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Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia.
We are not here to celebrate death. We are here to celebrate life.
There are a lot of people out there who accuse Christianity of being an antiquated death-cult to a vengeful God. They only see the crucifixion and forget about the resurrection. They find it all too easy to believe that a man was murdered a long time ago. They find it really difficult to believe that a man who was also the Son of God was raised from the dead.
It’s hard to blame them. The gospel, the good news of the risen Christ, has always been a mystery. A mystery that reveals itself to us in a million ways over our entire lifetimes. A mystery that we are here to celebrate this evening.
We are here to celebrate life, and life that death cannot touch. And not just human life. We are here to celebrate the redeemed and eternal life of all of creation.
Our readings today are a collection of promises of life. Some of those readings are a bit scary and painful. New life sometimes requires the scary and the painful. Sometimes requires us to sacrifice the old so that the new can be born.
At the Red Sea a day after the first Passover in all of history, the entire population of Israel balked at entering the waters that would lead them to new life in the promised land. “Were there not enough graves in Egypt that we had to come out here to die?” But death and slavery are not what God wants for us.
Israel did cross that sea and they did – eventually – enter the promised land. They spread throughout the promised land, split it up, lost it, gained it, lost it again, gained it again, and all the while throughout the scriptures they struggled with love and hope, with sin and sacrifice, with following and fighting. Just like us.
Israel struggled with love, hope, sin, and sacrifice when Jesus was born, when Jesus was baptized, and during that Passover when Jesus was crucified. A lot of lambs lost their lives every Passover. Passover is not a celebration of the death of lambs. The sacrificed lamb saved the lives of the people of Israel that first Passover, and gave the people strength to escape slavery and death, setting them on the path to the promised land.
Likewise, a lot of men were crucified during the rule of the Roman Empire, not just Jesus. Easter is not a celebration of the death of Jesus. Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus. Easter celebrates the death of death. Jesus, our sacrificial and resurrected lamb, gives us strength to escape every kind of slavery and escape death, setting us on the path to eternal life. An eternal promised land for us and for all of creation.
This eternal life begins today. Right now. Right this very second. In the instant we repent and accept the love of God in the sacrifice of Jesus, we are given eternal life.
But we must repent. Just as there could be no resurrection without the death of Jesus, there can be no eternal life without our repentance.
Like Paul’s reading today, we can turn away from sin. We can let our sinful lives die. What use are they to us? Clinging to our sinful lives can only lead to eternal death. So let’s let our sins die so that our eternal lives may begin.
And we can forgive others of their sins. That doesn’t mean that we stop being hurt from other people’s actions, but we can let go of the resentment and anger. We can let go of our attachment to their sins. Don’t we have enough sin of our own to let go of?
Holding onto these will cause us a slow death, trapped by our old lives. God does not want death or slavery for us. He wants new and eternal lives for us.
On the other side of our sin, on the other side of our forgiveness of others, is eternal life and complete freedom.
When we are completely free, when are are living the eternal life that we can enjoy right now, we can never be fooled by the father of lies again. Never be enslaved by sin again. Never die again.
Today and every time we gather around this table, we do not celebrate death. We celebrate life. Jesus is risen, he is ascended, he has transformed through himself what was a horrible death and turned it into eternal life, and he continues to do so.
Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed. Death is conquered. Previously unimaginable joy and life and love awaits us through Christ.
This is the gospel. This is the good news. This is what all of scripture before Christ was pointing at. This is the gospel everyone is talking about from the Acts of the Apostles to this sermon today. This is the light that shines through us who believe. This is the light that we share with each other and with those who walk in darkness.
This is the light that shines in the darkness of death and apathy and consumer culture. This is the light that shines in the darkness of our own sin and the violence of others’ sin against us.
This is the light of the gospel. This is the good news. Eternal life. Now. Eternal life. Always.
Repeat the good news with me. Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia. Amen.
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