Alleluia, Christ is risen! It feels so good to say that, doesn’t it? I have been almost craving Alleluias. It has been a long, rough winter. Death has touched our congregation too many times. Lent seemed longer than just 40 days. And here we are. Finally. God is here, in this place. God has always been here. And today’s story is so much more than an empty tomb. Today is so much more than fancy clothes. Today is more than chocolate bunnies, and hams, and plastic grass. Today is more than lilies, and egg hunts, and family gatherings. Today, my brothers and sisters in Christ, today is the day when we are reminded that the power of sin and death is no more. We will not and cannot be controlled by sin and death because of an empty tomb.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Sure, Jesus said he would be raised on the third day, but don’t you think that there were those who were around during Jesus’ time that doubted? Would you doubt? If someone told you that after they died they were going to rise again after three days? Would you think “this seems like a logical thought process this person has going on” or something along those lines. I would doubt. I find myself being a lot like Thomas who wants to put his fingers in the holes in Jesus’ hand before he believes. And even though I’ve heard this story for years, even though I know what the ending to the story is going to be, that still doesn’t stop me from being amazed. I mean, a man who was resurrected. And it’s not like he was faking his death like some sort of soap opera star, he was legitimately dead.
And with something as simple and as complicated as a stone that was rolled away from a grave, everything changes. People were finally able to see that this man who had claimed to be the messiah all along really was who he said he was. We learn that with an empty tomb, we serve a God who keeps promises. With something as simple and as complicated as a stone that was rolled away, we are given life; a life full of grace, love, forgiveness, and a promise of life eternal. With something as simple and as complicated as a stone that was rolled away, we are free of our burdens; whatever chains kept us bound are no more.
Do you not hear? Do you not see? In the resurrection not only does Jesus have life, but so do we. Brothers and sisters, the tomb was empty for a reason. The tomb was empty so that we aren’t. We know that the cross isn’t the end of our story. God’s promise to us is the same it has always been and will always be. Who we are isn’t determined by society, our paycheck, our status in life, or even the voices in our heads. Who we are is determined by whose we are. We belong to God. We all belong to a God who thought we were worth dying for, yes, but who also thought we were worth a resurrection.
I don’t expect you to leave here and like a snap of the fingers be free of all your worries. I get it. There are still bills that have to be paid. There are still loved ones we worry about. There are still tragedies happening all over the world. But the thing is, that’s not the final word. You have been called. You have been claimed. You have been declared worthy of dying for. It is so important to me, at least, that when we proclaim our faith using the words of the Apostles’ Creed that we say “he descended into hell.” See, because Christ went to hell that means I don’t have to. Death did not have the final say. Death will never have the final say. Evil has been defeated.
Just when we thought that a cross would be the final word. Just when we thought that his tomb would remain sealed. Just when we thought that maybe this Jesus might not be the messiah after all. You, yes you, have been redeemed. You, yes you, have been saved. Your sins, all of them, are forgiven. Do you understand how obscene this really is? God’s love, poured out through Jesus Christ is for you. You cannot earn it. It is given to you freely. There’s no catch. This love will always be for you. There’s nothing you can do that would make God take this love away. This seems radicle and almost offensive and indeed, brothers and sisters, it is. This God, the one who gave us Jesus on the cross, this God, the one who raised this same Jesus has a love that extends beyond our abilities to understand. For God so loved the world that we received Jesus. The world. That includes you and me. That also includes everyone else–whether we like it or not.
See, in this resurrection, God is making all things new. We know now that the things we thought had power and prestige will no longer matter. Leaders who oppress will be made to answer for the things they do. People who make victims of others will be made to answer for the things they do. Those who trash God’s creation, those who discriminate, those who see the hungry and naked and turn the other way–all of them will be made to answer before God. This God who makes all things new, expects, no demands, that we now see the world through the saving action of the cross, for ALL people. And by all people, God means all people. This means black, white, fat, thin, documented and undocumented, Democrat, Republican, left, right, gay, straight, woman or man, senior or child. All people have been saved by God’s action through Jesus Christ on the cross. If this makes us uncomfortable, it should. This isn’t the way we work, but it certainly is the way God works and the way God loves.
My sin isn’t any less offensive than yours. I’m not any better than you. I deserve the harshest judgement that God can give. And yet, that will not happen. It won’t happen to me and it won’t happen to you. This God who says “no…you are no longer bound by your chains of guilt, sin, and shame!” This is a God who says “I love you and I am willing to go to hell and back to prove it!” This God who said “my body and my blood for you, for the ENTIRE forgiveness of your sins.” This is the God who said nothing will keep us from the love we receive. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
Our sins are forgiven. Our chains of sin and bondage have been broken. We are fed. We are loved. We are forgiven. The world will know of this God who loves us all. The tomb is empty and alleluia Christ is risen!