Sermon: Participating in Jesus’ Resurrection

April 21, 2019
Easter Sunday

Luke 24:1-12
RUMC, Pastor SeokCheol Shin

Participating in Jesus’ Resurrection

Happy Easter
          Happy Easter! Happy Spring! Last week, the weather reached 70 degrees here in Connecticut. I can see from my yard that trees begin to bud; flowers bloom; and squirrels and birds are competitive on the bird feeders … Yet I could really feel that spring is finally here when I walked through the streets along with you last Friday for our annual “Good Friday Walk!”

          Yes, spring is here in our world, and, more joyfully, Easter is here in our ministry. Easter is, of course, to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection! On the first day of Easter, Jesus rose from the dead, came back to his disciples, and celebrated his resurrection with them. Two thousand years later, we are still happy with his final victory, because it was not a personal victory but a victory for all people in all generations who place their trust in his resurrection.

Who deserves Jesus’ resurrection and victory over the power of death and sin? Well, if Jesus comes again today in power and glory, what kind of people would be invited to greet his coming? What kind of folks would Jesus like to invite to celebrate his victory? Of course, Jesus’ resurrection is for all human beings and whoever believes in him and his resurrection deserves his resurrection and eternal life. That’s what the Bible teaches us!

But the Good Friday Walk made me deeply meditate on the meaning of Jesus’ passion during the Holy Week: how pained Jesus was when he carried the cross and walked toward the hill named Golgotha. Jesus’ resurrection came after his own suffering and death on the cross. When we talk about Jesus’ redemption or salvation ministry, we can’t separate his resurrection from his crucifixion. If we want to join in his glory, then we should first join in his suffering. That is the lesson that I got from our Good Friday Walk.

Participating in Suffering
Who deserves Jesus’ resurrection and final victory? Once again, this Good Friday Walk event taught me that the one who participates in Jesus’ suffering would be the primary person who deserves his glory. One of the Korean proverbs says, “Do not talk about life with the one who has never eaten one’s bread with tears.” This saying teaches us that hardship brings us a sense of fellowship and solidarity. Let us think about the veterans; when soldiers finish their duties and come back to their homes, they may forget their army life as time passes, but they will never forget their comrades with whom they had struggled together in the service or in the war.

My mother has arthritis on her knees. Because of it, she can’t walk as long or fast as she used to. One day she told me that before she got arthritis, she had never seen arthritis sufferers, but now she can tell who are troubled with it. Suffering gives us pain, but it also brings us fellowship and compassion for others who experience that similar suffering as well, so that we can be in solidarity with those who suffer. We refer to such a solidarity as companionship.

Companionship is all about Jesus’ ministry in this world; simply put, he came to the world to join in human suffering. Christ would have come as a noble king if he didn’t want to make friends with the common people, like you and me. But he was a best friend of all kinds of sinners of his day. He joined in human life, went through the bitters of life, and accompanied his people during his life’s journey on earth. Likewise, if we want to be Jesus’ friend, if we want to participate in his glory, then we should first join in his journey as we take up his cross and join in his ministry of companionship with people in pain and need.

Where can we experience the risen Christ and celebrate his resurrection? When I walked with you last Friday, I could hear Jesus’ voice in my heart as follows; “I am always walking on the streets of my neighborhood and meet people there. Do you want to see me, do you want to come with me, do you want to be with me? Then join me in walking on the streets and serving people.” Touching the sick, caring for the broken-hearted, and reaching out to the lost… joining in human suffering is the way we can be always with Christ and join in his resurrection and final victory.

Joining in Jesus’ Resurrection
          God loves all human beings equally and Jesus came to redeem all human beings. But when Jesus was risen from the dead, not all people but only several people were there to rejoice in his resurrection. They were not powerful people; they were just like us. They betrayed Jesus when he was arrested, just like we sometimes turn away from God’s love. They were in deep sorrow when he was buried in the tomb, just like we sometimes feel there is no grace in our lives. They were people who once lost faith and experienced failures in life. Nevertheless, they were privileged to witness to Jesus’ resurrection and celebrate his final victory. They were the people who accepted Jesus as the Son of God and the Savior of the world, and they kept their faith in Jesus’ promise about resurrection and eternal life. They were the people who had joined and shared Jesus’ suffering while following his way of service for many others.

