Summary: This sermon, though timely to the Schiavo case, deals with the issue of what really gives us the right to life!
With the recent developments in the Teri Schiavo case in Florida, one thing that has certainly happened was the issue of the debate about both “the right to die” and “the right to life” has entered a new arena. It has also begun both public and private debate from ethical, moral, constitutional, legal, political and religious perspectives. I’m not planning on entering that debate this morning, but I’m glad that the issue of “the right to life” has come to the forefront of discussions and its timing of Holy Week could not be more perfect. This morning, I want to talk about the symbol of the “empty tomb”, which gives each us “the right to life.”
The symbol of the empty tomb is perhaps one of the most powerful Christian symbols that we have. The cross perhaps is our most common symbol, which represents so well the very symbol of a Savior who gave up his life for us. But the powerful symbol of an empty grave represents to the world the victory over the grave, and that the battle for our right to life, has not only been fought, but WON! It is the symbol of “Victory”. No doubt it is what Paul wrote about in 1 Cor 15:54-57 “So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory. “O death where is your sting? O Hades where is your victory.” The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” That is the “right to life”.
To understand the word “victory” we look back at the word “nikos” (nee’-kos) (#3534), it is the same word from which the brand name Nike is derived and speaks of triumph or a conquest that has been won. No wonder Michael Jordan did so well wearing Nike’s. Christ then has given us this “nikos”, this victory, “the right to life”; He has given us a victory over death. Last week a friend, and a man who has served as a pastor, told me of a story where in his first church they reached out to some families in the community and soon some children from one family began attending church. Someone in the church, soon pulled him aside and informed him that “those children” were not welcome at the church. The family, you see, was considered to be “white trash”. Of course, this pastor friend knew that “the right to life” was won for all regardless of race, color, or income status. The Scripture tells us “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. (Mat 5:3)
The Pastor went on to tell that he continued to minister to this family, eventually performed the wedding ceremony for one of the daughters, and just recently officiated at the wedding of her son, some twenty years later, his parents still married, and they raised him in the church. You see “the right to life” in the kingdom of heaven isn’t something that we can indiscriminately dispense, the victory that Christ offered in the empty tomb is available to all who will choose it.
Now there is a key, “the right to life”; the “right to eternal life”; the right to claim the power of the empty tomb was won for each of us by Jesus, but applied to our individual lives in the minute that we choose to believe and claim Jesus as Lord. It’s the power of God, the power of the blood, that has such divine mystery that even almost 2,000 years later can still grant us forgiveness in the minute we “believe in our heart and confess with our lips that Jesus Christ is Lord, and that God has raised him from the dead”. (Rom 10). Even we are told in this passage that as Mary proclaimed the news of the empty tomb to the disciples they simply thought “her words seemed like idle tales, and they did not believe them”. The truth be known, story of the empty tomb, has no power over your life, and remains an idle tale, unless you believe.
Last Sunday we ended the worship service with a little more somberness, moving from the celebration of the triumphal entry, to the reflection of the passion of Good Friday, even stripping the alter, and leaving in silence that represents the desolation of the Good Friday cross. Little Jake picked up on it and asked his mother “Mommy, why was church so sad today?” Continuing on he noted that they even took the cross, and they took the Bible. “That isn’t right” Jake noted. And it isn’t right Jake. It moved us to the somberness of Good Friday, but we must then move on to the celebration of the empty tomb. The same power of the empty tomb; the same power that raised Jesus from the grave is available to us today!