, struggling with additions, abuse, or loneliness.

Alone we are powerless, but when we do our part, and work together as a community and as co-workers with Jesus Christ, we can alleviate some of the pain and suffering in this world. For in the Resurrection Power of Christ we have the power to make a difference.

And the most powerful weapon against the brokenness of this world is prayer. 

We can pray for those in need.

We can pray for healing.

And we can pray for peace.

Becoming closer in relationship with Jesus, brings us closer to becoming like him. As Christians we share faith in the mystery of salvation through Jesus Christ. When we accept Jesus Christ as our Resurrected Lord and Savior, we die with him upon that cross through the death of our old selves. And we are born anew in the power of his resurrection. Even when we in our human weakness faulter, Christ still loves us, and remains with us. In Christ there is mercy and forgiveness. And there is unconditional and endless love. In Christ there is a celebration of new life! In Christ there is a return to Eden, a return to Paradise.

For Christ promised the man crucified and dying next to him who sought forgiveness asking “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom,” that he would be with him in Paradise that very day. And we too are given that same promise of Paradise, the promise of life eternal through the Resurrection Power of our Lord. Yet, we do not need to wait until we leave this world to experience Paradise with Christ. We can experience it today in becoming closer to Jesus, in loving him, praying to him, and seeking to follow his ways. His Resurrection is truly a celebration of new life, a celebration of our new lives in him and through him and with him. 

Would you pray with me: Lord in your Resurrection Power, you set us free. May we celebrate the new life you have given us through our faith in the mystery of salvation which you offer to all your people. In your glorious and beautiful name, Lord Jesus we pray that your Resurrection Power touches our hearts this day, filling us with your joy and peace, and with your love. Amen.

[1] The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, 2016, 49.

[2] Ibid., 49.

[3] Michael Adam Beck and Rosario Picardo, Fresh Expressions In A Digital Age (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2021) 87.

[4] Ibid., 87.

[5] The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, 2016, 49.

[6] Acts 10:43, NRSV

[7] Isaiah 53:5, NRSV

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