Let us be the blessed saints and disciples who deserve Jesus’ invitation to his final victory. For this, we must hold tight his promise of resurrection and eternal life, and we must endure hardship and even join in the way of the cross that Jesus went through, and then we must reach out to those in need of our day. May God be always with you to bless your life and may you all follow the way of Jesus Christ until he comes in final victory. Amen.

Sermon: Christ Will Come Again!

Christ Will Come Again!
1 Corinthians 15: 1-8
RUMC 27 August, 2017
Pete Schilling

“Christ has died; Christ is risen: Christ will come again.”

Some of you may know that I was not brought up Methodist, but rather as a Baptist. It was all my mother’s influence. At a young age, mom was taken down to the river and “dunked” under, as I like to call it.

Of course, growing up I have heard just about every “Baptist” joke possible. Recently, I came across this version of one of the more popular St. Peter jokes:
A man went to heaven and was being shown around by St. Peter.
As they went from cloud to cloud, they came to various doors which St. Peter would open.
One showed a large group waving their arms, talking in tongues and singing “Hallelujahs.” “Our Pentecostals” he said.
Next was a serious ritual. “Our Jewish persuasion” he replied.
Then another ritualistic service. “Our Catholics.”
At the next cloud, he didn’t open the door, but instead put his forefinger to his lips in a hush motion and they both tip toed past. Once past, the man asked what that was all about !?
“Those are the Baptists,” he explained. “They think they are the only one’s here.”

My mother was raised in a small country Baptist church and continued in that same faith the rest of her life. As a family, we attended a neighborhood church and mom saw that we regularly attended Sunday school from an early age. One of the things that I remember was being taught to live each day with the expectation that Jesus could return tomorrow. It was an expectation that when you said your prayers at night, tomorrow might just be the day you see Jesus. You were living a life as He would want, since tomorrow you could be in His presence. And so, you were living your life day by day. Being young, say 8 or 10, and new in the teachings of Christ, you could easily believe that His “return” could happen any day!

If my father would have allowed it, we would have had a sticker on our rear chrome bumper saying “Jesus Is Coming, Are You Ready?” so other drivers could be prepared.

But this morning, I want to focus on a familiar verse that we recite each time we gather together and receive Communion. These 10 words are in every version of our communion service. We either say it or sing it in unison:

“Christ has died…Christ is risen…Christ will come again”.

These familiar words are incorporated into our Communion services in remembrance of that Last Supper Jesus shared with His disciples.

In this sacramental service, we celebrate the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and recite together those 10 words which capture the essence of our faith and belief: Jesus died on the Cross for our sins. That sacrifice makes it possible for all old sins to be forgiven; wiped away; eradicated as if they never happened.

““Christ has died; Christ is risen: Christ will come again.”

This is the Good News message of the Gospel.

I love the way that the verb tense moves from past to future.

..HAS died,

…IS risen.

…WILL come again.”

In John 14:3, we are told about Jesus’ promise to us: “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

This is the promise of eternal life– the promise that we will someday see God –the promise of being with Jesus in Heaven. This is central to all our Christian belief.

The ascension story is found in Acts. Jesus called His disciples together and spoke His last time to them. Then He was lifted up; a cloud taking Him out of sight.

As they were staring intensely upwards, two angels spoke to them saying, “This same Jesus…will come back in the SAME WAY you have seen him go into heaven.” Here again is Jesus’ promise to return.

These verses are telling us that when Jesus returns, we will see Him with our very eyes. No cloud, no heralds, no angels. And it will be this same Jesus that the disciples and early followers had known.

Let’s face a fact that many believers question if Jesus will really come back.  Is it a myth or a fairy tale? Or is Jesus’ second coming a real event?  We need to realize that when that happens, it will be one of the most astounding events in the history of the world!  So let us list the things we’ve already put our trust in, or if we haven‘t put our trust in them, have at least heard of them and will, at some point, have to decide where we stand.

So…Are these things true?

  • Did He come and dwell among us?
  • Did He go to the cross and die?
  • Did He rise bodily from the grave?
  • Did He ascend to heaven from the Mount?

