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Sermon for April 17, 2022 — Resurrection of the Lord

Speaking Of Life 4021 | The Last Enemy

As we celebrate Resurrection Sunday, let us remember that Jesus’ resurrection is not only about hope for life after death. Because of the life that we have in Christ, we are united with him and invited to join him in healing the world.  He is risen and he is with us!

Program Transcript


Speaking Of Life 4021 | The Last Enemy
Michelle Fleming

Today is one of the most special days in the Christian calendar. We’re celebrating the resurrection of Christ from the dead. “Christ is risen. He is risen indeed!” You see, that’s one thing that makes Jesus different from other religious teachers. Not only did Jesus leave us a legacy of teachings about the importance of loving God and loving other people, especially those marginalized by our culture, but Jesus also showed us that death doesn’t have the last word. Let’s read I Corinthians to remind ourselves of this important truth:

If all we get out of Christ is a little inspiration for a few short years,
we’re a pretty sorry lot.
But the truth is that Christ has been raised up,
the first in a long legacy of those who are going to leave the cemeteries.
There is a nice symmetry in this:
Death initially came by a man, and resurrection from death came by a man.
Everybody dies in Adam; everybody comes alive in Christ.
But we have to wait our turn: Christ is first, then those with him at his Coming, the grand consummation when, after crushing the opposition,
he hands over his kingdom to God the Father.
He won’t let up until the last enemy is down—and the very last enemy is death!

I Corinthians 15:19-26 (The Message)

In this letter to the Corinthian church, Paul is making the argument that since Adam introduced death into creation, it only makes sense that Jesus—God in human flesh—would overcome death.

Some might think that the resurrection means human beings shouldn’t die at all. Jesus’ death shows us that suffering and death are part of the human experience but not the end of it.

Through Jesus’ life and death, God turns everything upside down. Human beings think sickness and death are repulsive to God. But Jesus was touched by humanity’s suffering, and his death on the cross expresses God’s solidarity with us. God the Father, Son, and Spirit aren’t just watching us live our lives— but they are living in us and through us. God participates in our suffering with us, and Jesus’ resurrection affirms that death cannot hold us in its grip.

But Jesus’ resurrection is much bigger than simply overcoming death for humanity. Jesus’ resurrected life pulses through us, helping us share God’s love as we move through the world. We are not only freed from death’s grip but we are freed to live joyous lives with Christ. In relationship with him, we are transformed and brought into wholeness.

On this Resurrection Sunday, we say that death is not the end. Even more important than that, Jesus frees us to live in loving participation with the Father, Son, and Spirit right now. “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!”

I’m Michelle Fleming, Speaking of Life.

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 · Acts 10:34-43 · 1 Corinthians 15:19-26 · John 20:1-18

The theme for this week is holding the tension of death and life with joy. Today we’re celebrating Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, but it’s important that we don’t gloss over Good Friday and Holy Saturday. While Jesus’ resurrection from the dead ensures our resurrection too, we can learn a lot about living in a world where both suffering and joy appear side by side by considering the resurrection story. As Psalm 118 points out, times of suffering can feel like punishment from God, but in reality, God is our salvation and comfort. Even as Adam introduced death to humanity, Jesus’ resurrection shows that death cannot hold us in its grip, as explained in 1 Corinthians 15. And this breaking of death’s grip isn’t just for some, but for all. Acts 10 reminds us that “God shows no partiality.” Our sermon text tells about Mary Magdalene’s grief and how she and the apostles lived the questions that Jesus’ death and resurrection raised.

Living the Questions

John 20:1-18 (NRSV)

We Christians have plenty of questions that we would like answered. Today, on Resurrection Sunday, we might ask, “How does God resurrect a person?” And that would be a relevant question, but it is a question that we won’t have answered right now. What are some other questions that we would like answered?

Wait for suggested questions or use the following prompts – 1) How is cancer cured? 2) Who assassinated John F. Kennedy? 3) What do we need to do to have world peace? 4) How can I make 2+2=5?

