Easter Celebration – 2015 LSB #461
Text – 1 Corinthians 15:1
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand…
Photographs, alarm clocks & sticky notes don’t look at all alike. They’re made in vastly different ways. They have very little in common except the purpose for which they’re used. All of us are in need, every now & then, of being reminded about certain things.
We use photographs to remind us of people we love when they’re not able to be with us. We use alarm clocks to remind us it’s time to wake up, get moving, or to be somewhere else. Sticky notes come in handy for reminding us of just about anything under the sun. If you can write it down the sticky note can remind you of it.
Thousands of years ago already the Apostle Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit to be about the business of reminding people of things they tend to forget. What the people of Corinth needed to be reminded of, is the same message that brings us together, here, this morning. At least, that’s how God sees it. What’s your reason for being here today?
For people who consider themselves to be Christian, it’s obviously pretty hard to forget Easter. So it’s not the day itself St. Paul wants to remind us of. Rather, it’s what the event of Easter implies for all of history, for all of mankind, & for everything else in all of creation. You see, Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is THE central fact of all history.
Once sin brought death into the world only God could fix the problem. Mankind has been trying, for all of history, & has not prevented one person from dying. The people of our nation have spent trillions of dollars on health care & every single American who has ever lived has died. In order to fix the problem of death, God had to re-create His universe, re-create His planet earth, re-create His human race. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead was the beginning of that re-creation. That’s why Jesus’ resurrection is THE central fact of all history. For all who believe in Jesus as Savior, it is the turning point from eternal death to eternal life. Makes you wonder why anyone would need to be reminded!
That takes us back to the reason for being here on Easter Sunday. God has His reasons for our presence & we have our own. Unfortunately, the two are often not related. We might be here because family wants us to. Others are here out of a sense of guilt or shame. Some are here just because it’s a big day, sort of like the biggest church party of the year.
“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand…” Because of our sinful nature, even God’s children need to be reminded of why God has brought us here. We have spiritual Alzheimer’s, or spiritual chemo brain. Because of sin not a one of us is capable of great things, without Christ.
Yet, Easter is all about great things; things too vast for you or I to comprehend. So all of us need to be reminded of what the event of Easter implies for all of history. First off, since Easter is the turning point from eternal death to eternal life, our lives are no longer just about the here & the now. Because Jesus rose to live forever so will His followers.
There is absolutely no excuse for any of us to be acting like Ebenezer Scrooge. If you’ve never heard, he was a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! Not a very favorable character reference for anyone, let alone for a child of God.
We already have, as our eternal inheritance, vastly more than we can ever accumulate in this broken world. Matthew, the former tax collector, probably delighted in recording these words of Jesus, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth & rust destroy & where thieves break in & steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys & where thieves do not break in & steal.” (Matthew 6:19-20) After Jesus’ resurrection, Matthew knew well the transition from scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner, to a man who would willing lose all his earthly possessions in order to follow & die for Jesus.
That is what the event of Easter implies for God’s children. As Jesus taught, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:25) God’s message to us, at Easter, is very different from the world’s message. God has His reasons for allowing us here & for bringing us here this morning.
Easter is on the calendar every single year. The problem is it’s only one day each year. So, we need to be reminded that Easter was not just a one-time event that ended after 24 hours. It was the beginning of a whole, & radically, new era. It was the beginning of a new creation, one that would start with God’s re-creation of the human race.
Jesus, His prophets & His disciples, raised numerous people from the dead, but every one of them would die again. Jesus rose & He will nevermore be touched by death. When the Last Day arrives, all true believers will be raised from the dead to follow their Savior into eternal life. But that doesn’t mean we just quit living until that day arrives.
A lot of confirmation students take it that way, however. Once they’ve confirmed their faith in Jesus, they just sort of stop living. It’s like they quit growing & breathing, & become stale & dead in their faith. They feel like they’ve graduated & they don’t really need Jesus anymore. To people in those shoes, St. Paul wrote:
“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand…” Yes, Easter is all about great things; things too vast for you or I to comprehend, but that doesn’t have to mean we give up learning about & growing in our faith. Living in this broken, sinful world offers daily opportunities to grow stronger & wiser through the struggles of temptation & our actual sins. Our spiritual muscles won’t grow, however, unless they’re fed appropriately. Just as an athlete needs more than exercise & sugar to excel; so we need more than temptation, with a quick prayer now & then, to take up our cross & follow Jesus.
