Summary: Easter 2017 Sermon
On Monday, I drove to Austin to visit one of our members who had had open heart surgery. As I got about half-way there, KSBJ played out on my radio, so I began searching for a Christian radio station in Austin. Fortunately, I found one. However, this station was not like KSBJ. KSBJ is a listener supported station with no commercials. The station in Austin had commercials, so along with local businesses, local churches also ran ads. Not surprisingly, many of those ads were about upcoming Easter services. One ad did catch my attention. A church was advertizing its Easter activities complete with a helicopter that would be dropping 20,000 eggs for their egg hunt. I heard that ad several times during my trip, so I know the number and the event is accurate.
I must admit that there was a small part of me that thought about calling up Christa and saying, “How much do you think it would cost to get a helicopter to drop the eggs for our egg hunt, and do you think the congregation would go for it?” But there was a larger part that began seriously thinking about what this congregation was doing. I mean, I’m all for getting people to come to your church and to church activities. I have absolutely no problem with that in the least, but this seems like a different kind of animal. If this church is bringing in a helicopter for its Easter egg hunt, what are they going to do for the sermon? Will they have a live-re-enactment of the resurrection complete with the ground shaking, angels appearing and rising into heaven, with smoke and loud music and the like? Will the message of the resurrection take a back seat to a helicopter with 20,000 eggs? It seems like there is a strong possibility of that happening. It seems way too gimmicky, in my opinion.
So, there will be no helicopter here today. There will be no lights, or re-enactments, or smoke, or manufactured ground shaking. For as awe inspiring as such things might be, I know of no one’s life who was changed by seeing a helicopter drop 20,000 eggs. I know of no one who had a change of heart by packing an Easter basket with eggs. I know of no one who found the peace that passes all understanding by watching the gimmicks of congregations. But I do know of many, many people who have had lives changed, hearts melted, who have found peace by encountering the risen Jesus. And it is my hope and my prayer that each of us here today encounter Him.
Let’s pray. Heavenly Father, today we are presented with momentous news. The one who died on the cross has been raised. The tomb is empty. Death is undone. Open our hearts and our minds so that we might see what you have accomplished through the death and resurrection of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
500 years ago, Martin Luther kicked off a huge event in history that we will be celebrating later this year. Historians call it the Reformation. Those of us whose churches found their beginnings at this time in history remember how one man dared to call the church back to its foundational beliefs. It was the radical notion that God had acted through Jesus Christ to bring about our salvation through no action of our own but solely by the grace of God.
Luther himself talked about God’s action in this way in his commentary on the book of Galatians, “Here I must take counsel of the gospel. I must hearken to the gospel, which teaches me, not what I ought to do, (for that is the proper office of the law), but what Jesus Christ the Son of God has done for me: to wit, that He suffered and died to deliver me from sin and death. The gospel wills me to receive this, and to believe it. And this is the truth of the gospel. It is also the principal article of all Christian doctrine, wherein the knowledge of all godliness consists. Most necessary it is, therefore, that we should know this article well, teach it unto others, and beat it into their heads continually.” Yes, Luther said, we must beat the Gospel into folks’ heads continually. Therefore, this morning, I brought a baseball bat... I bet you some of you are wishing we had a helicopter with 20,000 eggs right about now.
Please stop getting up to head to the exits, I’m putting the bat down. Jesus didn’t condone violence, and I’m not about to start that now. However, I am not going to apologize for using Luther’s quote because the Gospel is indeed so radical that we need to hear it over and over and over and over before it really starts sinking deep down within the very fabric of our heart and soul. We need to have it repeated over and over and over so that it weasels its way deep into our hearts and transforms them. We must hear the Gospel over and over and over again because it goes against the way the entire world works.