Sunday, April 8, 2012

Resurrection = Living Hope

We had a packed sanctuary this morning as we gathered to celebrate Easter on a sunny Sunday morning. Before the service we shared a delicious breakfast banquet and all the tables were filled. At a certain point in time the children gathered for an Easter egg hunt and then gradually we made our way upstairs for worship.

Pastor Brad greeted us with enthusiasm. "Happy Easter to you. I am glad you’re here to worship with us. This is the high point of the church year as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ and that we've been born again into a living hope… the hope of life eternal with God."

The quartet opened the service with “I’ll rise again.”
Then Brad declared, "Christ is risen!"
And the congregation replied, "He is risen indeed!"

If you're one who loves the old time hymns, this was a morning to be here as we sang the following classics: Christ the Lord Has Risen Today, I Know That My Redeemer Lives, Low in the Grave He Lay, and Easter Song

Scripture readings from Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 and Acts 10:34-43 preceded special music by the quartet, “He Died on the Cross.”

A time of prayer led us up to today's sermon.

Resurrection = Living Hope

Gospel text: John 20:1-18

I want to talk to you today about the significance of the resurrection. How big is the God that you worship? How big is your God? Because Easter is really the celebration of a huge God.

“I am the resurrection and the life," Jesus declared. The resurrection theologically means that Jesus is who He claimed to be. The resurrection demonstrates that Jesus could do what he said he was going to do. It is the certification and proof of His promises. And it authenticated His claim to be the Messiah.

The resurrection is the centerpiece of the Christian faith, Paul wrote. If the resurrection is not true, all these meetings and church services are foolishness. The resurrection is the hinge point of all history.

Before going deeper into the meaning of the resurrection for us today, Brad explored a different set of questions.

How long can a human body go without food? 30 days on average.
How long can we go without sleep? The record is about 10 days.
How far can a human walk before they keep over? The record for a man is something like 600 miles and for a woman 500 miles.
How long can a person go without water? 3 days. It's a life and death deal. We're highly dependent on water.

Now the Bible was written in a very arid part of the globe. A lot of parched soil with limited water. So when Jesus taught it's no surprise for Him to make references to water. He would talk about people with parched lives and parched souls.

One time He was at a well talking to a woman who was far from God and he said these words to her: "Whoever drinks of the water I give will never be thirsty again." This caught the woman's attention.

In John 7:37 Jesus said, "If anyone is thirsty let him come to Me and drink." If we have this huge God who can quench our thirst, what are you thirsty for?

First, people are thirsting for meaning in life. Where did I come from? Where am I going? Why am I here? Is there a purpose to anything? Where am I going when I die? These are the great questions of life. People are thirsty to know the answers to these meaning of life questions.

When I think about music, Bob Dylan in 1963 wrote a song filled with questions. How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man? How many times must the cannon balls fly before they are forever banned? Here he is talking about the insanity of war. How many years can some people exist before they're allowed to be free? He's talking about racism. How many times can a man turn his head and pretend that he just doesn't see? Denial. And then he goes to the answer... "The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind."

The song hearkens back to Ecclesiastes where the writer, after experiencing all pleasure and unrestrained living and ended up discovering wealth and excess are all but a meaningless vapor, blowing in the wind.

Brad went on to cite T.S. Eliot's “a thousand lost golf balls” as a symbol of luxury's emptiness.

The search for meaning is intense. Some people think there are answers and others no answers.
All my life I had just enough kicks and thrills to know what pleasure can and can’t get, what money can buy and can’t buy, what relationships can give you and what they can’t…. and until I found Christ there was a hole.

These questions have been answered for me. It’s settled… I’m not at the place where I can’t get no satisfaction.

This thirst is a universal condition. Human beings thirst for deep connection. Sometimes my children just want to be held, want connection. Teens go to school and wonder, "Is there a group that I can belong to?" This need goes on and on in life. Every human thirsts for a deep connection.

Brad brought us back to the illustration in Jeremiah 2… God will fill you with His love, He will fill your cistern if you open up the lid. If you close yourself off to that, you will be like a leaky broken cistern that will never be filled.

Relationships will never fill you the way that the love of Jesus will fill you. Meaning from relationships has to be right-sized.

Another need that gnaws at us is that we have a thirst to be clean. Brad shared what it feels like to be bailing hay on a hot day, dust in nose and ears, grimy and sweaty. At the end of the day, you’re not thinking about girls or food or fun… you just want a shower.

The same goes for moral dirt. Human beings not only have an aversion to physical dirt, they also have an aversion to moral dirt. We know our hearts are weighed with guilt; we know we want to be clean. We are moral human beings who want our guilt washed away.

Psalm 51 David, who committed terrible moral sin with Bathsheba, called to God, "Cleanse me... and I will be clean. Wash me and I will be whiter than snow." The only way to become clean is to stand under the shower of the forgiving grace of our gracious God.

Jesus carried away our uncleanness and brought it to the cross.

Who needs a shower? There is not a case that is too bad to be redeemed. I need you, God, to wash away my sin.

One more thirst that we have, and it is again related to resurrection. We thirst for a grander vision. Christian faith is not fire insurance. The life we have this side of eternity is part of the calling. God not only has meaning for us, but wants us to be part of bringing meaning to others. “I’m going to restore this broken world one life by one life by one life.”

Jesus is alive and it changes everything. It quenches our thirst for meaning and for cleansing and for a grander vision beyond themselves. God has a grander vision for our lives. My job is to say God has a purpose for your life, but you have a responsibility to work that out, between you and God.

Maybe today is the first day of the rest of your life.

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