Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church, Linglestown, Pennsylvania, USA
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
(1 Peter 1:3)
The message of Easter calls us to lives of joy and victory.
The resurrection of Jesus assures us that even the worst that can happen to God's beloved is not the final word. Despite any pit of darkness in our life, Jesus Christ is able to bring purpose, value and meaning out of the most impossible circumstances. We can live, not in fear, and not in doubt, but in joy and victory.
There is a tragic notion (held by some Christians) that the only message of Easter is that Jesus' resurrection has given us a ticket to a far off heaven at some distant time. Easter does not bring anything to the day to day lives of these folk except the fear that if they do not fulfill joyless legalisms their ticket to heaven will be taken away from them.
When that is the description of life, people live their lives the way the women lived the first hours of Easter morning. The women came to the grave looking for a dead Jesus. Their lives were consumed with grief, fear and defeat. As the events of that day quickly unfolded, however, they did not continue to dwell in deep despair. They learned that the most incredible of all miracles had occurred. Jesus had arisen. Their grief turned to joy; their defeat turned to victory, and the fear turned to courage.
It is heartbreaking when a person who has heard the message of Jesus resurrection remains dominated by the brokenness of the world. It is worse when the messages they hear from Christian create more fear. Granted, if you are a realistic observer of life or one of life's random victims, it can be easy to be depressed. The writer of Ecclesiastes captured the melancholy that can dominate us, when he wrote: "Then I consider all that my hands had done and the toil I had spent in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun."
One can imagine that those words could have been the thoughts of the women as they trekked to the grave. They never imagined that Jesus' body would NOT be there. That was inconceivable.
The words from Ecclesiastes aptly express the futility of a life that is devoid of the joy and victory of Easter. Unless we see and use the eternal dimension which is given to life through the resurrection of Jesus, life can seem to be little more than a striving after the wind. It is a fact! Everything we do will pass away. When life is the striving after the wind it is only one dimensional; life becomes futile, vain and senseless.
Jesus' resurrection adds a dimension for life now. Jesus' victory over death does not rivet our eyes to a future life. It frees us from fear and futility to celebrate life and live it to its God intended fullness. In a very unique way, Easter tells us that people really matter to God. Our life and our identity is of such ultimate significance to God that he wants us to live forever and never be separated from him.
Christianity is not simply a set of values, a moral code, a style of living, or a grand philosophy. It is the conviction that people matter so much to God that he gave his own son in our behalf. God allowed Jesus to be crucified on the cross for our sins and on the third day raised him from the grave as sign and symbol that our lives are of eternal significance. We really do matter to God. When we grasp the depth and the significance of that affirmation there can be an overwhelming sense of joy.
There can also be a sense of victory because our eyes see more than just the moment in which we now dwell. For 2,000 years the theme of Christ as Victor has been celebrated. Some of the most moving accounts of these celebrations come from the middle ages when life was rather bleak. They celebrated with certainty that life was more than what they experienced at the moment; they are an example from which to learn.
There is reason to have courage, joy and hope. It is rooted in Jesus' power over death and the promise of eternal life. Christ the Victor can conquer anything that threatens your life. When we feel threatened, weak, or engulfed, we need to remind ourselves that as we place our lives in the hands of Jesus, he has the power to conquer that which seems unconquerable to us.
Jesus has arisen! Because he lives, by faith we can also live joyous and victorious lives.
God of all life, touch our lives with your victory over death and over all the deadly forces of this world. Give us the joy to live with purpose and celebration as your children and disciples of our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen
-- Pastor Mueller