 

In an article by Clark Tanner, he says that before we can believe that Christ will come again that we need to answer these four questions, foundational to our faith. If our answer to those four questions is ‘yes, I believe that’, then we have to believe He will come again. To disbelieve any part is to disbelieve the whole says Tainer. To accept any part as true, is to accept all. (By Clark Tanner)

Imagine what the Disciples thought about “He would return”:
For a moment, imagine yourself as one of the original disciples. Or better yet, as Mary or Martha, the women followers of Jesus. As one of His disciples, He personally chose you to be part of His ministry. You walked with Him everywhere witnessing His miracles and listened as He preached and taught the crowds. You were excited to discover that He was the Messiah; then disappointed at His capture, His beating, and crucifixion. You hid, so as NOT to be associated. Then the miracle of miracles happened – He arose from the grave. For 40 more days, He was with you. But that all ended when He returned to the Father. Maybe you wished that you could have ascended right along with Jesus… but NO. As He was leaving you for the FINAL time, Jesus tells you that He will return one last time.

Hurray. A promise to look forward to. But when will that time be? You’ve known Him for three years…maybe He will return within three more years. Perhaps it will happen soon after the apostles establish a few new churches. Well, best if it takes place before I depart this world–one more time. One more time to see Him as He was when I last knew Him.

One writer describes the Second Coming in these terms:  When we talk about Jesus’ Second Coming there is a tension between two extremes IMMINENT and DELAYED.

The belief that Christ’s return is imminent is not new. Jesus’ followers have been looking for His return right from the beginning. The disciples and the early church believed that they were living in the last days and that Christ could come at any time. So Christ’s return is imminent; it could happen at any moment. That is what I thought as a youth raised in a Baptist church.

Yet Christ’s return is also delayed. Over 2,000 years have come and gone and we are still waiting for Jesus to return. As I saw more of life and the years past me by, I lost my feeling that His return was imminent. Now I was sensing that it just might NOT happen in my life time.

The Non-believers in the church of Corinth:
Some 50 years following Christ’s death and resurrection, the church established at Corinth had fallen into division over church policy and beliefs. (Doesn’t that sound familiar?)

So the leaders of the church sent Paul a list of questions dealing with marriage, Christian freedom, public worship and the resurrection. There were some people who denied that Christ rose from the dead. Others felt that people could not physically be resurrected.

I want to share what Paul wrote to them because this is a core belief; it is foundational for us. Remember the litany “Christ has died…Christ is risen…Christ will come again.” Christ’s resurrection means the end of death. Because He lives, we also will live. He promises us an eternal home with Him.

Listen to what the Apostle Paul is saying to the Corinthian church in chapter 15 –

“Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures …” 1 Corinthians 15:1-4

Paul was reminding the Corinthian congregation of the message he preached when they first heard the Gospel. You see, the Gospel message is NOT a new kind of Philosophy or a new code of Morality or a new set of Teachings. Yes, it contains all of this, but at its heart, the Gospel is a message about a Person and an Event. The Person is Jesus and the event is His death and resurrection.

Everything else about the Christian life rests on this Person and this Event. That’s why Paul was so frustrated to hear that certain people in the Corinthian church were trying to say there was no such thing as Resurrection. We run into the same kind of problem today — even in the church.

Some Christian groups celebrate Easter as a symbol of renewal and new life, but in reality, they see the Resurrection account as a nice little make-believe story that never REALLY happened.  This is pretty much the same attitude Paul was confronting in Corinth. Some folks were trying to hang on to the promises of the Gospel while at the same time, rejecting the HEART of the Gospel. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul makes it clear that if you reject the literal resurrection of Jesus, you have rejected the entire Gospel. Every promise of the Gospel message rests on the Resurrection. Our Christian faith rests on the resurrection.

In verses 5-7, Paul emphasizes that he is NOT telling a fairy tale about Jesus’ resurrection. Paul goes on to list the many eye-witnesses (most of them still living when Paul wrote) who saw and interacted with the visible risen Jesus.

Everything rests on the resurrection – our salvation, our purpose for living, our hope of eternal life.

