Tuesday, April 26, 2011

John, will you open the door?

The building that Crossroads Community Church is meeting in has a large overhead garage type door. During the message on Sunday (in written form below with audio available at http://crossroadsdc.sermon.net) we turned off the lights in our warehouse style building, spoke about the ways people try to make their own light, and then, on cue, John Buschel opened the door.  The light streamed in.

Big door opening or not, Easter is about light and life and hope, coming from darkness and death and despair.  To me, the door opening in the building was like the opening of Jesus' tomb -- pretty sweet!  (Someone from the Crossroads team posted a video of the "opening" with music added.  It can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I-vJKajHcRQ&feature=youtu.be.)

What follows here is a slightly edited version of the notes I prepared in advance of the message preached Easter Sunday, April 24, 2011, at Crossroads Community Church. The audio at http://crossroadsdc.sermon.net includes more scriptures, more feeling ;-), and an announcement about a potluck and information meeting coming up on May 1 at Crossroads.  Hope to see you there!


Easter Day! So good to be together to celebrate a truth that the world need to know. People walk in darkness. Many need to know the glorious news: There's always more future than there is past. Always. That's the gift we have in Jesus! And that future is a glorious one. So there's no reason for fear anymore. Anything we're going through now is nothing compared to God's future! That's what this day is about. We proclaim this good news and want others to know. That's why we're here. It's a good day! This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.

We thank you, Lord God, for this glorious, wonderful day, and we ask, heavenly Father, that you would send your Holy Spirit among us so we would know ourselves to be utterly loved, that despite the fears and the sins and the pain that we suffer, that your future, God, is for each person who is here, and we pray that your Holy Spirit would come upon us so we receive this good news today as it is spoken and as we share it in communion... We ask Lord that you would bless this time, that the rest of our lives may be touched by your Spirit, in Jesus' name...

Acts 10
     36 “You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ.  He is Lord of all! 37 You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— 38 God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power; he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.
     39 “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Judea and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. 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. 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. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.“

That's the good news!  That's the good news that this church is about.  There are many groups and organizations that do many good things, but this is a place where we come to hear and know the glory of God!

God's glory is so covered over in this world--but the fact is that this world will not go on forever as it is.  Hallelujah!

It was back on Thursday, at a meeting of the Faith in Action group, that the Lord made clear what it was he wanted to say to hear today.

We were in Buffalo, at Zion Lutheran Church.  Pat Day, an author and Faith in Action board member, a man who I’m just now getting to know and respect, he said this:

“For some, Easter hasn’t come.  For some, Easter hasn’t arrived.”

What we celebrate on this day we call Easter—the reason we call it “Easter” is really complicated—but what we celebrate on this day we call Easter is a world changing event that God used to repair all the damage we human beings have done since the beginning.

God used this day, this Sunday after the Jewish Passover celebration—God used this day to repair all the damage we human beings have done since the very beginning of our time here on this earth.

Easter means the resurrection of the dead.  You know that, right?  Easter means there is NO need to be afraid of anything anymore!  We can get up into our Father God's lap and He will tell us the truth; and we can go there as often as we need to.  Christ is risen from the dead and so will you when you trust him.

Do you know what resurrection means?  It means that, no matter what happens here on this earth, no matter how long your life is, no matter how difficult your life is, no matter how much pain and suffering there is in this old world… Resurrection means there is ALWAYS a better future ahead.  Always. 

When Jesus suffered and died on Good Friday, he paid the penalty for ALL of our sins… When you desperately depend on Jesus, ALL your sins are GONE!  There will never be, in the future, any time when I will need to pay the penalty for what I have done wrong. 

Whatever suffering I go through, whatever evil I have done or whatever evil has been done to me, none of that ever come back to haunt me.

When Jesus rose from the dead he showed us what is ahead for me and for you!  Life and love and perfect healing! 

Nothing is even worth comparing (Romans 8) to that bright and perfect future that will be revealed to us!

And, because of Easter, there will always be more future than there is past.

Because of this day, this shining bright day, there will always be more future, glorious and perfect, there will always be more perfect than there is past.

What will the future bring? 
You and I, walking side by side along with God our creator and savior, enjoying the presence of the Holy Spirit flowing around and through and in us, knowing perfect love endlessly.

