Tag Archive | resurrection

The Final Enemy, DEATH, Is No More!

Matthew 28:1-10

If life has a way of killing dreams, Christ’s resurrection has a way of bringing them back to life.

Life has a way of killing dreams, doesn’t it? You set out with high hopes – for your schooling, your career, your family, and your golden years. You have plans, aspirations, and expectations. But things don’t always turn out the way you expected. Plans fall through. People let you down. You let yourself down. Suddenly the life you’re living isn’t the life you dreamed of at all; or you find yourself in a place you never expected to be.

But we can have hope.

Hope.  

What is hope, anyway? Wishful thinking? Naive optimism? “Hope it doesn’t rain,” we say. “Hope the sermon doesn’t go too long.” (That is wishful thinking!) Emily Dickinson tells us:

Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul – and sings the tunes without the words – and never stops at all”.[1]

The dictionary tells us that hope is “a desire with the expectation of fulfillment.” So hope begins with a desire for something good, but then adds the element of expectation, of confidence. Without expectation, it’s just a wish. And wishes tend not to come true. When we hope for something, we’re counting on it.

But hope is more than a word – without it, we die. When a team loses hope, the game is over. When a patient loses hope, death is crouching at the door.

Viktor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist, survived years in the Nazi concentration camps. He noticed that prisoners died just after Christmas. They were hoping they’d be free by then. When they weren’t, they gave up. He learned that as long as prisoners had something to live for, a reason to press on, they could endure just about anything. But once they lost hope, they quickly died. Fyodor Dostoevsky said that “to live without hope is to cease to live.”

Bobby Knight has a different take on it. Bobby Knight is the legendary basketball coach who led the Indiana Hoosiers to three NCAA tournament finals; he was also famous for throwing chairs and chewing out officials, players, fans, and anyone in the vicinity. According to Bobby Knight, “hope” is the worst word in the English language. He says it’s foolish and lazy to tell yourself that “things are going to be all right.” They will only be all right if somebody steps up and does something.

Hope needs a reason. Something, or someone, that can get us to a better place. Without a reason, hope is just wishful thinking.

But for us, ‘hope is a who; hope is not a what, or a when, or a why. Hope is a “who.” Things don’t get better just because we want them to. They get better because somebody does something. Hope is always embodied in a person. Hope is a ‘who.” Somebody wise enough, strong enough, good enough, to get us to a better place.

And Jesus Christ is that someone. His resurrection proves that he is stronger than any setback, any failure, any loss, any disappointment – any fears. If life has a way of killing dreams, Jesus has a way of bringing them back to life.

That’s not to say we always get what we want, or that every bad thing can magically be un-done. Life doesn’t work that way. But it is to say that God can and will do something good with our future. Hope is the confidence that God can and will do something good. Hope is the confidence that God can and will do something good – in this life, and the life to come. Wherever you find yourself in this morning, whatever pain, loss, or disappointment you may be dealing with, God can do something good with it, or in it. That doesn’t minimize the pain or loss or evil of it. It simply means the story isn’t over yet.

In this life, we can find joy, beauty, forgiveness, healing, purpose, restoration, and the reality of God’s presence in our lives every day. In the life to come, we can look forward to reunion with those we have lost, the restoration of all creation, and to eternal life with God and one another in worlds beyond our imagining.

Hope isn’t wishful thinking – it’s confident living. It’s facing the future knowing that God can and will do something good, in this life, and the life to come.

Probably, the most unnerving thing in all our lives is the fear of death – we don’t what is going to happen, It is a fear that we will go into “nothingness’, a big black hole. What we are now and will become will disappear like dust in the wind.

We hope that it will be like Heaven, where we meet with our friends and family who have gone before us. That we will suffer no pain, have no disabilities, have no reason for weeping and mourning.

Fear of death is a morbid, abnormal or persistent fear of one’s own death or the process of dying; a “feeling of dread, apprehension or anxiety when one thinks of the process of dying, or ceasing to “be”.[2]

It’s a fear that somehow we will die before we have reached our hopes and dreams. . . that we will leave things unfinished. It can be irrational and often debilitating, keeping us from achieving our hopes and dreams.