THE REUNION IN THE SKY: (Back to the Second Coming)
If you never have heard the chorus in the Gospel hymn “Meeting in the Air” here are those glorious and exciting words:

There is going to be a meeting in the air In the sweet, sweet bye and bye I am going to meet you, meet you over there, In that home beyond the sky Such singing you will hear, never heard by mortal ear ‘Twill be glorious I do declare And God’s own son will be the leading one, At the meeting in the air

The Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, “We shall be caught up with the Lord in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”

This is going to be a meeting of Christ and members of His Body, the Church. It marks the beginning of the Christian’s eternal association with Christ. And, what a meeting that is going to be!

The goal of redemption is not only to rescue us from judgment but to relate us to Christ.

There are going to be no good-byes in Heaven. Forever we shall be with Christ and His family members from around the world.

So, in conclusion, what will you be thinking when next you recite these familiar words during communion?

“Christ has died;              Christ is risen:       Christ will come again!”

We are called “Easter” people. We believe in the crucifixion and the empty tomb – do you believe that He will come again?

Sermon: The Message of the Resurrection

The Message of the Resurrection
John 20:1-18 RUMC
April 16, 2017

Benjamin Franklin was a colorful character in our nation’s history. Among many things, he was an author, a printer, a scientist, an inventor, a statesman and a diplomat.  In one of his lighter moments as a young man, he wrote his own epitaph: “The body of B. Franklin, Printer, like the cover of an old Book.  Its contents torn out, And stript of its Letering and gilding, Lies here, Food for Worms, but the Work shall not be wholly lost:  For it will, as he believ’d, Appear once more in a new and more perfect Edition, Corrected and amended by the Author.”  Mr. Franklin was a printer at the time of this unusual funeral statement; he knew there was life after death and could base that hope on Jesus’ resurrection of the dead.

My text is from John 20, verses 1-18.
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3 Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. 4The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples returned to their homes.

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
This is the Word of God.

It was dawn on the first Easter morning when Mary Magdalene went to the tomb. Her task was to anoint the body of Jesus.  As she walked, her thoughts centered on who was going to roll away the 4000 pound stone from the tomb entrance.  We know how the story ended.  The stone had indeed been rolled away; Jesus, who was dead, was now alive.  So as believers, we can categorically say that Easter is to our faith:

  • what water is to the ocean
  • what stones are to a mountain
  • what blood is to our bodies

In the dictionary of God, Easter is the first and final word.  It is the New Year’s Day of our Souls-a sacred mystery that continues to defy medicine, logic and science.  When you think about it, Easter is about the celebration of the empty tomb.

Now along these lines, back in the beginning of western civilization, there was a time when people looked out at the vast Atlantic Ocean and wondered if there was anything beyond. There was this superstitious belief that if a ship managed to get to the ends of the earth, it would sail off the edge.  The country of Spain’s coat of arms had as its motto Ne Plus Ultra, which means “There is nothing beyond.”  Then came Christopher Columbus’ discovery of a new world and Spain’s motto was changed to Plus Ultra which means “There is more beyond.”

plus ultra

If we look into the spiritual realm, Jesus’ resurrection had the same effect, there is more beyond.

Paul the Apostle said the same thing in 1 Corinthians 2:9 when he wrote, “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, neither has entered into the human heart, the wonderful things God has prepared for his people”

Jesus also said in John 14, “In my Father’s house are many rooms and I am going there to prepare a place for you.”

Dr. A. J. Gordon, the founder of Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts, once brought an old, rusty, empty birdcage to church and placed it next to the pulpit. He did this to illustrate a story of how he had seen a young lad who wore tattered blue jeans, a dirty T shirt, with a ball cap off to the side, carrying this particular birdcage.  This was the conversation between Dr. Gordon and the boy.

“Sonny, what do you have there?”
The boy answered: “I got some birds.”
“What are you going to do with them?
The boy said, “O mess around with them, tease them or something like that.”
“When you get tired of them, what are you going to do?”
The boy thought for a moment and said, “When I get home I will give them to the cats.”
“How much do you want for the birds?”
Surprised, the boy said, “Mister, those birds ain’t no good.”
Well, regardless, how much would you like for them?”
|The little fella said, “How about two bucks?”
“Sold.”

So Dr. Gordon reached into his pocket and gave the boy two one dollar bills, and the boy thought he won the lottery. The boy walked away.  Dr. Gordon opened the cage door and set the birds free.