Rainer Maria Rilke (pronounced RAY-ner MREE-uh REEL-kuh) was an Austrian poet and writer who lived in the late 19th century. One of his most famous works, Letters to a Young Poet, was a short collection of letters he wrote to a young writer named Franz Kappus. The young writer had posed all sorts of questions to Rilke, asking for answers that Rilke knew he wasn’t qualified to give. Here’s what Rilke told the young writer:

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue.

Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them.

And the point is to live everything.

Live the questions now.

Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.

It’s not easy living the questions, but we’re not the first to have to do it. We can read the account of Mary Magdalene at Jesus’ tomb and watch her grief turn to quizzical joy as she lived the questions about Jesus’ death into new questions about what it means to serve a risen Savior.

Read John 20:1-18 NRSV

We’re going to look at the passage again, but this time through the lens of the questions that Mary Magdalene and the apostles were living. You’ll notice that these questions are the same questions we also face when struggling with change and difficulty.

Where is Jesus?

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.” (John 20:1-2 NRSV)

Here we observe Mary Magdalene coming to the tomb while it was still dark. John’s gospel often uses the binaries of darkness and light symbolically, perhaps contrasting human beings’ inability to see and perceive at first with the dawn of understanding. When Mary sees the stone rolled away, she immediately wonders where he is? Someone has taken him, and we don’t know where he is.

How often in life do we ask the same question – where is Jesus? Mary assumed he had been taken; he was nowhere around. How often do we make the same assumption? Where is Jesus when we’re faced with difficult situations, we ask the question, “Where is Jesus?” And rather than make assumptions, such as “This is my fault” or “I’m being punished,” we should focus our attention on Jesus’ words. Jesus had told his disciples that he would be crucified but would rise on the third day. Today, we have Jesus’ words in the Bible to remind us that “In him, we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28, NRSV).

Here are Jesus’ words:

“I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.” (John 16:32-33 MSG)

While we live the question “Where is Jesus?” we can live by the truth that he is alive, he is in us, and we live in him. Where is Jesus? In you and with you, always inviting you to join him in what he is doing. This is the reason we celebrate the resurrection. Jesus is alive and in us; we no longer have to ask where he is.

What do we do now?

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. Then the disciples returned to their homes. (John 20:3-10 NRSV)

These verses tell us what happened when Peter and John made it to the tomb. We read that John “believed,” but at that time he didn’t connect the dots that Jesus had told them he would rise from the dead. Right then, John believed Mary that Jesus was missing. He and Peter went home. Why didn’t they stay and try to investigate what happened to Jesus’ body?

If we think about the kind of week these disciples had had, we could say “it had been A WEEK.” It started so promising and ended with much heartbreak and grief. When we are consumed by our grief, it’s difficult to see past the grief. “What do we do now?” was the question they were living. Other questions they might have been living: “Why did he die? Are we next to be killed?”

The disciples had suffered a number of losses, such as the loss of their friend and teacher as well as the loss of a future they had envisioned. Their very typical reaction was to withdraw, go home, and lock the doors. What emotion makes us withdraw? Fear. When we’re living the question “What do we do now?” we are often confronted with our fear of not knowing what we’re supposed to do next or how we’re supposed to do it. We’re tempted to withdraw just like the disciples did.

The resurrection reminds us that Jesus has not left us to wonder what to do next. Death comes to us in many ways throughout our lives: loss, disappointment, disillusionment. When we anticipate something and it doesn’t happen, it’s a kind of death. We are learning that we really don’t control anything. And if we think about it, each time we have faced disappointment or loss, at the very bottom God’s grace has been there. We have come through that smaller “death” to the other side because something or someone has always made a way for us. That’s the power of the resurrection. Jesus reminds us that he claimed victory over death – over anything that can stop us from living in him.

