Claiming Your New Life

These notes are intended for distribution to members and friends of the Kirk of Kildaire Presbyterian Church family. While effort is made to give credit for work done by others, the notes may use material for which appropriate credit is not given. Also, the notes may differ from the actual sermon as it was delivered. Remember, sermons are meant to be preached and are therefore prepared with the emphasis on verbal presentation; the written accounts occasionally stray from proper grammar and punctuation.

John 5:19-25

Maybe you heard the story (maybe I’ve told it to you before) about what happened following the resurrection of Jesus. The disciples were still scattered in fear around Jerusalem… John finds Peter and runs up to him. Excitedly he says, “Peter, Peter! I’ve got some good news and some bad news.”

Peter tells John to calm down. “Take it easy, John. What is it? What’ the good news?

John says, “The good news is Christ is risen!”

Peter says, “That’s great! But, what’s the bad news?”

John, looking around, says, “He’s really steamed about last Friday!”

For me, that is a funny story because it is so out of character for Jesus. Having read the resurrection stories, I know that this is not what happens after God raises Jesus from the dead. Jesus returns—but not to get even… but to do what he was called to do from the very beginning of his ministry: to give life to us… to raise us from the dead…even while we are still living!

Earlier in John’s Gospel Jesus had told us as much. He had said, “as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whomever he wishes”

So, on this Easter Sunday, may I share the good news with you that Jesus has returned… and that the first thing Jesus wants to do for us, is to raise us from the dead—and give us new life- right now!

For the next 40 days, Luke tells us in the book of Acts Jesus would remain on earth before he ascends to heaven. And according to all the gospels, what Jesus would be doing for the next forty days is raising his disciples from the dead.

For they were dead you know. Or something died in all of them.

We read the story of Mary this morning… and we find her deep in despair… dealing with her grief… when she saw Jesus- her friend and Lord- crucified, something died within her. Anyone who has lost someone dear knows what this is like. Something dies within you, when someone you love dies.

One of the first things Jesus does is to meet her in the garden… ready to raise her from the death of her grief.

Read other stories… Disciples hiding in fear… Jesus comes to them to raise them from the death of their fears… there is Thomas—dead to his doubts… and Jesus gives him what he needs to believe… then there are those disciples walking home to Emmaus… their hopes were dead—they had  hoped Jesus was the one who would redeem Israel… Jesus comes to them with one thing in mind: to raise them from the dead! 

For 40 days after Easter, this would be the work of Jesus.

It still is. For what is Easter for if it is not an opportunity for Jesus to raise us from the dead… to offer us the life he had offered them…

I have no doubt that some of you are here and can identify with the disciples before their resurrection.Who of us has not known the death of a friend and wonder how we can live life without him or her? Who of us has not known the death of dreams and hopes? Or has let fears kill us.

Who of us has not known the kind of doubt that is enough to destroy one’s faith— not to be confused with healthy doubt that in the words of Frederick Buechner—is like ants in the pants, the kind of  doubt that keeps faith alive and growing”…

 No, this is a deadly doubt which overwhelms faith… There is a difference.

I think of an interview I saw with Bill Moyers. He was interviewing Susan Jacoby, an atheist. He asked her, “Why are you an atheist? She said it was because of the problem of suffering… and how does one make sense of an all good, all powerful, all loving God and the suffering in the world? “…How come kids are shot in Newtown? How come people when I was young died of polio— a child I knew?”

She remembers talking to her Mom who began to have her doubts late in life. Her faith shaken. Her Mom said, “I’ve been think­ing about the prob­lem of evil. And it makes no sense.” She said, “Why should peo­ple suf­fer?”

More than one person’s faith has died with their doubts…

Surely the one who cried “My God, My God why has thou forsaken me?” from the cross understands those doubts… and sympathizes…

But just as surely God seeks to raise us from the death of doubt and despair and a 1000 other deaths we experience by raising Jesus from the dead. He lives, so we may live… and I mean, not just exist, but live—really live! Even as we face struggle, we will never again let our doubts, fears and tears get the best of us… because we have been raised by Christ to a new life…  We will live with faith, hope and love…

I like the way one preacher put it, “Jesus himself says, “in the world ye shall have tribulation” Get used to it! Get over it! Get on with it! He also says, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” What does he mean? He doesn’t mean that he has caused the problems of the world to cease- certainly not.

He means,  “I am not nor will I ever again be, intimidated or inhibited or defined by the tribulations of the world. I will not be defined by my problems; I will not be defined by my neuroses. I refuse to be victimized or to be described as a victim or be classed among victims. My vision will not be limited by the headlines;

I will both live and die by a standard that defies the standards of this world. Where the world tells me to hate, I will love, cost what it may; where the world tells me to stand pat I will move on, to wherever I am to go; where the world tells me to be prudent, fearful, and cautious, I will be brave and foolish and courageous no matter what. Where the world tells me that my destiny is shaped and determined by the past, I will claim that God is my future and that I shall yet become what God means for me to become.”[1]

Jesus lives, so we may live—whatever comes our way.

A few days ago I was with Jamie, my physical therapist. I don’t know her religious background. Over the months of therapy, we’ve developed a good relationship. I asked her and later the young adult putting me in traction basically the same question: “What do you hope to hear when you go to church on Easter?” Both said in effect the same thing: “I want to hear a happy story… I want to be inspired.”

“Inspired” – interesting choice of words. It means to breathe life—new life into something.

Who doesn’t want a bit of joy on Easter—who doesn’t want some inspiration on Easter Sunday?

Well, I have some good news for you… God raised Jesus from the dead to bring you and me back to life… and to bring joy to our hearts and hope to our lives. If that doesn’t inspire us, we may still be dead!

Peter Gomes, the former minister of the Memorial Church in Harvard use to tell his congregation that there were three short, easy things to remember about Easter.

 I invite you to remember them as well:

  1. Easter is not just about Jesus; it is about you. He has already claimed his new life; now is your chance to claim yours.
  2. Easter is not just about death; it is about life, and not just life after death- that’s the easy part- but real life before death, right now.You do not have to die to live.
  3. Easter is not just about the past, way back then and long ago; it is all about the future. Literally, I say to you, your best days are ahead of you. “Old things are passed away; behold, all things become new.”[2]

Today we are invited to believe that Christ is still alive, making all things new… and as the song says, “beginning with you…” you remember it, don’t you?

            Behold, behold, I make all things new
            beginning with you
            and starting from today
            Behold, behold, I make all things new
            my promise is true
            for I am Christ the way

Easter is the Lord’s way of offering you an opportunity to make something new of your life, to seize the day and start over.

God raised Jesus from the dead so you claim your second chance, your second birth, your new lease on life and start over with a new life you’ve never known before.

Or, another way of saying it is this: “The best proof the resurrection is not found in an empty grave, it is found in the living of your life and mine. Start living as a resurrected person and you will be the only proof of the resurrection that this tired old world will ever need.” (You’ll be an inspiration to others)To paraphrase Paul: “If anybody here is in Christ, you are a new creation, “Old things are passed away; behold, you have become something new”[3]

Thanks to this day, this joyous, happy resurrection day we can make something new of our lives.  That’s why God raised Jesus from the dead. So we might live…

That’s our hope, that’s our faith… that’s our reason for joy this day. For Christ is risen, He is risen indeed, and by God’s wonderful grace, so are we! So are we! Amen.

 


[1] Peter Gomes, p 264, Strength for the Journey.

[2] Ibid p 264

 

[3] Idea adapted from Gomes


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