Sunday, April 16, 2017

Mourning, Waiting, and Celebrating (Easter 2017)

For Easter this year, I did a three part sermon series on three crucial days in the life of Jesus: His day of death (Crucifixion or Good Friday), the day of waiting (Silent Saturday), and the day that Jesus rose (Resurrection Sunday). Some years, we pack them all into one Sunday. Other years, we decide to settle into each one of those days. This year was one of the latter years.

What follows are excerpts from each of the sermons as well as links to the full text. If you find these helpful, feel free to pass them on or use them as you see fit.

The Lord is Risen!
The Bible is full of ‘three day stories”: Jonah; Joseph’s brothers in jail in Egypt; the plague of darkness in Egypt. When the Israelites left Egypt, they traveled three days into the desert before they found water; Rahab hid the spies for three days; plagues of judgment against Israel often lasted three days.
Jesus was in the tomb for three days. 
On the third day is when the bad stuff ends. That’s the day we celebrate, and rightly so. But third day stories aren’t clear until the third day. On Day One and Day Two, it’s not yet clear how the story will end. The First day of Third Day story is often a brutal one. 
It was the First Day –  Crucifixion Friday, or Good Friday –  that Jesus died.  His followers did not know this was a Third Day story. All they had on that Friday was the First Day. They had seen so many failed messiah’s by this point. They did not understand the prophecy that pointed toward Jesus’ resurrection. They were afraid and in despair. 
Crucifixion Friday reminds us that Jesus knows what it means that all of creation groans (Romans 8:22) and how the very land mourns (says Jeremiah 12:4). When the prophet Isaiah wrote of the coming Christ, he wrote, “Surely he has borne our grief’s and carried our sorrows; He was stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.” (Isaiah 53:4) 
Jesus understands our First Days. His entrance into the human condition showed that God is not a distant, uncaring and cold God. God understands us. 
Crucifixion Fridays are hard, but Silent Saturdays may be even harder. Funeral days are hard, but they are at least full of adrenaline and crisis management and we are surrounded by support. But then the next day, when family drifts back home, and friends go back to their routine…that’s when Silent Saturday sets in. The loneliness and the emptiness… 
It’s hard enough when it involves earthly things. But what about when our relationship with God is best described as a Silent Saturday kind of relationship? What if there is a spiritual loneliness and emptiness, a sense that God is aloof at best and gone at worst. What about the times when the heavens seem empty, and our prayers just seem to drift off into a void? What about the times when God is silent... I like what Jon Bloom wrote in an article entitled, “When God Is Silent.” 
Why is it that “absence makes the heart grow fonder” but “familiarity breeds contempt”? Why is water so much more refreshing when we’re really thirsty? Why am I almost never satisfied with what I have, but always longing for more? Why can the thought of being denied a desire for marriage or children or freedom or some other dream create in us a desperation we previously didn’t have? 
Why is the pursuit of earthly achievement often more enjoyable than the achievement itself? Why do deprivation, adversity, scarcity, and suffering often produce the best character qualities in us while prosperity, ease, and abundance often produce the worst. 
Do you see it? There is a pattern in the design of deprivation: Deprivation draws out desire. Absence heightens desire. And the more heightened the desire, the greater its satisfaction will be. It is the mourning that will know the joy of comfort (Matthew 5:4). It is the hungry and thirsty that will be satisfied (Matthew 5:6). Longing makes us ask, emptiness makes us seek, silence makes us knock (Luke 11:9).
"We live in a world in desperate need of peace.

Terrorism, rumors of wars, persecution, genocide, human trafficking, tension between police and citizens, political fighting, social media frenzies of name-calling and insults. It hits closer to home, too: our families, our workplace, our friendships, our church. Then there is the lack of peace deep inside – the depression, anxiety, despair and shame. We live in a world in desperate need of peace. 
There is a Hebrew word, shalom,that refers to peace with God, within, and with others. In many ways it takes us back to the Garden of Eden, at a place and time when everything was good. We have wandered far from that place of peace and rest, and the history of the world shows that we do a terrible job re-creating peace on our own. The prophet Jeremiah lamented the people who say, “’Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace”; Luke records that Jesus wept for Jerusalem: “If you had only known on this day what would bring you peace.” 
The prophet Isaiah said that one day there would be a Prince of Peace; Paul wrote that Jesus is our peace; Jesus said he came to bring a peace that was unlike anything the world could give. When he appeared to the disciples after his resurrection, one of the first things he said was, “Be at peace.”
This promise of peace through Jesus Christ is our hope in a fallen and broken world."

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