What was dead in your life? How did you encounter Jesus in that time? How did he resurrect your life?
Easter morning. We are here talking about the cure. About a cure for the bumps and bruises of life, for the struggles of life, for what ails us in our lives. A cure that as it turns out is quite an unexpected cure in our North American culture, why unexpected? Because the cure is this crazy idea that we can find healing, find a cure for what ails us by knowing who God is and living out of that. The cure this morning for what ails us and what ails our culture in a powerful way, a sense of hopelessness. My wife Linda is working on her PhD. at MSU and one of the things that is driven home to her by other grad students whether they are talking about the future of education, race relations, politics is there is no hope. For some students for a person to even suggest hope is considered an outrage, something to be shouted down.
We get this sense of hopelessness on the campaign trail as well. People are feeling hopeless, like the whole U.S. experiment has gone bad and what needs to happen is basically we need to blow the whole thing up and somehow get back to a different time, a better time.
And then, of course, there is what each of us faces in our lives. As we face the ups and downs of life, as we survey the world, and particularly for those of us who are a bit older and have lost the tint of our rose-colored glasses when we look at the world we thought we would change, that we thought was getting better and better, there is a sense of hopelessness and at times simple despair.
Feeling uplifted on this Easter morning, this morning when there is kind of an expectation of high energy, all is happy-and then we talk about despair and hopelessness in our lives and in our culture. Makes Easter feel kind of lousy.
So to bring us back into that Easter mood I have something with me—Easter eggs, those great symbols of new life and resurrection. A symbol that hundreds of years ago the Christian community took over from other cultures and religions and made it their own. Anyway, I’ve brought Easter Eggs with me today and I’m going to give some of them out. Now who should I give them too? Do you know what—every person who got an Easter egg wasn’t surprised that they got one, as a matter of fact while others of you were waving your arms and hoping that you’d get one, they were pretty calm about it. Why? Because I told them before the service that I’d give them an Easter Egg, they knew the future, they had a solid hope, a real hope that an Easter Egg would end up in their hand and maybe even in time in their stomach.
You might say that those who got the Easter Eggs just experienced a cure for hopelessness. The cure for hopelessness is knowing for sure what the future will bring and knowing for sure that the coming future is bright, filled with grace and wonder. And how do we experience the future that way? By knowing who God is and living out of that; by knowing that God is a God is the God of hope, not of the uncertain hope that we live with—you know— common every day hope that is along the lines of wishful thinking. I hope I win that scholarship. I hope our team wins the ballgame. I hope he asks me to the dance. I hope they accept our bid for the new house. Truth is some of those things might happen, some of those things might not happen—all we can do is hope. That’s common, every day hope. But hope based in the God of hope is different. It is a sure hope, a hope that brings us from death to life. It is a hope for what will become the reality of things. A bit of Biblical insight on this one
1Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. Romans 5.1-5 NIV
Hope does not disappoint us. When our hope is rooted in the God of hope we will never be disappointed because that hope always becomes reality.
Hope that becomes reality. Words of hope, words of promise that tell us about the future, a future that because of the God of hope who backs them and what he has done will be reality.
1Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God—2the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures 3regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, 4and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 1.1-4 NIV
Words that tell us the reality of things. What reality of things? Four words tell us the reality of things, the gospel of God. Gospel, the word means good news, the good news of God is the reality of things. What’s God’s good news—well its the good news that was given by the prophets—especially the prophet Isaiah—hundreds of years before Paul ever stepped a foot on this earth. When we make our way through the writings of the prophets, especially Isaiah we see the good news of God. It is a future which holds this wonderful state of affairs where nations no longer take up arms against other nations, where planes arrive at their intended destination and not in the side of buildings, where each person does work that she finds gives life rather than robs her of it, where love flows even to those who thought they would never be loved and laughter and good conversation and the most excellent of food adorns every table and where all of this happens under the loving eyes of God who rules and reigns over this world of delight and wonder. That’s the good news, the hope of the future.
But there’s more good news. The other part of the good news is that while we are heading for that day, for that promised, that assured future that God is reigning, God is ruling. What that means is that all of history has a goal, it’s going someplace. History isn’t just a roll of the dice, it’s not just repeating itself over and over again without any purpose. No history has a goal and God is at the helm bringing it to that goal—and no one can mess up his goal, that even those who try the hardest find out that they’ve played into his hands. Think Good Friday—if ever there was a time when it looked like God was out of control that would be it. He can’t even protect his own Son, the Roman empire has its way with him, Satan seems to be having his way with Jesus. Satan, who certainly has more kick and power than any ruler in the world, than any government with all of it’s bombs, missiles was convinced that he’s won. But just when he thinks he’s won, God says, “Gotcha Ya” and Satan crashes big time.
God is always in control of history and we know it because at the most crucial moment in history, when the powers of Satan and of an empire are at their best, even then they can’t mess with God’s plan.
