Sermon for Easter Day
Readings: Acts 10:34–43; 1 Corinthians 15:1–11 & John 20:1–18
In the second half of last year I decided to enrol in an online course to become accredited to teach English as a second language. I had 6 months in which to complete the course, however the course overview suggested that most people finished it somewhere between 12 and 16 weeks. At the 5 month stage, I realised I wasn’t going to finish it within the 6 month limit, so I secured a one month extension, which I was able to do simply by paying more money!
The course assessment was primarily done via 3 assignments, with each assignment needing to be completed with the required minimum pass mark before you could progress on to the next assignment. Having successfully completed the first two, I submitted my third and final assignment with two weeks of my time remaining to complete the course. If I didn’t receive the minimum pass mark required, then I had to redo the assignment. It normally took 5 days for the assignment to be assessed, which means I had just over a week to resubmit the assignment if required. So needless to say, I was anxiously awaiting the result of the assessment.
When I finally received the advice from the learning academy, it was “good news”. I had passed the assignment and therefore had gained my accreditation to teach English as a second language. So my wife and I celebrated my “good news” with a bottle of champagne. A few days after our celebration, the excitement passed, and life carried on as normal.
In today’s reading from the First Letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul reminds the members of the church in Corinth of the “good news” that they had received, which was of course, that Jesus had died for their sins, and that he had been buried, and then raised from the dead after three days, which had all been foretold in the Old Testament.
It’s that last point, relating to the Old Testament, that I’d like to pick up on now. We usually associate Jesus’ journey to the cross with the last week of his life, from Palm Sunday, when he entered Jerusalem to the loving adoration of the crowds, until Good Friday, when those same crowds called for his crucifixion. However, I’d like to suggest that the journey to the cross actually began with the creation story in the Book of Genesis. Because from the very time humanity came into being, it separated itself from God, by turning away from God. The Old Testament is a record of this turning away.
We see it time and time again, from Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, to the people of the world before the Flood, to the Israelites when they are rescued from slavery in Egypt, to the Israelites once again when they are exiled in Babylon, and countless number of other incidents in between. The Old Testament tells us how people turned their backs on God to worship other gods, be they the gods of the pagans and Gentiles, or even self-proclaimed human gods such as the rulers of Egypt, Assyria and Babylon. The pattern is clear; the people turn away from God when they feel they don’t need Him, but then they turn back to God when things are not going well in their lives and their new gods aren’t able to save them. Regardless of what humanity does, God however, remains faithful to humanity, saving them time and time again from trouble and despair.
God finally chose to reconcile all of humanity to Himself once and for all. He became human in the person of Jesus, and died on the cross, in order that we might be reconciled to Him during our mortal lives, and then remain with Him in eternal life beyond our mortal existence. This is the “good news” for us! That Jesus died, and was raised from the dead, over two thousand years ago so that we could be reconciled in relationship with God today, and in eternal life following our mortal death.
However, like the good news I received about passing my course, perhaps the excitement of our good news also passes, which is why we need to be reminded of it, not just once a year at Easter, but every week as we meet together as a community of faith and remember what God has done for us through the death and resurrection of Jesus. By retelling the stories, not only of Jesus and his ministry in the world, but of the Old Testament, and God’s interaction with humanity. We are called to proclaim the good news that we have received, just as the Apostles were commanded by Jesus to preach to the people of their day, and to testify to Jesus and to God, who revealed Himself to humanity in and through Jesus.
As Paul said, it is through the apostles, including himself, that we have actually come to believe in Jesus, and in God. The world today is in need of this “good news” just as much as, if not more so, than the world at the time of Jesus. People today, especially in Western society, like the Ancient Israelites, have turned away from God to worship other gods, with those gods today being in the form of wealth, power, prestige, success and other material aspects of life.
As Christians, and/or members of the church, we are called to be bearers of the good news today; to testify to Jesus and God through the actions and experiences of our own lives.