That’s what we were made for! 

We lost it way back, this life we were meant for.  We grieve it all the time in this world.

Back at the infancy of the human race we lost the perfect presence of God.  We traded it for momentary pleasure and greed and the stupid idea that we know better than our creator… we traded the life we were meant to live for a moment of pleasure and power… and bought death and hell for ourselves. 

It was a stupid, damnable thing we did, and, in this world, we do it again every day. 

We are in bondage to sin and we cannot free ourselves.

We sin against you, our God, in thought, word and by what we do and what we refuse to do in our stubborn disobedience. 

And we cannot make it any better no matter how hard we try.

What we celebrate this weekend is the way Jesus repaired all of that and made it all better. 

This weekend of Easter is something that shouldn’t have needed to happen, but because we sinned and ruined everything the only way to make it better was to have God fix it.  And he did that by suffering death for us and rising again.  It’s a wonderful glorious thing.

But, as my friend Pat Day said on Thursday, “For some, Easter hasn’t yet come.”  “For some, Easter hasn’t arrived.” 

For some, and for all of us sometimes, it’s like we’ve taken a big black marker and drawn a big heavy black box over and around and over this day on the calendar and seal this day off.

So often we live as if it’s not real! 

So often we act as if we were created to be like animals or plants—replaceable, temporary…

We think to ourselves, and we say to each other, we eat or drink or find other ways of being happy… we say things like “you only go ‘round once”—we say “you’d better get it while the getting is good” and we make our bucket lists… our lists of all the good things we need to do before we die. 

It’s so dumb!

Because the truth is that the dead end is not there.  So we can live forever.  We can live every day for God and for others and take our retirement with the Lord.

But, instead of believing Easter is real and that we have FOREVER to live and love and enjoy God’s goodness... we take this day of RESURRECTION from the dead... this day that means we have FOREVER to live and love and enjoy the life we were meant for, and we draw a big heavy black box around this day and just think of it as a nice one day celebration—a nice diversion for a few hours before we go back to so-called "real life."

And that is so sad.

Because when we seal this day off and pretend it’s not there, we go back to what it was before Easter… we go back with the rest of the world to a time when Easter has not come.  We live lives just like for those, today, who don’t know about Jesus’ resurrection.  We join them in the dark.

I’d like to illustrate what happens when we seal off the glory of this day... I thought at first that I’d try to put a bright light in a box, but, I couldn’t find a way to do that, so, instead, we’ll put ourselves in a box and seal ourselves away, just for a moment, from the light of the world…
We’ll do this just for a quick moment… I just want you to experience the darkness, because this is how people live spiritually on an every day basis.

They live in the dark.  (LIGHTS OFF)

So what we do in this world
, is live with little artificial lights (ON FLASHLIGHT), as if we need to make our own light.  And then, as we live with our own light.  And then, because we end up being responsible for our own hope and our own peace, we panic!  We wonder how long our own artificial spiritual light will last.  We wonder if the way we've been trying to hang on in this life just isn't going to last... so we rush around and get more pleasure, more stuff, because we just can't handle this darkness

We're too afraid, actually for good reason, that what we can manufacture for ourselves of goodness and hope is just going to die out.

We take our attention off the fact that we will someday exit this tomb. 
That’s what we do, really, when we remember the resurrection… we focus on the exit…

We realize that the darkness is temporary. 

And we want the rest to know that too so they don’t self-centered and unwilling to give and share and spend themselves for others. 

And we need this reminder so we don’t become like mere animals, really, just living for today. 

So we get together in this place and point to Jesus, to the one who exits the tomb before us, because someday there will be GLORY forever and ever! 

John, will you please open the door?

That’s what we’re about—letting people know—Christ is risen and we shall arise! There is a new world coming!
Weeping no more,
sorrow be silent,
death put asunder
and Easter is bright! 

Angels all sing,
Clothe us in wonder
adorn us in light! 

Jesus is risen
and we shall arise,
give God the glory! 

from Herb Brokering's hymn "Alleluia!  Jesus Is Risen"
That’s the news we share, and it makes all the difference.

That’s the news we share with the world!


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