But by Jesus” crucifixion and resurrection He conquered the most fearful thing of all – DEATH.

We have been promised by Jesus:

And after I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to myself, so that you will be where I am. (John 14:3)

Death can no longer hold us in constant fear!

If you should find yourself in a tough place right now, have the courage to stay in that place and invite Christ to meet you there. If you know who’s dealing with pain, disappointment, or loss – share hope with them. Ask them how they’re doing. Listen to them. Be with them. Pray for them. And when the time is right, point them toward the resurrected Jesus. Because life has a way of killing dreams, but Jesus has a way of bringing them,

and us,

back to life!

Phillip Brook wrote his “Easter Carol” reminding us that death is no longer:

Tomb, You shall not hold Him longer,
Death is strong, but life is stronger
Stronger than the dark, the light;
Stronger than the wrong, the right;
Faith and hope triumphant say;
Christ will rise on Easter Day.

While the patient earth lies waiting
Till the morning shall be breaking
Shuddering beneath the burden dread
Of her Master, cold and dead,
Hark! she hears the angels say;
Christ will rise on Easter Day.

And when sunrise smites the mountains
Pouring light from heavenly fountains
Then the earth blooms out to greet
Once again the blessed feet;
And her countless voices say;
Christ has risen on Easter Day.”.[3]

Jesus Christ is the death of Death!

Let us rejoice and be glad!

Amen
 
 
[1] Emily Dickinson, “Hope is the thing with feathers”, The Poems of Emily Dickinson, Edited by R. W. Franklin (Harvard University Press, 1999)
[2] Farley G.: Death anxiety. National Health Service UK. 2010, found in: Peters L, Cant R, Payne S, O’Connor M, McDermott F, Hood K, Morphet J, Shimoinaba K. (2013).
[3] Phillips Brook, “The Easter Carol”, Christmas Songs and Easter Carols (New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1903)

Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH; 16 April 2017

He Is Risen!!

Luke 24:34

Have you ever heard of a man named Harry Houdini? He died in October of 1926, but Harry Houdini’s claim to fame was that he was a magician and an excellent escape artist. Houdini was said to have the flexibility of an eel and the nine lives of a cat. They did all kinds of things to trap him; they would seal him in coffins and he would escape. They riveted him in a boiler and he would escape. They sewed him up in canvas bags and he escaped. They locked him into a high security, maximum prison and somehow, Old Harry still got out. He had once told his wife, when he was talking about death, “If there is any way out. I will find it. If there is any way out, I will find you and I will make contact with you on the anniversary of my death.” After Harry’s death, for 10 years, his wife kept a light burning at the bottom of his portrait. And after 10 years, she turned out the light. Death had laid its hands on Harry Houdini and he could not escape.

Death also laid its hands on the Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth after an excruciatingly painful torture, He died and was laid in a rock-hewn tomb. And today, we celebrate the reality that on the third day, Jesus arose from the sleep of death and was resurrected. Jesus left those grave clothes behind and passed through the walls of that tomb.

Harry Houdini was an ordinary man; although he was an escape artist, he could not escape the inevitability of death. None of us can, even Jesus of Nazareth.

But Jesus was different – not only was He human, but He was also the anointed and enlightened Son of God. He had come into the world to teach us, to show us how to cast off our destructive and hurtful actions and choices and to live a life that will never die. He was not an ordinary man.

And because He was not an ordinary man, he could suffer crucifixion, die and YET rise from the dead. That is one special person, and He did it all for us.

What he taught and then did for us was prove that Death is not the end. There is something wonderful and beautiful after our deaths. We came from God and we shall return to God.

DEATH IS NOT THE END – His empty tomb gave hope to the world; we will not have to die into a bottomless pit, where there is nothingness.

Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? And maybe a little hard to fully comprehend.