Back to the Easter Eggs. The reason that those folks were sure of the future, the reason they had a solid hope was because I told them that they would get an Easter Egg, that great symbol of the resurrection. The reason that we can be sure that God reigns, that he will bring everything to where he wants it to be is because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ that we celebrate today. The only thing that gives Paul the confidence to declare to the world at the risk of his life that Jesus is Lord, that even Caesar took second place to him is because of the resurrection. Gives Paul the confidence because the truth is Caesar had tried his best to get rid of this rival to his throne and had failed. Gives Paul confidence because Satan had done his worst to Jesus and he had failed as well. Paul looks at the resurrection and says, if Christ has been raised from the dead, then God rules, God reigns over history, and just like he had his way at the resurrection so he will have his way with all things.
He will have his way with all things. It is just here that we find that the God of hope is also a most dangerous God. Think about it. If the God of hope is the God who rules then it is to him need to bow first and foremost. He is above all kings and rulers, powers and authorities, political systems and even our desires. This, by the way, is why the resurrection of Jesus not only brings hope, but also brings fear. A theologian by the name of N.T. Wright says,
“The public message which is the good news of Easter is the message of new creation, which answers the deepest longing of [all things] Note that it is the public truth of Easter–the dangerous, striking political truth that the living God is remaking the world and claiming full [rule] over it–that has been the objection, in western thinking, to the notion that Jesus rose bodily from the tomb. Western thought has wanted to keep Christianity as private truth only, to turn the Lion of Judah into a tame pussy-cat, an elegant and inoffensive, if occasionally mysterious addition to the family circle.
If we can somehow keep Jesus as just a teacher, if we can have his resurrection be one not of the body, but just some kind or resurrection in the hearts, spirits of his followers then there is no need to take seriously all this talk about him being Lord of lords and King of kings, no need to take seriously that God through his son is remaking the world and claiming full rule over it. But if he has been raised from the dead, then he is Lord, then the resurrection stands before the world and calls the world to recognize that he is the risen Lord and that the day will come when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of the Father. That reality brings both hope and fear.
And it brings a call, a call to be on the right side of history. If the God of hope, who cements that hope and his promise of a new world in the resurrection of Jesus, if the God of hope is the God who rules all things, then we are called to be on the right side of history by giving ourselves over to his Son Jesus Christ, repenting of our sin and beginning lives with God, as children of the king, living the ways of the kingdom family in every part of our lives. Now some see that as a burden but as we said last week when we actually get to know God, we have entered into the playful, joyous world of living as the adopted children of our gracious Father, the Great King, as we united to Christ and empowered by the Spirit then,
When we begin to conceive of God as he truly is, that is, in his justice, integrity, wisdom, virtue, and righteousness, we will only want to accommodate ourselves to him.
When we encounter the wisdom of God, the love of God, the hope of God—when we are slammed to the ground by the wonder of who God is then we think, “how could I not want to live in his ways, how could I not want to live as a playful, joyous child of the king?
There is a call to be on the right side of history by being adopted as children of the king and to live as playful, joyous children of the king. The Apostle Paul writes,
“Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ for the spiritual blessings that Christ has brought us from heaven! Before the world was created, God had Christ choose us to live with him and to be his holy and innocent and loving people. God was kind and decided that Christ would choose us to be God’s own adopted children. God was very kind to us because of the Son he dearly loves, and so we should praise God.” (Ephesians 1:3–6 CEV)
On this Easter morning, a day when we celebrate the great turning point in history, it is a morning for each of us to ask: “Am I on the right side of history?” Have I given my life to Jesus Christ and now I am living day in and day out as a playful, joyous child of the king?” Take a moment and think about that, think about if you are on the right side of history—not only by your words, but by your life. Paul says,
God was very kind to us because of the Son he dearly loves, and so we should praise God.”
We should praise God. Or thinking about this in a bit different way. The God of hope, who assures us that hope will not disappoint us, wants us to be people who help others see that hope. About 5 weeks ago we saw that happen in a powerful way in this place as through the IF Conference. It was a time when all kinds of people for are playful, joyous children of the king worked hard to bring hope into the lives of almost 400 women. For at least one of them it was a resurrection moment.
People who know that when we live with hope and extend hope to others that what we do gives hope for today and glad hope for tomorrow, what we do to bring hope in this life and actually shapes the final world that we will live in. As it says in Revelation 14.
13Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.” Revelation 14.13 NIV
Our deeds will follow us, that what we do in this life shapes the final world that we will live in and in the face of hopelessness we keep hope alive because we belong to the God of hope. As Mark Smith in his book Tolkien’s Ordinary Virtues writes,
The truth is the situation is desperate but there is hope; the lie is that either there is no situation at all or that there is no hope. The liar tells us there is nothing we can do. The trustworthy tell us that what little we have to give is desperately needed.
What ails us: hopelessness. The cure: The God of sure hope—a hope rooted not in wishful thinking, but in the coming to life of his son on that first Easter morning. A hope that calls on us to be on the right side of history.
So here’s what I want you to do this week. If you don’t have one already, get an Easter egg. Put it in front of you and then write a letter to God. Write him about whether the resurrection of Jesus gives you hope and makes you desire to live as playful, joyous child of the king. When you are done, read the letter to God and then allow him to take you wherever he wants to take you next in your journey of seeking hope.