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Love Wins, Death is Defeated: A Sermon for Easter Year C
March 27, 2016, 10:30 am
Filed under: Sermons | Tags: , ,

Alleluia. Christ is Risen.

 

This is the glorious good news of Easter morning: love wins, death is defeated, alleluia.

 

Jesus’ ministry was all about embodying the love of God for all people. If it seemed like the powers of evil, the strength of hate, was greater than love when Jesus was killed, then today is a powerful witness that goodness is stronger than evil, love is stronger than hate.

 

In Jesus Christ, love wins. God proves the power of God’s love in coming to us as a compassionate human. Jesus proves the power of his love in his willingness to die for all who would reject him, not just for the faithful few. God proves the power of God’s love in raising Jesus from the dead. Death is defeated. Not even the end of life can separate us from life with God. Nothing can stop God from loving us into life. God will not let our relationship be severed. Jesus’ resurrected life means our life will not be destroyed forever, but that we, too, will be raised. This is the victory Jesus has achieved: death is defeated, love wins. Alleluia.

 

This is good news. But it is hard news to grasp, hard to believe and understand. After all, we’re familiar with love that fails, death that claims, power that chooses self-interest.

 

The very people who knew Jesus best, who lived and served with him, listened to his teachings about God and about his path into death- and life- were those who couldn’t believe the good news of his resurrection.

 

The disciples saw him die. Over and over in their heads they must have recounted those three days, sitting at the table with him as he declared, this is my body, given for you, as he knelt and washed their feet, showing them that following him in love begins with humility. They must have played out what they wished they would have done, rather than what they did do: sleep during prayer and run for their lives, abandoning Jesus to be arrested. Maybe they saw themselves standing against the crowd to beg for Jesus’ release, or fighting off the guards at the crucifixion. But none of those dreams can change their reality. As Jesus chose to continually give himself up, to let power and violence destroy him rather that use his own power to save himself, the disciples were afraid for their own safety. On Sunday morning, they are still afraid, ashamed, and lost.

 

The men may be frozen in their fear and grief, but the women have a job to do. They go out with their purpose in mind, to prepare Jesus’ body for his final rest. But they are met with a strange sight and strange news: there is no body! Then there are two messenger who question them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” Finally, they are freed to realize the amazing work of God- Jesus has not been destroyed, but has been raised in victory.

 

The women run back to tell the other disciples, but they are not heard. There is no room in the men’s circling thoughts that God might have worked something wonderful out of their failure and rejection. But one has hope. Peter. He goes to check it out, probably laughing at himself for being such a fool to follow up on the women’s ridiculous story. Certainty in the finality of death -and hope that there might be more -struggle step by step, until he arrives at the tomb, and sees only the cast off wrappings of the dead. He goes home, playing over those last few days- maybe all the way back to when he first met Jesus- and the story is transformed by the possibility that in the end, Jesus’ path of welcome, love, nonviolence, and sacrifice for the sake of the other has been validated by his victory over death and evil.

 

In Jesus’ resurrection we see the possibility that death, violence, destruction, and self-interest aren’t the ends towards which all creation is heading. There is more: life and love will win out. Maybe not fully at this moment, but some day. At its most basic, Easter is about hope. Really, the whole Christian message is about hope. It’s about living into that hope, so that our lives are transformed and we are empowered to choose love, mercy, and service for the sake of the other even when all the world might call us fools, choosing weakness.

 

This week, we’ve seen the power of hate, in which people come to believe the only way to be heard is through violence. In our own lives we know the power of sickness, injustice, rejection, and death. Jesus chose to enter into suffering on the cross so that we would not be alone in all these struggles. Jesus’ resurrection means they are not the final end. Jesus will bring us through all these things, drawing us into a future of healing and life that will never be destroyed.

 

Isaiah writes God’s promise to us: “I am about to create a new heaven and a new earth (65:17), 65:20 No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime; for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth, 65:23 They shall not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they shall be offspring blessed by the LORD– and their descendants as well.

 

God is working God’s great promised plan for you. Be of good hope: whatever is going on in your life today, God is with you and is drawing you ever closer into love and life. Death is defeated. Love wins. Alleluia. Christ is risen.

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