If so, you are not alone. Lots of people, good Christians, have a problem with the concept of the resurrection. In our physical world, anyone who has been dead for three days without any embalming would begin to putrify and stink. Yet the Scriptures say nothing about that; they just say thatempty tomb

They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. (Luke 24:20-23)

When the heavenly messengers first announced the news of Jesus’ resurrection (Luke 24:4-5), no one said, “Praise God” or “Hallelujah,” let alone, “I knew it — just like he said!” Not a single one of Jesus’ disciples at first believed the report of his resurrection. They didn’t remember that Jesus had told them:

Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. (John 2:19)

In one Gospel the women flee the tomb in terror and silence, and in another when the women do tell what they’ve seen, the men dismiss their testimony as “a crazy story.” In all four gospel accounts, it appears that the natural response to the resurrection was doubt, fear, and bewilderment.

Why were they afraid, or worse, not believing?

Living beyond death is, quite literally, incredible — that is, not believable. Resurrection isn’t simply a claim that Jesus’ body was resuscitated; it’s the claim that God created a new reality all together. Which, quite frankly, can be frightening.

Resurrection from the dead breaks all the rules we know about life. The reality that death is not the end of life threatens the powers-that-be, the authority figures. Think about it: power and authority usually exist by the fear that they can take away life. If their “victims” live beyond death, the whole power-through-fear manipulation has no effect.

I also think we have glamorized and misunderstood the nature of religious faith. While some religious leaders may expound that perfect faith conquers all doubt, biblical authors believed that faith and doubt are actually woven closely together. Doubt, questions, even downright skepticism, these aren’t the opposite of faith, but an essential part of faith. Faith isn’t knowledge; rather, faith is

faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen. (Hebrews 11:1).

J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings, stated that resurrection seemed like a fantasy, almost too good to be true. For that very reason, it must be true, for our lives needs a better ending than the one we’ve defined as ‘death’.[1]

Poet W.H. Auden once penned, “Nothing can save us that is possible: / We who must die demand a miracle.”[2]

So, no matter what your doubts, skepticism, or hopes are about the miracle of the resurrection, you should ask yourself these question:

Does the word of God’s love overcome hate,

Does Jesus’ life and resurrection conquer death,

Does these two things give you hope?”

Does that fact that Jesus rose from the dead show us that we indeed do have eternal life in the Kingdom of God give you hope?

Do you know and embrace the love of God in the form of Jesus?

John saw and believed. Peter looked in and nothing. Mary recognized Jesus only after he spoke her name. God loves us no matter what our response is. That is the good news of this story. The empty tomb reminds us God is at work in the world doing what only God can do. God goes about God’s business and our lives and the world will never be the same again.

The resurrection is about living beyond death. Live like you believe it.

Today millions of Christians raise their voices to share in the ancient Easter acclamation,

“Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed!” (Luke 24:34)

Let us all join in proclaiming:

“Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed!”

Amen.

 

[1]      Rev Dr David Lose, “Resurrection Doubt”, Huffington Post, June 20, 2011

[2]      W.H. Auden, For the Time Being

Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH; 27 March 2016

The Final Enemy, DEATH, Is No More!

If life has a way of killing dreams, Christ’s resurrection has a way of bringing them back to life.

Life has a way of killing dreams, doesn’t it? You set out with high hopes—for your schooling, your career, your family, and your golden years. You have plans, aspirations, and expectations. But things don’t always turn out the way you expected. Plans fall through. People let you down. You let yourself down. Suddenly the life you’re living isn’t the life you dreamed of at all; or you find yourself in a place you never expected to be.

But we can have hope.

Hope.

What is hope, anyway? Wishful thinking? Naïve optimism? “Hope it don’t rain,” we say. “ “Hope the sermon doesn’t go too long.” (That is wishful thinking!) Emily Dickinson tells us it’s “the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul”.

The dictionary tells us that hope is “a desire with the expectation of fulfillment.” So hope begins with a desire for something good, but then adds the element of expectation, of confidence. Without expectation, it’s just a wish. And wishes tend not to come true. When we hope for something, we’re counting on it.

But hope is more than a word – without it, we die. When a team loses hope, the game is over. When a patient loses hope, death is crouching at the door.

Viktor Frankl survived years in the Nazi concentration camps. He noticed that prisoners died just after Christmas. They were hoping they’d be free by then. When they weren’t, they gave up. He learned that as long as prisoners had something to live for, a reason to press on, they could endure just about anything. But once they lost hope, they quickly died. Dostoevsky said that “to live without hope is to cease to live.”

