Sunday, April 5, 2015
Homily for The Feast of the Resurrection of Our Lord (Easter Sunday)
Mark 16:1-8; 1 Corinthians 5:6-8; Job 19:23-27
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
“Why do you seek the living amongst the dead?” the women were asked. And, so are you asked. What are the daily pursuits and goals that you strive and toil to achieve, and worry and fret over with anxious hearts that you will not achieve, or that you will lose? Do you not seek the living amongst the dead, too? That is to say, do you not seek life, and comfort, and security in fleshly and worldly things – in a career, a marriage, a home, a family; in your children’s careers, marriages, homes, and families; in your health, in your health insurance, and in a well endowed and diversified IRA? Do you not think, at times, that these constitute life and make life worth living? Do you not seek the praise, admiration, and envy of men, and appraise your worth and value by the estimation and admiration of others? These things do not give life. They cannot extend or preserve life. In fact, they are lifeless, dead, or dying. Careers are ruined by old age, or by skills becoming obsolete. Marriages are temporary and transient, dying for loss of love and life. Homes need continual repair and lose their initial appeal and value. Families drift apart and hurt each other and separate. Money can’t buy happiness, and it cannot extend life. All things decay, die, and are dying. Truly, you can’t take it with you. The decline of your own body and life is living, and dying, proof of that. Why do you seek life and living amongst such dead things as these?
The women weren’t looking for life either. They weren’t looking for the resurrection. The thought never crossed their minds. They came to the tomb looking for the dead. That’s what you expect to find in tombs, after all, isn’t it? The living, they’re at work, at table, or at play. No, they came seeking the dead. They came seeking the dead body of Jesus, to do for it what they failed to finish doing Friday night, to prepare His body for burial. If there was a glimmer of hope when He was alive, after the events of Friday, it was extinguished. For them, Sunday was just another day, the beginning of a new week of hunger and thirst, struggle and toil to put food on the table, clothing on the back, and a roof over the head; a new week of hopes diminished, dreams shattered, and laughter and smiles mixed with grief and sorrow, suffering and pain; a new week of aging and illness and death – that’s what the women woke up expecting on the day of our Lord’s resurrection. They weren’t looking for life. They weren’t looking for the resurrection. And, too often, neither are you.
“Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.” Truly, each Feast of the Resurrection of Our Lord, each Easter Sunday, is an opportunity for you to cleanse out the old leaven of malice and evil; of cynicism, resentment, and unbelief; of indifference and self-righteousness and self-security; of pride and contempt, and more. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Those things are of your sinful past. They are dead and buried. They died with Christ and were buried with Him. They can no longer bind you. They do not define you. Why do you seek the living amongst the dead?
Job had it all. He had great wealth, a large family, a devoted wife and children. He was respected in his community and had many friends. Moreover, he was righteous in the sight of the LORD. Job was righteous, not because he was perfect, sinless, and holy, but because, like Abraham, he believed and trusted in the LORD, and the LORD credited his faith to him as righteousness. Still, the LORD permitted Satan to afflict Job and to take everything from him – his wealth, his family, his respect in the community, his friends, and, finally, even his personal health and well-being. And, let’s face it, sometimes the LORD permits Satan to afflict you and those you love, and to take from you wealth and family, respect and friends, health and well-being. Therefore, receive Job as an example. For, in the midst of all his suffering and affliction, Job refused to curse God and die. Job refused to seek the living amongst the dead. Rather, in faith, Job confessed, “The LORD gives, and the LORD takes away; blessed be the Name of the LORD.” Job did not look for nor find life and the living amongst the dead, but he looked for the resurrection, confessing, the bodily resurrection of his Lord and Redeemer Jesus Christ, and his own bodily resurrection in and through Him, over 1,500 years before Jesus’ birth saying, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.”
Yes, truly, Job shows you what it means to look for life and the living amongst the living. Job looked for life, then, and now, in the Word and promise of the LORD, not in his wealth and family, his reputation and friends, or in his personal health and well-being. He knew that these were but transient, ephemeral, and temporary things – here today, and gone tomorrow. Those things were passing away, even as his own life was passing away. But, Job looked for life, then, and now, that does not pass away, in the LORD of heaven and earth, who created all things and provides all things necessary for your body and your life, just as He has promised, and who will preserve and keep you through life, and through death, unto the resurrection to life that never ends.
“This is the day that the LORD has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” For, we are not merely remembering that Jesus was raised from the dead on this day, but we are remembering, and we are celebrating, and we are renewing, and we are reconfirming that Jesus is the resurrection and the life, then, now, and always. Jesus was the resurrection and the life promised by God the Father to our First Parents in the Garden just after they rebelled and sinned, plunging themselves, us, and all of creation into sin and death. And, Jesus was the resurrection and the life confessed by Job even in the midst of his suffering and affliction. And, Jesus was the resurrection and the life for the Apostles, and Stephen, and Ignatius, and Polycarp, and all the Christian Martyrs who would die, and are still dying today, for their confession of Christ. And, Jesus is the resurrection and the life for you, today, and tomorrow, and for as many tomorrows as the LORD may grant you.
So, why do you seek the living amongst the dead? Why do you look for life in things that are dead, or dying, and that are passing away? Seek the living, yes! But, seek the living with intention and expectation. That is, do not be like the women who came to the tomb early that first Easter morning. They were not seeking the living, but they were seeking the dead. But, Jesus is not dead. He is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! And, that has changed everything! In His resurrection, Jesus has cleansed you of the old leaven of malice and evil, selfishness, and self-righteousness. You are a new lump. Jesus has removed the leaven of sin from you and from all who trust in Him.
You are a people called to seek the living with the intent searching and firm expectation of the woman who lost her coins, or the parents who found their boy in the temple. You are called to look for resurrection. Acknowledging the death in all created things, you are to seek, and even to expect, the restoration of relationships, the rebuilding of ruins, provision in sickness, blessing from burdens, and life after the grave. For, after the resurrection, there is life in the world to come, and a promise that seeds, dying now in the ground of the earth, will spring up to new life in the fields of Eternity.
“You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; He is not here. See the place where they laid Him.” Now go, not in fear and trembling, saying nothing to no one, but go and live and tell. Go and seek the living, go and seek the resurrection, not in the things that are dead or dying, but amongst the Living One, Jesus. He lives. He is not dead. He is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! And, you live in Him. Your life is hidden with Him. Therefore, the life you live, you live to Christ. Your life is a new life, a life that will never die.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.