What do we do now? We claim his victory. He proclaim his life in us. We follow him; we participate in what he is doing in us and in those around us. As the Great Commission reminds us, the one to whom was given all power and authority on heaven and on earth will be with us always. We are invited to join him in his mission of bringing many sons and daughters to glory.

What do we do now? We wait for him to show up – confident that he does. When he does, we join him in what he is doing. We rest our hope on Jesus. We proclaim him, we praise him, we worship… but we are getting a bit ahead of the passage.

Why are you weeping?

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 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. 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.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 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.” (John 20:11-15 NRSV)

Here we find Mary Magdalene weeping. The disciples have left, but she stays. She finally summons up enough courage to look into the tomb, and sees two angels who ask her “Why are you weeping?” She shares her sorrow with them: Jesus is gone; I don’t know where he is. It seems a little strange that she doesn’t think it odd that two beings are sitting in the tomb, asking her questions. But she answers them, and then she turns around, and Jesus is there. He asks her the same question: Why are you weeping? She thinks he’s the gardener, but she answers the question again.

Did the two angels and Jesus himself not know why Mary was crying? I am guessing that they knew, maybe better than Mary did. Living the question “Why are you weeping?” encapsulates the grieving process. Human beings need to talk about their pain, disappointments, and losses. It’s part of the healing process that God created. Grief is not something that people “get over;” grief must be expressed through talking to someone, journaling, moving our bodies, or creating art and music. Grief must be integrated into a person and talking about our losses can be a part of the process. When we are processing a loss or disappointment, living the question “Why are you weeping?” helps us process and integrate the loss into our lives. It helps us heal and ultimately turns us back to the healer. Jesus understands our pain, our suffering, our grief, and he enters into it with us.

The resurrection reminds us that our weeping is for a moment; the joy of knowing Jesus and knowing his resurrection is our resurrection encourages us to not grieve as others do, with no hope. The resurrection reminds us that our grief will turn to joy because we know we have been risen with him and we have ascended with him.

Will life go back to the way it was?

Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 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.’” 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. (John 20:16-18 NRSV)

Jesus says Mary’s name, and she instantly knows him. “Rabbouni!” she says. Though the scripture doesn’t say it explicitly, it’s implied that Mary embraces Jesus, and he says to her, “Do not hold on to me because I have not yet ascended to the Father” (v. 17). This might sound a little cold; after all, who could blame her? The last time she saw him, he was dead on a cross. But it might make more sense if we understand Mary’s unspoken question to be “Will life go back to the way it was?” and if we interpret Jesus’ response to be “Are you willing to change your vision of how life is supposed to be?”

It’s a human tendency to resist change or to be nostalgic for “the good ole days.” It would be a natural assumption for Mary to think that Jesus could take up where he left off. But in any kind of death, coming out on the other side means that things are different. We are different. The Holy Spirit uses the losses and suffering we endure to change us. We already know, deep down, the answer to the question we’re living, “Will life go back to the way it was?” And we, like Mary, must move forward into living the question “Are we willing to change our vision of how life is supposed to be?” Are we willing to surrender to the changes God is leading us through and leading us to? If we are going to participate in resurrection, our answer must be yes because resurrection implies a change.

The resurrection reminds us that when Jesus rose from the grave, everything changed. Death lost its sting. The grave is not a permanent dwelling. There is life after death. Jesus is alive, and because he lives, we too will live forever. The resurrection reminds us to live in our new reality – that we are a new creation, redeemed and reconciled to the Father. The resurrection reminds us that God’s promises are sure – just as Jesus rose from the grave, so will we. Just as Jesus entered into glory, so shall we. Just as Jesus declared victory, we will declare victory. All because he is risen!

