The Lord is Risen! …….. The Lord is Risen indeed! Alleluia!
It is good to be worshipping together on this 2nd Sunday of Easter. As was the case last Sunday, this is a day of joy and celebration, and is the whole 50 days of Eastertide that we celebrate in the Anglican tradition. I truly hope that we will keep up this celebratory spirit throughout the 50 days of Eastertide.
After all, if it were not for the Resurrection, we would not be here today. Christianity is a Resurrection
faith. We are an Easter people, a Resurrection people. No Resurrection of Jesus would mean no
Christianity. Like the many would-be Jewish messiahs of the 1st century, Jesus would have been all but forgotten by now if he had not risen from the grave. His disciples would have remained scattered, fearful, and powerless, and the name of Jesus would have disappeared.
God defeated the powers of evil and death,
freed us from our sins by his blood,
made us into a kingdom of priests,
and as the firstborn of the dead, pointed to the day when the bodies of
believers will one day too be raised into new life.
The greatest victory:
which has compelled Jesus’ followers from the time of the first disciples until now,
to declare this good news to the world,
to be witnesses to the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the
world so that people from every tribe, language, people, and nation could be
Thus, this is a season where there is no place for gloom in our liturgy or in our singing. This season is a one long party for us Christians. This is a season where we can continue to say the greetings we heard on Easter – the Lord is Risen. The Lord is Risen indeed alleluia. o why don’t we do it again now!
Turn to your neighbor again and say, “The Lord is Risen! …….
Wonderful! Well, praise God for his love and grace –that He would make possible the forgiveness of our sins through the crucifixion and resurrection of His Son, that through his costly death and His Resurrection that we who believe would have new and abundant life, not just now but in the future.
We know from 1 Corinthians 15 that our perishable bodies will be raised and transformed into imperishable ones just like Jesus’ body was.
We also know from the books of Isaiah, 2 Peter, and Revelation that God will bring about a new heavens and new earth, in which our new selves with our new bodies will dwell.
We also know from Revelation that in this new heaven and new earth, we will be gathered up into an eternal family of people from all tribes, languages, and nations who will together glorify God, the author of salvation.
I love what my former pastor John Yates has to say about it all. He says,
“Like a seed planted in soil grows up into a beautiful flower, so will those who are in Christ blossom in eternity in a thousand ways we never imagined. Our understanding and our senses will be multiplied and life will be more purposeful, more alive than we can imagine. Everything we need for fulfillment and joy and completion will at last be ours. This is what the resurrection promises!”
And because we know this is what our future holds –that we will live with God and others in deep intimacy in an incredible place of beauty, abundance, and purpose, we Christians can now live life differently.
To see what I mean, let’s take a brief step back into Christian history.
Did you know that in just 300 years from the time of Jesus, the Christian community grew from about 1000 individuals to nearly 35 million? How in the world did this happen?
Some folks who have looked deeply into the history and faith of the early Christian movement have suggested that this growth came in large part because the people who had met the Risen Jesus and those who had later come to also believe in the Resurrection through eyewitness accounts of the Risen Lord
were so changed by this event.
So changed that they became powerful movement that attracted more and more individuals. These
Christians became qualitatively different than their non-Christian neighbors, with lives marked by great love and sacrifice, that more and more people were drawn into Christ’s church.
According to Rodney Stark, a scholar, historian, and sociologist who wrote a book in the 90s called The Rise of Christianity, there were several ways that Christians were different than their surrounding
neighbors. We will look at three of these.
Firstly, when the Plagues swept through the Roman Empire and the people fled out of the cities, the Christians remained behind.
They gathered up the sick who had been kicked out of their own homes or who had been
left behind, and they nursed and loved them. Inevitably, this meant that many of
these Christians also contracted the Plague and died, but this did not prevent
other Christians from doing the same thing because they knew the glorious life
that awaited them even if they should die now.
Secondly, when many of the early believers were persecuted by the Roman Empire because of their faith, they refused to retaliate but rather prayed for their persecutors.
Again, the glorious life that awaited them gave them strength to be crucified, killed by the gladiators, and tortured in various ways. Many non-believers witnessing these Christian martyrs were moved to the
core and became Christians themselves.
Thirdly, when folks of differently ethnicities who had been conquered by the Empire found themselves living in close proximity, the Christian community provided a hospitable community that saw neither “Jew nor Greek.”
Because the early believers knew with confidence that one day God would gather up peoples of all tribes, languages, and nations into one eternal family centered in Christ, they reached out to people of all ethnicities. Outside the church, these people found that ethnic tensions and difficulties reigned, but inside the church, they were welcomed and loved as people who were equal before God, no matter their nation or ethnicity. (Now, we know from the NT that even within the church, ethnic tensions did arise from time to time, but there was still something concretely different about what was happening within the church than what was happening outside of the church, and as a result, people of different ethnicities found themselves worshipping together.)
In short, because of their hope in God’s glorious future for them, the early Christians were able to reach out in sacrificial, non-discriminating service and love.
Again, to quote my pastor John Yates,
“The impact of [witnessing the Risen Jesus] . . .was so great – [for the early Christians] that they were forever, completely changed. Because they had seen the risen Christ, they had gotten a glimpse of the future for those who belonged to Christ, and because of that they
were absolutely fearless. Those early believers outlived, out loved, and out died their pagan contemporaries, and those who were on the receiving end of their love, their ministry, their
acceptance and service, were so moved that they believed their reports of the
And in just a couple of centuries, the Christian faith became a widespread movement.
Now, of course what I am talking about here are the Christians of the first few centuries, but if we look across history and across the globe, we will find many other examples of people whose belief in the Resurrection and God’s glorious future for those in Christ also resulted in the great spread of
And not only that, but it resulted in a great impact on the world, whether in small ways that were noticed only by a small group or in large ways that had a massive societal impact. Throughout the ages, the Resurrection has changed lives and changed the world. History shows this, even amidst the examples of Christian communities who have acted in very unfortunate ways, the truth of the Resurrection has eventually broken through, and it will continually break through.
Sometimes, we are told that Christianity in the Western world is on its way out, and it certainly looks that way in some cases. In fact, in a recent Barna pictorial I saw, the 5 least Bible-minded cities in the U.S. were all in New England. We are in a mission field, friends. But this should not discourage us. We have to know this. The power of the Resurrection will again break through, and more folks in the Western world will come to Christ. People in New England will come to Christ. We can absolutely trust this. We don’t know the timing of this or the way that God will bring it about, but we can trust it will happen at some point.
And for all these reasons, during this season when we remember our Lord’s Resurrection, we must celebrate! We must also remember with thankfulness how the Resurrection has personally changed us and will continue to transform us as we increasingly grasp the significance of this great event.
How can we too point people to the reality of a Crucified and Risen Lord and to a glorious future for all those who believe?
And then we must ask God: how can we too live fearlessly in today’s world, out-serving and
out-loving our neighbors around us?
How too can we work to make our church community reflect that great crowd of worshippers from every tribe, nation, and tongue? (Friends, just this past weekend, I had the privilege of going to the
Cultural night at SSU. Did you know we have nearly 500 international students from approximately 70 nations just living down the street from us. How are we to reach out in love to these student from around the world?)
Now, while each of us will live out the reality of the Resurrection differently in our lives, I believe that if we take this seriously, our relationships, neighborhoods, cities, and countries will change. The city of Salem will change. It has happened before, and by the grace of God it can happen again. Praise God. This is the Good news of the Resurrection. Alleluia. Alleluia
Note: I am very grateful for gleaning much of the content for this sermon from the Rev. Dr. John Yates II.