The God of Resurrection

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 other, 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. 

Jeremiah 31:1-6

I’m wondering if you think it is odd that I have chosen an Old Testament text for the Easter Sunday sermon. To be honest, I wasn’t sure about the decision myself when my sermon text group chose the OT for Easter. But as I’ve worked with the text I have learned that looking at Easter through the eyes of Jeremiah has given me a fresh insight of what the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is all about.

What you may not understand at first is that both of these are resurrection stories in a way. One, in Jeremiah is about a resurrection waiting to happen, the other is the resurrection that has happened. Both are written and told in a time of utter hopelessness for the people of God.

Jeremiah is writing to a people who looked like they reached the end of the line. David is long gone… the unified kingdom collapsed into civil war due to the squabbling of the political parties of his sons. Israel and Judah had gone their separate ways. By the time Jeremiah comes along, half of God’s kingdom- Israel has fallen to the Babylonians over 100 years earlier. They no longer exist.

As Jeremiah writes, it now looks like the end for Judah- the other half. The other shoe is about to drop. Jerusalem is under siege by the Assyrian armies… their 9-11 day is near when even the temple of God will be destroyed. Jeremiah sees it coming. And what had once looked so promising… a people with a rich history as they were released from slavery… a people chosen by God to enter into a special relationship where God would bless them and they would in turn bless the world…all nations would be blessed by the people of God… well… this has all fallen apart…. And the Kingdom of David is about to become just one more fallen kingdom and footnote in the pages of history. If you are living in Jeremiah’s time, that’s pretty much what it looks like to the average observer.

It was not so different for the followers of Jesus, do you think? Three years earlier… when they began to follow him… it looked so promising.

This was a man of miracles… this was a man with a golden tongue-he spoke eloquently of the Kingdom of God… this was a man that healed the sick… fed the poor… loved those who had hungered for love… he gave sinners another chance at life… He had the political and religious momentum on his side… until this past week. When it all fell apart and the one who was hailed as a king last Sunday is dead by Friday. To the average observer, it looks like this little movement was done… finished… dust… to the disciples who had given up three years of their lives to follow Jesus-it looks like this chapter of their lives is over. Jesus is dead. It looks like the end of the line. Time to go home. Time to go back to fishing… to see if the old job is still there… time to go back to collecting taxes… time to go back… to the way it used to be.

But not so fast says the scriptures. Not so fast. This is where Jeremiah helps me understand Easter.

Jeremiah proclaims in the midst of death that God will not forsake them. Jeremiah has a word from the Lord. At the right time the Lord God will resurrect his people…. and re-unite them. Israel and Judah will find life…"Again" he says, "Again-you will dance and play tambourines with joy…" (you won’t be singing the blues anymore) "Again… again, you’ll be able to own land and plant vineyards and enjoy the fruit of your labor…" "Again", again God will rebuild them." God is not done with you. Even now God is creating new hope in the midst of despair. God is the God of the resurrection. That’s the lesson for Jeremiah and his people. That’s also the lesson for the disciples that first Easter. Just when all seemed lost, God surprises them with new life and hope.

The message to the disciples on Easter morning is clear: Don’t think that the crucifixion is the end of the line for Jesus or for you. For God is not done. God has raised Jesus from the dead and this God can and God will raise you from your despair. God can and God will help you defeat your fear of death. In the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we see not just the fullness of God’s power… but the fullness of God’s love and faithfulness for his people.

This is where Jeremiah gave me fresh insight into Easter. The reason God promises to resurrect Israel and Judah… is very simple. It’s not because we deserve it or God owes us anything. We don’t. The disciples had failed Jesus and God and so do we. All the time. We don’t deserve resurrection.

But the reason God offers us the gift of resurrection hope is simple: "I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you."

There is more to resurrection than God performing a magical miracle of raising Jesus from the dead and trying to impress us with his power. (Though it is impressive). Resurrection is also about God’s loving faithfulness toward us. God is loving and God is faithful. That’s the message behind the resurrection. God has a love for us that will not let us go.