Bobby Knight has a different take on it. Bobby Knight, of course, is the legendary basketball coach who led the Indiana Hoosiers to three NCAA tournament finals; he was also famous for throwing chairs and chewing out officials, players, fans, and anyone in the vicinity. According to Bobby Knight, “hope” is the worst word in the English language. He says it’s foolish and lazy to tell yourself that “things are going to be all right.” They’ll only be all right if somebody steps up and does something

Hope needs a reason. Something, or someone, that can get us to a better place. Without a reason, hope is just wishful thinking.

But for us, ‘hope’ is a who; hope is not a what, or a when, or a why. Hope is a “who.” Things don’t get better just because we want them to. They get better because somebody does something. Hope is always embodied in a person. Hope is a “who.” Somebody wise enough, strong enough, good enough, to get us to a better place.

And Jesus Christ is that someone. His resurrection proves that he is stronger than any setback, any failure, any loss, any disappointment—any fears. If life has a way of killing dreams, Jesus has a way of bringing them back to life.

That’s not to say we always get what we want, or that every bad thing can magically be un-done. Life doesn’t work that way. But it is to say that God can and will do something good with our future. Hope is the confidence that God can and will do something good. Hope is the confidence that God can and will do something good — in this life, and the life to come. Wherever you find yourself in this morning, whatever pain, loss, or disappointment you may be dealing with, God can do something good with it, or in it. That doesn’t minimize the pain or loss or evil of it. It simply means the story isn’t over yet.

In this life, we can find joy, beauty, forgiveness, healing, purpose, restoration, and the reality of God’s presence in our lives every day. In the life to come, we can look forward to reunion with those we have lost, the restoration of all creation, and to eternal life with God and one another in worlds beyond our imagining.

Hope isn’t wishful thinking—it’s confident living. It’s facing the future knowing that God can and will do something good, in this life, and the life to come.

Probably, the most unnerving thing in all our lives is the fear of death – we don’t what is going to happen, It is a fear that we will go into ‘nothingness’, a big black hole. What we are now and will become will disappear like dust in the wind.

We hope that it will be like Heaven, where we meet with our friends and family who have gone before us. That we will suffer no pain, have no disabilities, have no reason for weeping and mourning.

Fear of death is a morbid, abnormal or persistent fear of one’s own death or the process of dying; a “feeling of dread, apprehension or anxiety when one thinks of the process of dying, or ceasing to ‘be’”.(1)

It’s a fear that somehow we will die before we have reached our hopes and dreams. . . that we will leave things unfinished. It can be irrational and often debilitating, keeping us from achieving our hopes and dreams.

But by Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection He conquered the most fearful thing of all – DEATH.

We have been promised by Jesus:

    “And after I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to myself, so that you will be where I am”. (John 14:3)

Death can no longer hold us in constant fear!

If you should find yourself in a tough place right now, have the courage to stay in that place and invite Christ to meet you there. If you know who’s dealing with pain, disappointment, or loss—share hope with them. Ask them how they’re doing. Listen to them. Be with them. Pray for them. And when the time is right, point them toward the resurrected Jesus. Because life has a way of killing dreams, but Jesus has a way of bringing them,

    and us,

back to life!

Tomb, You shall not hold Him longer,
Death is strong, but life is stronger
Stronger than the dark, the light;
Stronger than the wrong, the right;
Faith and hope triumphant say; Christ will rise on Easter Day.

While the patient earth lies waiting
Till the morning shall be breaking
Shuddering beneath the burden dread
Of her Master, cold and dead,
Hark! she hears the angels say; Christ will rise on Easter Day.

And when sunrise smites the mountains
Pouring light from heavenly fountains
Then the earth blooms out to greet
Once again the blessed feet;
And her countless voices say; Christ has risen on Easter Day. (Phillips Brooks)

Jesus Christ is the death of Death!

Let us rejoice and be glad!

Amen
 
(1) Farley G.: Death anxiety. National Health Service UK. 2010, found in: Peters L, Cant R, Payne S, O’Connor M, McDermott F, Hood K, Morphet J, Shimoinaba K. (2013).
 
Prepared for In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Easter Sunday