9 Apr 2020 by William Tibben in: Sermons

Welcome, call to worship
Christ is Risen                     He is Risen indeed
  The King of glory is among us. He has burst forth from the tomb that would try to hold him.
  Who is the King of Glory? The Lord of the stable and the cross, He is the King of glory!
  Who is the King of Glory? Jesus, the Word made flesh, He is the King of glory! And we saw his glory. Such glory as befits the Father's true Son, Full of grace and truth.
THOUGHT - This morning is so full of images - the empty tomb - the voice of angels - Mary's encounter with Jesus - the promises made through the prophets coming true it is so rich - so full - so basic to whom we are as an Easter People. 
  Friday - sad Friday - the day we call Good Friday - is brushed aside in one glorious moment of realization, one moment of startling fear and overwhelming joy - a moment of holy awe - as the significance of what is seen - and what is unseen comes crashing in.  Jesus is Risen.  Death could not hold him. And if it cannot hold him, it cannot hold us.
  All that Jesus said about life and death all that was understood only as an idea - as a concept - as a vision is made real in that empty tomb and in that encounter in the garden. And we today share in it.
  We share in the promises made to the Children of Israel and to the entire world through the Prophets. We share in the promises made to the disciples and to all who listened to Jesus as he walked towards his death upon a slab of wood.
 We share in it - for the word that he spoke to them - and to us -- is made true and real by what we testify to this morn, it is made true by the resurrection.
  And more yet - it is made true by the testimony of our hearts, hearts here among us - this very day - who have been touched by the spirit of the living Lord, hearts here which have heard Jesus knocking upon the door and have opened that door and had him come in and dine with them. Hearts that encountered the risen Christ what is now two thousand years after the stone was first rolled back and the tomb shown to be empty and our Lord risen.
  What is this Easter morn? It is God's promise of a new day; It is God's promise of a new life; It is God's promise of a new world coming to pass in our midst. Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again.

  Praise be to God for his great love, And to Jesus his only Son. And to the Spirit All three in one. Amen.

PRAYER - Lord God - we gather in the name of the Risen Christ to pour forth our praises in glad Easter Celebration.  We rejoice that you have not left us without hope - but have come back to us in the victory of the resurrection and given us the assurance of eternal life with Christ Jesus, the one whom you lifted from the tomb and have made Lord of all.  Praise be to your name for your everlasting mercy - both now and forevermore.  Amen.


READING MATTHEW 28:1-10 (NIV) - After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it.  His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

  The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.  He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.  Then go quickly and tell his disciples: 'He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.' Now I have told you."
  So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples.  Suddenly Jesus met them. "Greetings," he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshipped him.  Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me."


SERMON: "Looking Into The Tomb"  Where the gospel according to Matthew ends, the Christian faith begins - in the resurrection of our Lord.
  The resurrection exhausts our capacity to imagine and it pushes our reasoning ability to the breaking point.  However we don't have to explain the resurrection.  Rather it explains us, it establishes who we are and why we are here.  Because Easter happened, because the resurrection happened, the church happened.  The story of Easter is so familiar that we sometimes fail to hear some of the details of the account.  Today I want us to look at three of those details as they are found in Matthew's account of the first Easter morning.
  First, the stone was rolled away - not to let Jesus out - but to let us in.
  I say this because the idea that God rolled the stone away from the door to let Jesus escape is inconsistent with the resurrection appearances of Jesus recorded elsewhere in the scriptures. Appearances in which he suddenly appeared in the midst of the disciples, even when they were behind closed doors.  Closed doors never kept Jesus in or out.
 Matthew makes this clear in today's reading.  In his account of the resurrection it was after Mary Magdalene and the other Mary had come to the tomb that "there was a great earthquake, and an angel of the Lord rolled away the stone and sat upon it."
  For centuries the curious have always wanted to look into the dark depths of death, but the tomb has been sealed with secrecy.  The tomb has always mocked us.  It has always stood as the "dead end" of all our efforts to peer beyond this life into the life to come.
  The angel tells the two women on the first Easter morning to look inside the tomb, saying to them: "do not be afraid, I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified.  He is not here; for he has been raised. “Come; see the place where he lay."
  Easter rolls the stone door of the tomb away for us so that we might penetrate the mystery of death.  It makes of the tomb a tunnel - a tunnel into the heart of the eternal and shows us that the holy heart of God is love and life.  God rolls the door of the tomb away not to let Jesus out - but to let us in - to allow us to see that Christ's promises are true.
  Second - the tomb is not completely empty - Christ's body is not there, but the place is filled with the words of the angel, the words we just heard, the words that say, "Look, he is not here, he is risen."  The words that continue on saying: "Come: see the place where he lay.  Then go quickly and tell his disciples - he has been raised from the dead and is going ahead of you to Galilee, and there you will see him."
   If the women on that first Easter morning had looked into an empty and silent tomb, then our resurrection faith would be a belief based on human speculation, an assumption of the moment, an argument based on negative evidence. 
  But no!  Our faith is based on a word spoken to us by God. 

  It is based on God's holy promise, spoken by Christ before he died, and upon God's holy assurance - spoken by the angel on the first Easter Sunday.
  That same word that echoed and re-echoed in that Easter tomb still fills the emptiness of world today.  "He is risen".  The tomb has become a trumpet proclaiming the victory of life over death, and the continuation of Christ's presence and mission in this world - first in Galilee, and ultimately to the ends of the earth.
  The third detail is this - because of Easter we can turn our backs on the grave.
  Matthew tells us that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, having heard the angelic assurance, "He is risen", turned their backs on the grave and ran "with great joy" to tell the disciples.
  Joy is the key word here.  Christ was buried, but he wouldn't stay dead.  The tomb could not hold him - and because of him - the tomb cannot hold us either.
  This indeed is what Jesus promised to us before he died, a promise that seemed at the time totally incredible, a matter, at best, of metaphor, and hyperbole, but which - because of the first Easter morning, we now know to be a matter of fact and substance.
  The stone of was rolled away from the tomb, not to let Jesus out, but to let us in, to show us that death is not the end - but rather a new beginning.

  A beginning that proclaims the victory of life over death, and which allows us to turn our backs on the grave and face our future with faith and hope, confident that all of God's promises will indeed bear fruit


PRAYER: We thank you O God, that the night is over - that through the resurrection of Jesus a new day has dawned - a day in which your light dispels even the darkness of death.
  Grant courage, we pray, this day to those who struggle with pain and suffering.  Give strength to those seek justice and resist evil - even to the point of death.  Grant them the vision of your eternal kingdom, and show to them in their bodies and in their souls the victory that Christ has won for them and for all his faithful servants.
  God we thank you that we are not alone - that you are present and work in us - as you worked in Christ Jesus - to reconcile and make new all who live in your world.  Help us to always share the peace that we know through him with those who are in conflict -- to pour out your love upon those who are lonely and afraid -- and to share the bounty you have granted us with those who are in need.

  Gracious Father - we pray to you this day that you would make our praise a matter of both word and of action and that our faith, being established by the truth of Christ's resurrection, might result in new life within us, and in glory and honour always being ascribed to thee -  we ask it in Jesus' name.  Amen



DEPARTING PRAYER: Let us pray, We thank you, O God, for the life and the hope you have given us through the life, the death and the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ..  Watch over us, make us the people you want us to be - now and always.  Amen.



   May the blessing of the Ever-Present God be upon you, - the power of the Risen Christ be within you,  - and the wisdom and gentleness of the Holy Spirit surround and uplift you both now and forevermore... Amen