I don’t know about you, but that is a message I need to remember every now and then. I’m glad it comes at least once a year. Good Friday weekends of despair-personal or otherwise are far too frequent in our lives. I need to hear this message. After 9-11… when everyone was living in deep fear and despair and it looked like the end of the world… when everyone was asking, "Where is God?"…

It would have been a good thing to remember that in the midst of death there is always hope because "God is loving and God is faithful."  God has a love that will not let us go.

Ann Lamott, a writer many of us like because she shares a life that looked like it was headed to a dead end thanks to drug abuse and a destructive lifestyle… but was given a new life thanks to the loving faithfulness of God who led her to a small Presbyterian church where she was lovingly welcomed into their lives….Ann Lamott tells the story of going skiing with her friend Sue in Park City, Utah… Sue was a dear friend fighting cancer and losing her fight with cancer. So Anne invited her to go skiing. Sue had always loved to ski. When Sue accepted the invitation no one knew, even Sue, if she would be able to ski or even be able to make the trip at all. It was around Easter time and Anne wanted Sue to have one more great Easter before she died. Ann wrote:
"Easter is so profound. Christmas was an afterthought in the early church, the birth not observed for a few hundred years. But no one could help noticing the resurrection… Easter says that love is more powerful than death; bigger than the dark, bigger than cancer, bigger than airport security lines." She said: "Hope is not about proving anything. It’s about choosing to believe this one thing: that love is bigger than any grim, bleak (stuff) anyone can throw at us" (Plan B- Further thoughts on faith; pages 268 and 275)

I think that is what Jeremiah was trying to say:
"God is loving and God is so faithful"- nothing will get in the way of God fulfilling God’s loving desires for us or the world. God is the God of resurrection.

In the life and death of Jesus we learn that even if we kill his own Son… and the message his son came to share… God won’t let death get in the way… God will raise this Jesus and resurrect his disciples so that this message will continue to be shared with the world. God is loving… God is faithful. God is the God of resurrection. That is the faith that has brought hope and joy to God’s people for 2000 years.

It was that belief that helped the early Christians endure persecution… for when all looked lost, they knew… God is faithful and God is loving… God is the God of resurrection…

When all is lost, hold on to that for dear life; God is loving and God is faithful…God is the God of resurrection. God will see you through whatever death you are facing… and there will be another day. Honest to God. A day when you will again, laugh and sing… as the Psalmist (30) says: God will turn your mourning into dancing

That’s the gift God would give us on Easter if we would have it. God would like to turn your mourning into dancing… God loves you that much. God would want you to know that though it may not feel like it right now… joy will return… again you will dance… again you will sing… for God is loving and faithful. God is the God of resurrection.

In preparing for this sermon, for some reason an old, old song popped in my mind that I have not thought of in years. I guess I know the reason… Jeremiah… Jeremiah tells us that one of the signs of resurrection is singing and dancing again.
The song that came to mind was written by Johnny Nash at a time he was recovering from the dark night and despair of substance abuse. His life had been lived in the shadows of death and despair… but now filled with hope as he was recovering. He wrote a song made famous by Roberta Flack who knew something of adversity herself. It speaks powerfully of the gift God would give us this day. To me it sounds like the kind of song Jeremiah promised:

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone,
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)
Sun-Shiny day.

I think I can make it now, the pain is gone
All of the bad feelings have disappeared
Here is the rainbow I’ve been prayin? for
It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)
Sun-Shiny day.

Look all around, there’s nothin? but blue skies
Look straight ahead, nothin? but blue skies

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone,
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)
Sun-Shiny day.

Thanks to the loving faithfulness of our God, the God of resurrection- we do indeed have bright, bright, bright sunshiny days ahead. For Christ is risen! Hallelujah! Amen.


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