For Reference:

Rilke’s Letter Four: https://www.carrothers.com/rilke4.htm

https://www.workingpreacher.org/commentaries/revised-common-lectionary/resurrection-of-our-lord-3/commentary-on-john-201-18-5

Extravagant Worship w/ Dan Rogers W3

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Extravagant Worship w/ Dan Rogers
April 17 – Easter Sunday
John 20:1-18 “The Resurrection”

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Program Transcript


Extravagant Worship w/ Dan Rogers W3

Anthony: Let’s move on to our next pericope. This is going to be for Easter Sunday. The text is John 20:1 – 18. It is the Revised Common Lectionary lection reading for April the 17th.

1Early 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. [NRSV]

Wow! So, Paul writes that if Christ hasn’t been raised, our preaching, Dan, is in vain. I just want to give you an opportunity to rift on the stunning reality of the resurrection of our Lord, which makes what we do not in vain.

Dan: Absolutely. You mentioned reality. And that’s a very important term in considering the resurrection of Jesus. As there are those who have suggested that while Jesus may have existed, his resurrection from the dead was imagined or just plain made up by his disciples. So, the question is, who is Jesus?

If Jesus is dead, then he was a young Jewish male who taught some good things but, so what? There’ve been a lot of good teachers down through history. But so what? We’re still born, live, and die and return to dust, that’s it.

But if Jesus is alive, if he were resurrected in a glorified body, then he is the Son of God. That’s who he is, fully human and fully God. And in him, all humanity has the opportunity to be resurrected in a glorified body as well. And physical death, decay and corruption is not the end of our existence.

Indeed, as John’s Gospel tells us, the one who became Jesus is the Creator, Maker of all things. In Jesus’ bodily resurrection, we have God’s pledge that along with the Creator in his human nature, the entire creation can and will be renewed. A new spiritual heaven and new spiritual earth populated by God, his angels, and glorified, spiritual, bodied humans. That is the hope of the resurrection.

Anthony: As I was rereading through this passage, I was struck by the phrase, “It was still dark,” in verse 1. And what came to my mind, it seems that new life often starts right there in the dark. Surprisingly enough, it’s a seed in the ground, a baby in the womb, or Jesus in the tomb.

And if that’s the case, what might we learn about the darkness we sometimes experience in our own lives?

Dan: Since we’re discussing a text in the Gospel of John, we should look at how John uses the imagery of dark and light. Oh! John is a master at the use of imagery and with layers and depth of meaning and understanding.  John begins his Gospel with, “In the beginning,” harkening back to the opening words of the book of Genesis and the creation story. In the Genesis creation story, darkness is prevalent, and then God introduces light!

Now in John’s Gospel, John introduces Jesus as the light that came into the world, which darkness could not overcome. And throughout his Gospel, John uses the imagery of light, day, and sight versus darkness, night, and blindness. Seeing and knowing Jesus is to see and know the light, to live in the day, to see clearly.

Not knowing Jesus is to be in darkness, in the night, and to be spiritually blind. Thus, when the physically bind came to know Jesus, they were healed, and they could see. Now we notice that Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night, a Pharisee who wanted to ask Jesus some questions. So, he comes at night, and he doesn’t understand Jesus’ teaching.

When Judas betrayed Jesus, he goes out at night. He does not understand who Jesus truly is. So, when John tells us that Mary Magdalene went out to Jesus tomb while it was still dark (and we noticed that all the other Gospels speak of an early morning arrival), John is telling his readers that Mary does not yet truly know who Jesus is.

She is still operating in the dark. But the darkness cannot overcome Jesus, the light. So indeed, Jesus comes forth from the darkness of death. And Mary eventually comes to know and understand who Jesus is.

And when Jesus comes in glory, John tells us this, the eyes of the blind will be open. And also, that every eye will see him. Blessed are the eyes of those who now have come out of darkness.

I think that’s a great lesson. Blessed are our eyes. We don’t realize how blessed we are that our eyes have been opened, that we’re not in the dark, that we’ve come out of darkness, and we can see and know who Jesus is. And we pray for the day when all will see and have that vision and not be in the dark. As the well-known hymn says, “Open my eyes that I may see.”

Anthony: Mary didn’t recognize the risen Lord Jesus, right in her presence. Is there anything we should make of that, in terms of a lesson for us?