A couple of days later, Dr. Gordon told his congregation in his Easter sermon, how the empty birdcage was a picture of how Satan had trapped and frightened the human race. Not only did Jesus pay the price for our salvation, but when he rose from the dead, he set us free–just as the two sparrows were set free.

Now I realize that there may be some who have doubts about whether Christ’s resurrection actually happened the way it was written down, or happened at all. Consider this statement that was written by the Apostle Peter in his epistle (2 Peter 1:16) “We did not follow, cleverly invented stories, but we were eye witnesses.”

If the resurrection of the dead was fake news, Peter and the other apostles who were eye witnesses, who had spoken to Jesus after his death and touched his body, would never have allowed themselves to die. They would not have become martyrs of the faith for something false.  This is one of the reasons that I believe we can trust the biblical record.

Therefore, the resurrection matters because:

  • Jesus is who he claimed to be.
  • He has the power he claimed to have.
  • My past and yours can be forgiven.
  • My problems and yours can be managed.
  • My future and yours can be secure.

With Christ in our hearts, Easter becomes meaningful. If he is not in our hearts, then Easter becomes a special Sunday that features chocolates, bunnies and colored eggs.

  • If it has been awhile since you have been on speaking terms with your Heavenly Father, why don’t you open up your hearts.
  • If you have gone through hurts that have been unresolved, allow God to begin the healing.
  • If you have had unanswerable questions of faith which has caused you to erect a barrier, why don’t you search the Scriptures, trust in the Lord even though you don’t have all the answers.
  • If you have had a bad experience in the church or someone has let you down, let it go.

Let this Easter be the beginning of a new faith journey where you experience Jesus in a new way. If you would like to reignite your relationship with the Lord, join me in this prayer.
Loving God, I open up my heart to you. I would ask that you would forgive me for any wrongs that I might have done and let me experience you in a new way.  Revive my faith and give me a fresh touch from you.  Amen.

Sermon: Easter 2016

Easter 2016
John 20:1-18
RUMC March 27, 2016

For most of his life, Thomas Jefferson was convinced that some of the stories of Jesus written in the gospels were filled with falsehoods.  And once he completed his two terms as the 3rd President of the United States, he decided that he would edit his own version of the gospels. So with quill in hand, he went through the gospels of the Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and scratched out all those supernatural references of miracles and physical healings.  According to Mr. Jefferson, Jesus was a great teacher of love, morals, and service–and nothing more.

The last verse of the Jefferson Bible reads, “There they laid Jesus and rolled a great stone at the mouth of the sepulcher and departed.”  If you wish to purchase a paper copy of the Jeffersonian Bible, it can be ordered from Amazon.com for only $4.95.

Now Jefferson was right about one thing, Jesus did die.  But hopefully for all of us here, the story continues.  Our Lord did rise from the dead.  Down through the ages Christ has revolutionized the lives of believers.  And that is what our faith is all about.

Today’s scripture is John 20:1-18.
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples returned to their homes.

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
This is the word of God.  Thanks be to God.

If you were to describe your personal experience of Easter, using only punctuation marks, which ones would you use?

  • Would Easter be a comma (,) which makes you pause, think or listen?
  • Would Easter be a period (.) like Thomas Jefferson, who believed Jesus died and was buried?
  • Would Easter be a question mark (?) because there is still doubt in your mind as to what had happened?
  • Would Easter be an exclamation point (!) because Christ is alive in your hearts?

Max Lucado in his book, Six Hours One Friday told a story of a Brazilian missionary who tried to help a remote Indian tribe who suffered from the ravages of a deadly virus.  Many had died of that plague.  However there was a ray of hope, because there was a hospital nearby.

The only way to get patients to the hospital was to cross the river.  But the members of this particular Indian tribe would not cross, because they believed evil spirits inhabited it.  And according to their superstitions, to enter into the water, meant certain death.

This missionary who worked with this group, tried to explain there would be no harm if they would simply wade across.  But the people would not listen.  To further explain that the water was harmless, he took them to the edge of the river, and placed his hand under the water.  Again they were not convinced.  The missionary jumped into the water, waded up to his waist, and splashed water on his face, but they would not believe.  Finally, the missionary dove under the water and swam beneath the surface.  When he emerged close to the other side, he raised a triumphant fist.  It was then that the Indians broke into a cheer, jumped into the water, and crossed the river.

