Easter Sunday 2016 – Celebrating the Resurrection
Key Text: Rom 8:11
It cannot be understated how central Easter is to Christian tradition. It is, theologically; the definitive holiday. And by holiday, I mean holy day and not break.
It is more central than Christmas and in fact is the reason for the power and hope of the believer. So this morning I want to do something a little different and simply retell the story and in doing so we can recapture the true meaning of this wonderful holiday!
When we look at the Easter story we see that it is…
The story of the resurrection:
As was so illustrated for us this morning by Greg; early on the first day of the week, Jesus rose from the dead. Many of us know the story well; we know how the women came to the grave followed by the disciples.
We know how Jesus showed himself to many people over different times confirming that He had indeed come back from the grave. He showed Himself to people and proved that indeed he had come back to life after being dead.
Many of us have heard this so many times that it has simply become a story; words on a page.
But it is more you see the resurrection is a historical reality.
The History of the resurrection
You see church Easter is not a tradition that is created to make people feel better about themselves, it is not a nice story with a moral core to help us cope with an ever changing world.
Easter is a historical reality grounded in truth. In fact the Christian faith itself is a historical faith rooted in the idea that what happened was history.
If we start to play with this, we play with the very hope that we hold onto as Christians; for you see we believe that God sent His son to earth in our history to die for our real sins so that they could be actually forgiven. This is not an idea or a nice story rather this is a historical reality. If it is not, then we are still in our sins, we have no hope and in fact all that we believe in is a lie; and we have wasted our entire life. Christianity has to be real for there to be any real impact in the believer.
Now there is simply not enough time to cover the arguments and in fact it is not my intention to give a defense for the resurrection. Rather I wish to state that we come together this morning not out of tradition; not because it is the thing to to; but rather because it is our history that we are remembering and reminding each other of today; A History of a God who loved us so much that He sent His Son to die on a cross so that we can have friendship with Him. And hopefully in all this we can redeem our personal traditions of Easter.
So if we are doing this to remind ourselves of a historical reality of the God who loves us why bunnies and chocolates?
Then Why Easter? Eastre? (or Eostre)?
Now in no way am I knocking the idea of chocolate (as I am a fan of the stuff); just looking at the tradition of it all; so that we can redeem exactly the what and why we are here this morning.
Easter was originally a celebration of Eostre, goddess of Spring, otherwise known as Ostara, Austra, Ishtar and Eastre. At the heart of this ancient celebration was the spirit of renewal and new life. We can find roots of this celebration in ancient Babylonian traditions; however, where most of our celebrations (in terms of the bunny and eggs) come from Germanic origins (even though they have commonalities through out pagan cultures).
The goddess herself resembles a hare (or rabbit)(or is has a companion of a rabbit) the egg likewise was also a symbol of resurrection and renewal.
This is why Easter after Easter we convince kids that there is a bunny visiting them bringing them chocolate treats.
It is connected to this idea of renewal and new life; and yes this is a pagan association.
So we must ask the question…
Why the integration?
According to Jacob Grimm’s Deutsche Mythologie, the idea of resurrection was in these ancient pagan mythologies; it was therefor easily connected to the resurrection of Christ. And therefore as Christianity spread so the adoption of the resurrection of Christ became a point of conversion for these pagan religions.
Now I have had heard the argument far too many times that we must abandoned these pagan ideals and simply embrace the “biblical truth”. Now the people who say this hearts are in the right place, but I think they have missed the reality of what has happened here.
You see it is not that paganism has surpassed the Christian message; rather missionaries who came into the Saxon-Germanic world saw a great parallel with the pagan stories and the the message of truth about the resurrection of Jesus and therefore used these pagan stories as a point of contact; a talking point for the greater truth.
As Paul did in Acts 17:22-31 when he confronted the Athenians about all their god’s and commended them for their being very religious; he stated that they even have a statue about the “unknown God” and then used that as an opportunity to actually declare who the true God of heaven and earth actually is.
Now we live in a world where the consumerism has over taken the message; however, I don’t think that was the intention of those original missionaries; rather they saw the parallel in messages and showed people the greater truth buried in the mythology of a pagan culture.
I believe that Christ redeems culture and makes it about Him when we point our culture to Christ! Now let me justify what I am not saying; I am not supporting syncretism where the message of truth is diluted by the culture it is trying to reach. Such as your ZCC and other Christian syncretistic religions.
And Easter again is an example of this in some cases where the truth has been diluted to a point that there is no truth only that which it was trying to redeem, but I believe church that we can redeem Easter from the consumerism it has fallen into rather than boycott it.
Which brings me to my point for the message this morning;
Redeeming the tradition
Let us this Easter redeem the tradition of Easter to be what it is actually about; resurrection life. This is a talking point in our celebration as well as a talking point in the rest of our life, for you see church;
Easter is about resurrection
The early missionaries saw this and I believe that we can get back to this again in our world. It has always been and it always will be; the idea of resurrection is etched into our world because God wanted people to know Him and His son so that they might be saved; let us remember 1 Timothy 2:4 – it is the will of God that all men might be saved.
You see people see this in the world however refuse to acknowledge this; Romans 1:18-23 speaks of this reality where it says;
18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
19Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.
20For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
21Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
22Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
23And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
The world perceives God; but refuses to acknowledge God; church Easter and even the consumerism of it is subtly crying out the truth; but they refuse to listen. And we church; as bearers of the truth have a burden to declare again that Easter is about Jesus; and His resurrection and this is powerful relevant to us and to those that we are trying to convince.
b. Making resurrection real today
Our message of resurrection and new life comes from our lives; from what Christ has done in us. Turn with me if you will to Romans 8:11
Rom 8:11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
Church today we remember the history of The God who died for our sins and then did not stay in the grave but rose again to life! This same newness of life is now our newness of life through faith and surrender to Him.
Paul calls us to live a new life in light of the resurrection of Christ. This is a life that is alive to the things of God and Christ.
This is the power of today and the hope that we offer the world. We are no longer bound to live in hopelessness to our passion and selfish desire to our consumerism; rather because Christ rose we have power to live a life that is truly pleasing to God. A life where serving God become a joy; where we long to be doing what He does, rather than always worrying if He is out to get us and punish us.
I must admit before Christ broke into my life and resurrected this dead man, I couldn’t care less what God was doing. I didn’t like going to church and I thought that God was out to ruin my life.
But in 2001 God started to stir in my heart and He confronted me with His love and in that confrontation I experienced a powerful personal resurrection; a renewal of life.
All of a sudden the things that used to drive me seemed like a waste of time and now the things of God were wonderful.
God had – to use a Pauline phase – given life to my mortal body through the Spirit who now dwelled in me.
Church it is this same life in us that redeems this day and the tradition of Easter new life is available to us; we celebrate new life today; not simply a renewal of life rather we celebrate the new life that is available to us all if we believe in Jesus Christ.
This is deeper than a tradition; it is more profound that a story; it is the foundation of of our world; because He who created the world became a man, live a perfect life; died our death and then rose to life to show us all that there is new life.
You see church Easter is the celebration of resurrection; Christ’s resurrection and Christ’s resurrection is a history reality but more than that church Christ’s resurrection is my current reality; so church let us redeem Easter to be a celebration about The Resurrection.
When our children ask us about chocolate bunnies and eggs let us tell them that that means new life; and we celebrate that because Christ gives us new life by His death and resurrection.
And then church let us be reminded that the same Spirit who raised Christ from the dead lives in us giving life (new life) to our mortal bodies.