Dan: I think we should note from the text and just to give Barry some benefit of the doubt, Mary had been crying and tears filled her eyes.

It also says that she turned around (whatever that means exactly.) But here’s the key. It was when she heard Jesus’ voice, she turned toward him and cried out, “Teacher!” Now on a practical level, Mary was not expecting to see a living Jesus. She was looking for a dead body, a naked, dead body that had been tortured, hung from a cross, pierced in the side by a spear and was all bloody.

What she glimpsed was a man who looked like a gardener. And indeed, he was the gardener, having made the garden of Eden, but he looked like a gardener. So, he looked pretty fit, and he was wearing clothes, not like someone who had been crucified and had laid in a tomb for three days. But I think John wants his readers to understand something a bit more theological.

Mary recognized Jesus when he spoke to her. It is truly in the spoken words of Jesus that one has the means to recognize his presence. Christians today do not see the risen Lord as Mary did, but we recognize his presence with us just as she did. We have his spoken word in the scriptures and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ in our lives.

And we have his presence in the elements of communion. We recognize him in the breaking of bread. We must understand from reading this and thinking about it, that Jesus is always with us, even when we don’t see him.

There’s the old saying that you don’t see what you’re not looking for. We need to look for Jesus and we need to see him in our lives. And we must realize that he is always with us. Look for him and expect to see him because he’s there.

Anthony: Yeah. What is Jesus ultimately communicating to Mary when he tells her not to hold on to him (I’m sure she wanted to), but not to hold onto him because he had not yet ascended to the Father?

Dan: When Mary first saw the risen Jesus, she called out to him, “Dear Rabbi,” or special teacher. She did not yet see or understand him as Lord or God. And perhaps it appeared to her that she thought she could now continue following and being with Jesus just the way she had all during his ministry. So, everything’s back to the way it was. Everything’s the same. This is good.

But Jesus lets Mary know, things have changed. The next step in God’s plan of salvation is Jesus going to the Father in heaven. Wow! And when he returns to his disciples, he’s going to establish them in a new relationship with him and with the Father, by giving them the Holy Spirit to be with them and in them. It’s a new way to carry on his ministry. And obviously, it’s very Trinitarian.

We can note that after Jesus explains what he’s about to do, Mary then goes back to the disciples and tells them she has seen the Lord. At that point, she has a new understanding of who Jesus is.

Anthony: I wonder in the fullness of the kingdom if Peter’s going to try to set things right by having a sprint race with John. What do you think?

John seems to make the point that he arrived first and he’s the swifter of the two, but I say we should have a match race in heaven.

Dan: John mentions it twice. Now he doesn’t even use his name. He says that disciple or whoever. So, he tries to remain humbly anonymous, but it is interesting that two times he wants every one of his readers to know.

And you can imagine let’s say, John as an older man, at the time he’s writing this Gospel, wants his readers to remember that you know that was pretty fast!

Anthony: The glory days.

Dan: Yeah, back in the glory days. And I could beat Peter, I’m telling you. So yeah, a little bit of interesting humor there from the apostles.


Small Group Discussion Questions

From Speaking of Life

  • Jesus’ resurrection means we will also be resurrected. Does this change how you live your life now, in the present? If so, how?
  • Death, “the last enemy to be destroyed,” can actually help us live more meaningful lives now. Does the fact that you will die someday change how you live each day? If so, what do you do differently?

From the Sermon

  • The sermon notes four common questions Mary and the disciples faced (Where is Jesus? What do we do now? Why are you weeping? Will life go back to the way it was?). Have you ever wrestled with any of these questions? If so, please share your experience and how you lived the question.
  • We experience a variety of smaller “deaths” as part of our human experience, and if we look carefully at each experience, we can see how God’s grace has carried us through to the other side or “resurrection.” Have you experienced God’s grace during loss or disappointment? If so, how did God carry you through?

 

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