RISEN – Colossians 3:1-4 Matthew 28:1-10
Jeff Davidson – April 20, 2014
There’s a cartoon that shows people coming out of church on Easter Sunday shaking hands with the pastor. One guy says. “You know, Pastor, this is why I only come once a year. Whenever I’m here your sermon is always about the resurrection.”
Maybe it’s only funny to pastors. On Easter Sunday the resurrection is what it’s all about, so in some ways we know what we’re going to preach about on Easter. At the same time, resurrection is such a rich topic – there is so much to say that you’re not sure exactly what you’re going to preach about on Easter.
When I looked at the suggested readings for today, I was struck by the reading from Colossians. It talks about our lives being hidden with Christ when we die. I imagine us in the tomb with Jesus, behind the stone. It’s dark. It’s cold. It smells musty and damp. It’s not pleasant. We’re hidden, invisible to the world, and the world is invisible to us.
And then Colossians talks about Easter morning, when Christ who is our life is revealed. The stone is rolled away. Light streams in, and warmth, and fresh air. We can move around, and stretch our arms and legs. We can walk out of the tomb into the world. We are no longer hidden with Christ, but we are revealed with him. With Christ, we are risen.
On Easter morning you’ll often hear people say, “He is risen!” Whoever they’re talking to will respond with “He is risen, indeed!” “He is risen” is a statement of faith, a statement of what we believe. “He is risen” means that Christ is risen from the dead. That event has happened. We do believe it. He is risen.
But what about us? What does it mean for us to be risen with Christ? What does it mean for our lives to be revealed with Christ’s? Psalm 118:14-17 says, “The Lord is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation. There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous: ‘The right hand of the Lord does valiantly; the right hand of the Lord is exalted; the right hand of the Lord does valiantly.’ I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord.”
We are risen with Christ. We shall not die, but shall live and recount the deeds of the Lord. We shall live. Put that back into the words of the Psalm, words for yourself as an individual. I am risen with Christ. I shall not die, but I shall live.
I like that phrase, “I shall live.” It’s a bold, take-charge kind of phrase. It sounds kind of decisive.
For all of us there are times when we need to hear and need to say bold and decisive kinds of things. Most of us have times when we feel as if everything is going on around us and it’s all we can do to keep up, times when we feel like we’re in slow motion and everyone else is in fast forward, times when we are feeling like we are just too busy.
Sometimes the pressure of that starts to get to you. Too many bills. Too many meetings. Too much sickness. Problems at work. Problems at school. Problems with your spouse. Problems in the world. That can lead to a lot of frustration and a lot of stress, can’t it.
You’re either too busy to plan your next move or too frustrated to have any patience or too depressed to get out of bed or too angry to be kind to the people that you care about or too confused to know which way to turn. You are in darkness. You are in chaos.
That’s where Jesus was on Saturday, the day before Easter. In the tomb. In darkness. In chaos. Rock on every side, a huge stone in front of the door, soldiers guarding the entrance from the other side. Jesus is surrounded. Surrounded by the power of evil. Surrounded by the efforts of the world to hem him in, to keep him in a certain place. Surrounded by Satan. Surrounded by death.
Jesus has been surrounded before, and very recently. Each time he made a decision, a decision to go ahead. Surrounded by crowds on the way to Jerusalem, Jesus decides to go on in to town, though he knows what is waiting. Surrounded at the last supper by disciples who would flee, who would deny him, and who would betray him. Jesus makes the decision to wash their feet, though he knows their weaknesses. Surrounded by thieves on the cross, Jesus makes the decision to die, to give up his life to save us from our sins.
And now, surrounded by the cold stone of the tomb, the guards of a mistrustful world, and the stench of evil and death, Jesus makes a decision. He stands up, and with the power given him by God rolls away the stone from the tomb, and steps out into the world he came to save. Jesus makes the decision to live. I shall live, says Jesus. I shall live.
We are Christians. We claim to be followers of Christ. Then let’s follow him. When we are surrounded by darkness, by evil, when we are in the midst of confusion or depression, when we are frustrated or worried or lonely, let us say with Jesus “We shall live.” Let us face up to the reality of the situation around us, and let us rely on the power of the Holy Spirit, the power of the risen Christ to see us through.
Jesus does not just let all these things swirl around him. Jesus does not just let things happen to him. Jesus makes things happen. Jesus is decisive. Jesus takes the initiative. Jesus was sent by God, and with a full knowledge of God’s will in his life, Jesus does what God wants him to do.
God has something for us to do as well. God does not want us to be surrounded by all of the frightening, frustrating, maddening things that are out there. God does not want us in a tomb of confusion, a tomb of depression and doubt. God does not want us to be prisoners of our own sin.
God wants us to be risen with Christ, to step out and follow Jesus, to look for the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives. God wants us to with his help roll away the stone of our sin, step out of the tomb of our depression. God wants us to make the decision to live. God wants to hear us say with the Psalmist, to hear us say with Jesus, “I will live.”
Listen to what the Psalmist wrote once again: “I shall not die, but I shall live and proclaim what the Lord has done.” Through my life, the Psalmist said, through my life people will be able to see God. Through my words people will hear God’s voice. Through my actions people will feel God’s love. Through my efforts people will learn about the Lord.
You know what? He was right. Those words were written thousands of years ago and thousands of miles away, and yet here we sit in Washington DC in 2014 reading them, learning from them, growing because of them. The Psalmist lived, and proclaimed what the Lord had done, and his voice still carries today. In his letter to the Colossians Paul proclaims that he and we are raised with Christ, and his words teach us and call to us even today.
The same Spirit that moved Paul, the same Spirit that moved the Psalm writer can move you. The same God who brought Jesus back from the dead and led him out of the tomb can lead you. The same Spirit that filled Jesus when he rolled away the stone can fill you.
This is the day that the Lord has made. Right here. Right now. Today is the day when Jesus is risen, when Jesus steps out of the tomb and invites you to follow. Today is the day when Jesus steps out into the world to prove that what he said was true, to prove that God really does love the world, to prove that the Gospel does have saving power.
And as believers in Jesus, today is the day that we can follow Christ. Today is the day that we can leave behind our fears, our doubts, our worries, our sins. Today is the day that we can stop fearing death. Like a butterfly leaving the cocoon, the chick leaving the egg, or Jesus leaving the tomb, today is the day that we can begin to proclaim new life. Today is the day. We shall live, because He is risen. Amen.