Easter Sunday sermon 2012 – Resurrection
Readings: Acts 10:34-43; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; John 21:1-11
I wonder how often you have been in a mortuary?
They are quite peculiar really. I remember my first visit really well. There is something about the temperature and the smell that has always stayed with me.
I’ve spent many hours in undertaker’s offices and rooms full of coffins.
I’ve always been friends with undertakers. Few people hang out with them. And probably the hardest funeral I had to do was of a young undertaker who died suddenly.
Brian was a lovely guy. And the hall was filled with funeral people, ambulance people, and police people from their mortuary – and those who scrape bodies off the roads after they are run over.
Somehow having all those people together and trying to be positive was really hard!
At a conference of chaplains two years back the most profound speaker was – you’ve guessed it – an undertaker. He was in charge of putting the bodies from the Erebus disaster into a respectable state for the families. He was an expert embalmer – if you’ve ever watched SIX FEET UNDER you’ll know that they get some interesting scenarios.
I’ve had some interesting ones too – like the dear man who dropped dead in the bathroom – I took a young intern who was working with me to help get him out a very tricky house. They seemed to specialise in sending one undertaker to the tricky ones – and of course we didn’t know what to do with Dennis’ teeth that had landed on the floor. We popped them on top of him before the blanket was closed.
Bizarre you may say. So why this gloomy start to the most positive day in the Christian year?
Well just because of the radical nature of the story today!
I’ve only had one case of an enthusiastic person going to the undertakers place and commanding the dead to get up! The dead person didn’t of course – although there are accounts of resurrections around the world. I even met a man who had been dead for some days and was raised at his funeral. His stories were interesting – he was a Nigerian pastor.
Death is very final – those of you who have lost loved ones will know!
Resurrection is mind-blowing. And yet there is this solid witness and conviction that it was real – there are hundreds of eye witnesses of Jesus’ after the third day – and it’s central to our faith!
Why are we not very excited about it?
There was a time when we seemed to sing more songs about it too!
The fact that they were slow to recognise him at times is not surprising. I remember thinking that I’d seen a friend who had died. He was about 18 at the time. I’d gone with his parents to see him in the coffin. He was very dead. And when I thought I saw him – usually in places where we’d hung out together – it was weird. And it wasn’t real.
When it struck them that it was real – when they got past the disability to take the witness of women seriously – when they had gone into the tomb – or ate fish on the beach – or touched Jesus’ hands and side (whatever they needed to do) – it must have been a completely surreal kind of place to be – both psychologically and spiritually.
- From failure to fame!
- From death to delight!
- From fear to frenzy!
- From grief to ecstasy and unbridled joy!
And then those days when they thought it all through – the prophecies about the temple being destroyed and raised up – the betrayal, denial, running away and falling asleep instead of praying – the emotional turmoil of the week from the adulation of the crowd on the donkey day – to the venomous rage and baying for blood – the questions about the point of it all – all of this seemed to race around in their heads all at once.
When someone dies it makes you sick inside. Imagine what it would feel like for us if they were back!
But this was no Lazarus-type resurrection – Lazarus had to die again.
This was a break through into the Kingdom – a new life and existence altogether.
- Not a ghost – although he appeared in locked rooms
- Not a person eating fish at a barbeque alone – because he appeared in locked rooms
- Not the same and not totally different
- Not recognised in some ways – but in the breaking of bread OBVIOUSLY him
- Not to be kept but to be farewelled later
- Not to leave – but to be there through his Holy Spirit
- Not to be booked through an international booking system – but connected to each believer in an instant messengering system beating all email, text and facebook combined
- Not to be rabbi of a few but saviour of the world
- Not to be good news for the followers of the way alone – but the gospel to be shared with those near and far, Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth.
So do you want to live in a mortuary?
It’s cold and it smells!
It’s a waiting zone for burial or cremation and the process of grief and goodbye.
Resurrection is not just about life after death either!
Luke writes these words in Acts 10:
Act 10:39 “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross,
Act 10:40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen.
Act 10:41 He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen–by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.
Act 10:42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead.
Act 10:43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
- The judge of the living and the dead!
- The one though whose name we receive forgiveness of sins!
It is through this gospel of the death and resurrection of Jesus that we are saved – rescued – delivered from our selves, our sins, our selfishness, our stupidity, our sadness, our shock when we realise that we too will end up in a mortuary – cold and stiff with a tag more than likely attached to our toes.
And who will claim us? Who will identify us as his own? If we open our hearts to Him – it will be Jesus!
We are not just souls saved! We believe in the resurrection of the body! We will be us – I will be me – restored, renewed, and revitalised completely for a new world!
We have to start at the grave however!
To recognise that we need new life! Resurrection life which also begins in this life – as does eternal life!
- We had nothing to do with the resurrection – it took place without any help or comment from us, says Peterson, which keeps us from attempting to take charge of our own development and growth (PR p8).
- Meditating on the resurrection, he says “ prevents us from reducing the language of our conversation to what we can define or control”.
Ever seen an animal play dead? It’s a strategy in which the creatures hope that their enemy will walk away.
We are dead. Dead in our sins. Dead without Christ. And we can be raised to new life!
We don’t live from below – we are born from above! While the world will always tell you who has died (especially the rich and famous) it seldom says anything about those who are born from above.
The church is called to be people of resurrection
- Indwelled by the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead
- Sent by Jesus into the world of death with a message of life
- Living as citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20) and people of the Kingdom (which is here in fits and starts – giving glimpses of a wholeness yet to come.)
I reckon Jesus wants to hang out with us and help us to dump our dead-end ideas and fears.
I suspect that prayer can become a barbeque on the beach with him doing the cooking – if we are powerless in the face of death then why try to save ourselves and cook it for him?
Even our prayers can be so controlling – our shopping lists and litany of complaints – when they could be a question of asking him what’s on the menu!
There is a story of a bunch of kids who were touring a church for a Religious Education project – and they came to those boards with lists of names of dead people. “What’s that” asked a boy of the pastor. “Those are the names of people who died in the services” he replied. The boy, getting his head around what churches do, was pleased to come up with his next question: “which ones, morning or evening services?”
There’s no chance of dying in the service here! Is there?
I said recently that there are costs to following Jesus. That most of his disciples died in service of their Lord! We to will die physically. But the most significant thing is that we die to our old life and are raised up with Jesus – living a new life with Him!
May this be true of us this resurrection Sunday!
Hang out with Jesus on a beach or something.
Take time out to consider what he has done for you and what that means for your life now and forever!
Praise his name!