Easter Sunday Sermon 2013
Sermon by The Reverend Charles Royden
In case you are in any doubt about the decision making process in the Royden household let me tell you that in the big decisions it is Corinne who makes the last call. I am not unaware that she lets me get away with the small things, this is just to make me think that I have more authority than I actually have. Take for example the naming of our dog recently. We found our friendly little Rottweiller on the internet and I thought that the very best name would therefore be Google. This was greeted with laughter and then immediately dismissed as being ridiculous. The most suitable name I was informed would be Annie, and Annie it was. The same thing happened with our children. I decided that our boy would be called Rex. Again (to hoots of laughter) I was advised that the most suitable name would not be Rex, I could keep one of the letters - it would be Max.
You see decisions about names are important. Names mean something.
Moses was called Moses because he was drawn out of the river - Moses means to ‘draw out’
Biblical names sometimes expressed the parents’ reaction to the birth of their child. Examples include Isaac (Genesis 21:6) which means “laughter”, and
Abimelech (Judges 8:31) which means “my father is king.”
Biblical names could be used to communicate God’s message. The prophet Isaiah named his first son Shear-jashub which means “a remnant shall return” (Isaiah 7:3).
Then we have the naming of the boy Jesus and we are told in Matthew 1:20-21the following
But after Joseph had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
Jesus literally means ‘The Lord saves’
So at Christmas we remember the birth of Jesus when he was given this name But at Easter we remember the time when Jesus fulfilled his name, the time when God saved us, when Jesus fulfilled his name. That is why easter is the big event in the Christians and not Easter.
In what way does Jesus save us ?
Christians have seen many ways in which this occurs
Jesus dies a death as a substitute or a sacrifice instead of us. This is the Old Testament idea of the scapegoat which takes our punishment instead of us
Jesus is a ransom and reconciliation, Jesus pays th price which is on our heads ,
He is an example for us to follow, a pattern to enable us to live better lives.
The Swedish Lutheran theologian Gustav Aulem published an article in German in 1930 in which he rehabilitated the ‘Classic’ or ‘Christus Victor’ approach to the atonement. He describes what was the ruling theory of the atonement for the first thousand years of Christian history. At its heart is the idea of Jesus fighting against and triumphing over the powers of evil in the world, there are the tyrants under which humankind is held in bondage and so in Jesus God reconciles the world to himself.
There is a lot of language which takes up this theme in the New Testament. And so the Apostle Paul says
- Jesus "destroyed death" (2 Timothy 1:10)
- our "last enemy" (1 Corinthians 15:26)
- He "disarmed the powers and authorities, and made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross" (Colossians 2:15)
- Jesus "tasted death for every one," and "through death he rendered powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil" (Hebrews 2:9,14)
And so we have the paradox, that by death Jesus conquered death.
C.S. Lewis called this the "deeper magic before the dawn of time."
And when Aslan rises, the ancient stone altar on which the sacrifice was offered cracks and crumbles in pieces, never to be used again. The gospel, then, is about ending the bloodshed of sacrifice.
In the Apostles' Creed we say :
"Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate, he was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day he rose again from the dead." Of course Jesus did not descend into hell (Ghenna which was the rubbish dump outside Jerusalem) he descended to Sheol the place of the dead). None of us really knows what is meant by this ancient phrase but those who wrote it influenced by passages from the scriptures (1 Petr 3 : 18-20, 1 Peter 4:6, ) which spoke of Jesus preaching to the spirits in prison. (See also John 5:25, Rev 5:13, Philippians 2:9-11)
Opinions on all of this have varied over the centuries but what I believe we can say is that the scriptures are telling us that there was no limit to the ability of Jesus to save.
In Philippians we read
‘every knee shall bow in heaven, and on earth and under the earth (phil 2:10)
Origen one of the early great theologians of the church took this to mean the idea of the final and ultimate triumph of Christ, that Satan himself would submit to the love and power of God in Jesus Christ
In Colossians we read that God in Christ will
"reconcile to himself all things, having made peace through the blood of his cross, whether things on earth or things in heaven" (Colossians 1:20).
In Ephesians 1:10 we read
He will "sum up" or "bring together" "all things in heaven and on earth"
I say this just to make the point clear that scriptures speaks of Jesus saving in a very big way and Easter is the time when it happens. It is at Easter in the death and resurrection of Jesus that the ‘Lord Saves’, and we are a part of the great salvation. There are those for whom Easter salvation is way too small. They see resurrection as a small elite escaping from a doomed world in a moment of rapture for the lucky ones. This is a small minded view of salvation seeks to restrict the grace of God in a way that does violence to the words of scripture which we have just read. This is bumper sticker theology and we need to refute it. .
That is why Easter Sunday speaks so powerfully to a world which sometimes seems in chaos. No matter what powers are waged against there is a power at work in our world which is the power of God to save, therefore we will not fear.
Easter is a time which challenges us to expand our horizons of what God can do in our lives too.
Resurrection is not just about finding life for after we die. It is a doorway to life now. The challenge, then, is to embrace this life each day – to learn to become both those who are enlivened by God’s resurrection life. In the face of all that is wrong with our world, the injustice, oppression and death, we are to be those who bring resurrection to those around us, through service, welcome, generosity, compassion, solidarity, dignity and love. The resurrection life of Jesus transforms and we are called to be part of that transforming work of God
When Jesus was alive – he brought people hope.
He especially brought hope to the hopeless.
He brought it to the poor and to the outcasts.
He brought it to the tax collectors and to the prostitutes
the ones who’d been cut off and shut out and excluded from their own community.
They’d been told they weren’t worthy to come inside and to be with God;
and they believed the lie.
But Jesus came into their lives and he told them they were worth more than they could ever imagine - He said they were God’s very own sons and daughters – worth more to Him than they would ever know. It is our Easter story to tell that message of Jesus
We started this sermon thinking about names, names are important, they are a part of what we are. The biggest change in the life of Mary was when she heard the voice of Jesus call her by her name. In the moment when Jesus called her name her whole world shifted and she knew in an instant: nothing would ever be the same again.
When Mary was faced with an empty tomb she just assumed somebody had stolen the body. She never understood what was going on even when the evidence was staring her in the face.
When she met with Jesus and he used her name it was different, it became true.
I wonder if you have ever thought that God knows your name. It is not a silly emotional made up thing. Jesus tells us that we are that important to God that the hairs on our head are numbered. He knows your name and he calls by name and we are invited to hear his voice. As Mary heard God speak, you too hear God speak your name, his resurrection voice calling you to live and love and accept him. Easter comes when we respond to God’s call on our lives. When we roll away the stone which closes off our soul from God.
Christians believe in Gospel, Good News. The good news is all about what happened at Easter But the good news is not the miracle that a man who lived two thousand years ago and died then came back to life. That is an amazing thing but it is not that important. What is significant is that God's victory over sin, death and the powers of evil. Christ has been raised to show that this resurrection is ours as well. But Jesus does not speak of life to come on Resurrection Day. He tells the disciples to start living new life now. When Mary calls him the old name, "Teacher," and reaches out to hold him in the old way he says, "Don't cling to me."As a woman, her testimony would never count in a court of law. But Jesus says, "Go testify - tell the good news to the others." Start living your calling now.
Soon, he will go to disciples still hiding from their old enemies to say,
Start living new life now. "Just as God sent me, I send you."
It is ours now to tell the Easter Miracle of God’s triumph over evil and his limitless love for the world