This story is similar to what Jesus had done for us.  He entered the river of death and emerged on the other side.  This was done so we might no longer fear death, but find eternal life.

Six of the world’s major religions, Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, Confucianism, Sikhism and Christianity are based on personalities who happen to be the founders of their faith.  But Christianity is the only religion that claims an empty tomb for its founder.  For example:

Abraham was the father of the Jewish people and died around 1900 BC. He is buried in Hebron, Israel at the Tombs of the Patriarchs.  His mausoleum has a black top on it.

Siddhartha Gautama or the Buddha lived to be 80 years old when he died in Nepal in 483BC.  He was cremated and some of his remains are believed to be in a temple in Kushinagar, India

Mohammed the founder of Islam died at the age of 61 in 632 AD.  He is buried in what is called the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina, Saudi Arabia.  His tomb is cordoned off with gold mesh and black curtains; it is one of the places that devout Moslems visit during the annual pilgrimage or the Haj.

Confucius was a great Chinese philosopher died in 479 BC.  He is buried in the cemetery of Confucius in Qufu city in Shandong Province in China.

Guru Nanek is the founder of the Sikh religion.  This is the religious faith where the men wear turbans and carry swords.  Guru Nanek died in 1539 and his cremated remains are located here Katarpur, Pakistan.

And now we come to Jesus the Christ who said, “I am the resurrection and the life.”  Here we see the empty tombIf we were to remove the resurrection from our belief structure, we would lose our identity.  It would be like taking the engine out of the car.  The automobile might be nice to look at, but it wouldn’t be able to go anywhere.

For Christians, the resurrection is more than an event of history or a creed we recite.  And if we truly respond to it by giving our heart to Christ and becoming born from above, we will be changed by it.  That is what resurrection faith does.

One person who had resurrection faith was United Methodist Pastor, Kelly Clem.

On Palm Sunday 1994, a tornado struck the church that she served, the Goshen United Methodist in Piedmont, Alabama.  The destruction to the building was tremendous.  On that fateful day, 90 people were injured and 20 tragically died.  Among the fatalities was Pastor Clem’s four year old daughter, Hannah.

The night after the tragedy, Pastor Clem tried to sleep through the emotional pain of the loss of her daughter and the physical pain of her injuries.  But she had an unusual dream: She saw was herself lifting bricks and tossing them aside so she could rescue the many victims.  But as her dream progressed, she saw the spot where her daughter had died.  There in that place, children were dressed in beautiful bright colors.  They seemed oblivious to the onlookers as they played and laughed on the grass that was the greenest of green.  When Pastor Clem awoke, a peace settled over her that strengthened her for the funerals she would have to conduct.  The next day, a news reporter asked if the disaster had shattered her faith.  She said, “It hasn’t shattered my faith, but I’m holding on to my faith.  It’s holding me.”

Pastor Clem had resurrection faith.  And with this type of life changing faith, we will be able to get through anything and face any obstacle or difficulty.  With the reality of the resurrection, we will experience life after death and see our loved ones.

  • The resurrection matters because Jesus is who he claimed to be.
  • The resurrection matters because Jesus has the power he claimed to have.
  • The resurrection matters because my past and yours can be forgiven.
  • The resurrection matters because my problems and yours can be managed.
  • The resurrection matters because my future and yours can be secure.

I recognize that there are many like Thomas Jefferson who choose to believe the end of the story was when they rolled the stone over the mouth of the tomb.  Unfortunately we live in a culture that is skeptical of the claims of faith.  Intellectually it is easy to accept the resurrection as only a metaphor or symbolic.  Jesus did say “Nothing is impossible with God.”  What makes Jesus unique and special is the supernatural.  I believe you can combine the moral teachings with the miracles.

Let me close:  Easter is all about hope and belief.  With Christ in our hearts, Easter becomes meaningful.  We have the assurance that God loves us; we are his children; and we know we have a place when we die.

If Christ is not in our hearts, it becomes a regular holiday of chocolate bunnies, egg hunts, decorated baskets, jelly beans, candy chicks, spring clothes and dinner with family.  So I would encourage all of us to embrace the spiritual aspect of Easter and all these things will be a joy.