We need to be reminded of the new identity that our heavenly Father gave us at Baptism. He adopted us there & made us His children. We are the branch & Jesus is the Vine. As we remain connected to this new Adam, Jesus, who is God’s re-creation of the human race, we then grow in faith & understanding.
We stay connected to this new Adam, Jesus, through receiving His body & blood in the Lord’s Supper. We stay connected to this new Adam, Jesus, through hearing & through learning the Word of God. As we stay connected to Jesus, we will bear much fruit. As we disconnect ourselves from Jesus we will end up bearing no fruit, or even bad fruit.
As he writes to the church at Corinth, St. Paul is not sharing the Gospel message with them for the first time. They’ve heard it before & apparently have begun to forget it. They’ve apparently slacked off in applying it. Maybe their desire to be in the house of God has been waning. Maybe their love for their neighbor has grown cold.
In any event, we need the same rebuke for our failure to live the real life that St. Paul is concerned with, which is our Gospel heritage. You’ve probably heard the events of Easter a countless number of times. Is there a good reason you need to be reminded of this again? If the message of Easter is simply one & done, then why are you here?
If, on the other hand, it is a continuing progression of life in the faith, then we need to be here for our own benefit, as often as possible. St. Paul is a perfect example of the power of the Easter event to change lives. He was, & had been, persecuting the Christian Church for years. Then Christ appeared to him, as Paul was on the road to Damascus. With crushing realization it was revealed to Paul that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead. Therefore, Jesus Christ was the Son of God that He claimed to be, & through persecuting His Church, Paul had been persecuting God’s very Son, the Creator of the world. Yet, His heavenly Father saved Paul from hell.
There was no other explanation than grace, as Paul wrote: “But by the grace of God I am what I am, & His grace toward me was not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:10a ESV) Paul had seen Jesus, so he proves the authority of the Gospel by its effect in changing him from one persecuting Christ to one following Christ.
St. Paul had preached the Gospel to the Church at Corinth, & well they knew if they were adhering to it as they should. We also know well whether or not we are following Christ with vigor, or if we’re just limping along on our past association with a church. For that reason, being reminded of the power of Christ’s resurrection in our lives is a good thing.
Receiving a gentle rebuke, now & then, is always a good thing. God can work through them to nudge us back onto the path to eternal life. It is easy to drift away & slowly lose the faith without even being aware of it. Satan wants us to give up hope; to focus on our weakness instead of upon Christ’s strength.
The devil would have us believe that Jesus might as well be dead. Thus we sing, “I know that my Redeemer lives… He lives, He lives, who once was dead…” If you are a child of God you once were dead as well. The Apostle Paul certainly had been spiritually dead.
Because Easter, right now, is inevitable, Satan goal is to make it a one & done event. He’ll allow us to show up on this day as long as we leave it at that, & forget about Christ the rest of the year. To which St. Paul counters: “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand…” By that last phrase, “…in which you stand…” we realize that Paul is working from the standpoint that the people of Corinth are still children of God. They are still standing in the faith. They simply need a gentle reminder to think again of all the great things the Easter event implies. Believing in Jesus as Savior, is the turning point from eternal death to eternal life.
That applies to our emotions, our intellect, our relationships, our physical health & certainly to our spiritual life. Everything that is broken in this world can be overcome by the resurrection from the dead & our entrance into heaven. The OT reading spoke of it like this:
“It will be said on that day, ‘Behold, this is our God; we have waited for Him, that He might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for Him; let us be glad & rejoice in His salvation.’” (Isaiah 25:9 ESV)
The devil is trying to convince us that we’re the 1st born child of Ebenezer Scrooge & we haven’t fallen far from the tree. His implication is that our lives are hopelessly lost. One reason we recite the Apostle’s Creed is to counteract Satan’s lies & temptations:
“I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, & the life everlasting.” If you’re paying attention to those words, you are being reminded “…of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand…” Amen.
Jesus lives & grants me daily breath; He lives, & I shall conquer death; He lives my mansion to prepare; He lives to bring me safely there. He lives to silence all my fears; He lives to wipe away my tears; He lives to calm my troubled heart; He lives all blessings to impart. He lives, all glory to His name! He lives, my Jesus, still the same; oh, the sweet joy this sentence gives: I know that my Redeemer lives! Amen.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet