Easter Day – Giving up Death
Easter Day 2016
Lent’s long shadows have departed!
All our woes are over now!
Death is conquered, man is free,
Christ has won the victory!
Today is the day the lord has made!
Let us be glad and rejoice in it! Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!
Today really is a day to rejoice. Setting all else aside, counting it as nothing, we rejoice for many reasons, all of which are the result of Christ’s victory over death.
And so today, we have one last and final thing to give up, one last thing to set aside to the greater glory of God and the building up of his Kingdom.
We have been working on giving up popularity, our lives, our enemies, superiority, expectations, and control throughout the forty days of Lent.
And now we come to one final thing which we must all give up in order to imitate Christ in his life, death, and resurrection so that we may receive the fullest benefits of our adoption as Children of God, heirs with Christ, of the Glorious and great kingdom of God our heavenly Father.
The psalmist says “Turn, O LORD, and deliver me; save me for your mercy’s sake. For in death no one remembers you; and who will give you thanks in the grave?”
Today, on the day when Christ has won the victory for you and for me over sin, we are called to give up Death and to accept that wonderful and powerful gift of the resurrection into the very center of our lives and our beings.
Now, from a human point of view, death is a natural part of living, you might say. Each of us, save for the second coming of Christ which we must all be awaiting with eagerness and a blessed hope, will face the death of this body, this jar of clay.
But nonetheless, we must be willing in our hearts and minds, to give up the belief that death has the final say in our lives and indeed, the lives of those whom we love, and who have passed on from this life, and await the glorious coming of our Lord.
I also do not mean, dear brothers and sisters, that we might somehow keep this body from dying. I’m not suggesting that we be modern day Ponce de Leons scouring the everglades of Florida for the fountain of Youth.
No. Rather, we must allow the treasure that is within these jars of clay to be made alive by the power of Christ’s Resurrection. That treasure – its not our hearts or minds – and yet that treasure is in them – that treasure is the light of the knowledge of the glory of God – in the face of Jesus Christ.
The kind of death that we are called to give up, in addition to this idea that the death of this body is the final say in the world, are those thousands of little deaths we face week by week, day by day, hour by hour as we live our lives in this world.
A dear colleague of mine, imparting his knowledge and wisdom of the Church’s liturgy and worship said to me once “You have to be careful not to interject too much of your own personality in the liturgy of the Church. It’s not about you. Your job is to lead God’s people in worship. The one place where your own experience and personality can come through however, is when you preach.”
I can only talk to you today about my own experience of giving up, or, rather, attempting to give up death.
Each of us, no doubt can recall moments of great despair, moments of suffering, moments of great turmoil brought about by forces external to us.
And I have found that, in my weakness, in my frailty, in my finiteness as a human being, I have allowed my self, who I am, or perhaps, who I think I am, to be turned over to those thoughts and feelings.
And in those moments, perhaps if you are anything like me, we have found ourselves spiritually dead. And in that death, that darkness, that place of unhappiness and despair, perhaps you, like me, have found that you wanted to remain there. To remain unmoved, unchanged, by anything or anyone.
This death that we face in those moments is a sort of dying to self. Like as we must all eventually face the death of our bodies, that death too, that death to self, is one which we must all go through.
I am reminded of the 18th chapter of the Book of Jeremiah. God calls Jeremiah to go down to the local potters shop.
“go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.”
You see, you and I and all of us, are clay in the hands of our potter, our heavenly father. And the promise that Easter brings, is that no matter what, in the end, there will be a resurrection. There will be, when God is done with us, a perfectly crafted, beautiful vessel.
Our lives are like the clay. When it arrives on the wheel, it is formless and full of imperfection. But as the potter shapes the clay, he turns it into something useful, something beautiful.
But from time to time, the potter notices an imperfection in that clay. It’s too thick on one side, a sidewall out of shape.
And rather than trying to make something good out of something flawed, he starts over. He collapses the clay into a lump on the wheel, and begins to fashion it all over again.
The promise of this day, is that we shall be made into beautiful vessels in the hands of our Potter.
But that process of being pushed back into a lump. That process is a painful one. We’re okay with out imperfections, we can live with them. We learn to cope, we learn to live with them.
And so when we pushed down in to that lump again, so we can be reshaped and reformed into the beautiful vessel God wants us to be, we must give up the temptation to become bitter, angry, and resentful of that process. We must give up the old vessel we were. And we must accept that this lump we are in is not the final word of who God will shape us to be.
We face these little collapses, these reformations, day by day, week by week. Some, we hardly notice, and some are the most painful experiences of our lives.
We must give up the thought and belief that the collapse is the final word in our lives.
The final word is our lives is the Word of God, made flesh for you and for me, and having suffered and Died like you and I, gives us his life, the knowledge of the glory of God, in these earthen vessels.
On that day the Disciples found the tomb empty! The empty tomb is the mark of our Faith. And so we too must take up the life we have been given, Christ’s life, the Resurrection life and power, and live, leaving the tomb empty behind us as we move forward toward the fullness of life which the lord has given to you and to me – His life.
Today is the day the Lord has made. Let us set death behind us. Let us take the life he gives us, day by day hour by hour, moment by moment and live it in love and thanksgiving and adoration.
O Risen Lord we look to you
For light and understanding
Be with us now to guide our way
In life and love commanding
Foil our fears and wipe our tears
Each of life moments demanding
Till at last a life time is past
And its your life we see we’ve been living.