Sunday, April 16, 2017

THE LORD IS RISEN... INDEED! BELIEVE IT?

Easter Day
April 16, 2017
Fr. Philip Eberhart

We live by FAITH!  Do you have IT?

Alleluia!!  The Lord is Risen !!  
       The Lord is Risen Indeed!!   
        Alleluia !!!

I want to welcome you here this morning for our Easter - Resurrection Celebration.  This day is the hinge on which all the rest of the year hangs!!  All the rest of our life, in fact!!

Paul tells us that those who come to Christ must 1. Confess with their mouth that "Jesus is Lord" (The first creed) and 2. they must "believe in their heart that God raised him from the dead!"

So this day and the belief that rests upon it, are the very foundation of our life in Christ.  Paul reflects this priority in his rebuke of the Corinthian church for entertaining some who say that the Resurrection of the Dead is not a real hope, or that Christ was not raised from the dead.

1 Cor 15 is very pointed!

If Christ is not risen from the dead, then we are still in our sins! 
     If Christ is not risen from the dead, we are lost and without hope!
          If Christ is not risen from the dead, we have believed in vain! 

But Christ IS Risen from the Dead!!   ALLELUIA,  The LORD IS RISEN!    The Lord is RISEN INDEED!   ALLELUIA!!

I know that saying it loudly does not make it so, but we say it loudly BECAUSE it is so!

Let me talk for just a few moments about the key of belief.  Faith.  It means actually thinking that all this stuff is real!!

The past few weeks I've been struck by the stories of faith and the lack thereof in the Bible.  It seems that from beginning to end we are all a mixed bag of faith and fear and doubt - even the disciples who were witnesses to the resurrection and the bodily appearances of Jesus, of Him eating with them and teaching them after his death.  At the Ascension, the gospel writer tells us that they were all there on the mountain with Jesus, "and some doubted!"

Faith is a key to so much.  It is the key to eternal life to be sure, but it is also the key to that eternal life as it bleeds over into our life in the here and now!  Jesus was limited not only by his own choice to become human, "to take the form of a slave", but in his earthly ministry he was hindered in places like Nazareth because of their lack of faith!

Did you know that your faith has that kind of power?  Power to limit the God of the Universe!!
Sure, God could just do stuff.  Like He created the universe, he has the power to create all things ...  from nothing!
He was quick to remind Job of his power and to set Jonah straight.  But all that power, in Jesus, came to be limited by OUR FAITH.

In our modern world, the greatest danger isn't our using "faith" as a dime in a celestial slot machine! 
Our greatest danger is not having faith at all, not "really believing that what we believe is really real!"  (Del Tackett, THE TRUTH PROJECT)

Do you believe that the events of the past week really happened?  Do You?

If you don't you are free to go home!  Jesus didn't coddle those who couldn't believe in what He was saying and doing?  Jesus challenged the disciples at every turn, and challenged them to their very core!!

Peter, after one such exchange in Jn 6, after many followers left Jesus company, was asked outright, "Are you 12 going to leave too?"
And Peter answered plainly, "Where would we go?  You alone have the words that lead to eternal life!"

This week would be a great week to go to the movies and watch "The Case for Christ."  It's the story of one man's struggle with faith, with belief that all this is really real!  I commend it to you.  The struggle is real!

The struggle hasn't changed.  One of the most moving parts of the movie, RISEN, is the point at which the Centurion encounters one of the guards from the tomb of Jesus!  He is undone - in a bar, drinking himself into a stupor, because he cannot explain what happened on that Sunday morning!! 

What do you do with these facts?  Turn with me to the Acts 10 reading in your bulletin...

1. Jesus was a real, historical person.  His reality and teaching was known to Cornelius, a Roman Centurion in Ceaserea by the Sea.
      "You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ"

2. Jesus was a man, approved and anointed by God, who understood himself to be the Messiah of Jewish promise.
      -- "he is Lord of all"

3. Jesus ministered in the Power of the Spirit for three years in Galilee and Judea.
      That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced

4. Jesus went about doing good, healing and teaching as it is written in the Gospels.
      how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.
       We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem.

5.  Jesus was killed, brutally, at the hands of the Romans and the instigation of the Jewish leaders, precisely because they understood and rejected the claims Jesus made of his divinity and Messiahship.
      They put him to death by hanging him on a tree

6.  Jesus rose bodily from the grave after three days, as He said He would on numerous occasions.  That claim was common knowledge such that the Jews posted Roman guards at the tomb!!
      but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses,

7.  Jesus body was not in the tomb on Sunday morning!  This fact is rock-solid history. No other fact is established as clearly as this and it explains a great deal about the other facts of the case! 

8.  Jesus showed himself risen and alive, eating with and teaching his disciples for 40 days after his resurrection.
        and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead

9.  Jesus was taken up to heaven bodily at the Ascension -  At which point he charged his followers to GO!
       He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead.
          All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name."

So now the question remains... 
SO WHAT?

What will you do with these facts?

Do you believe that they are facts?  If so, WHAT?

Well, for me,  these facts inform everything!  All that I am, all that I do, all that I think and say.  All the hopes and dreams I have for my life.  All the ways I interact with people.  All my hope for eternity! 

Peter put it this way in his later, first letter:

[1Pe 1:3-9 ESV] Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

    In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith--more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire--may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

    Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

And so let us pray:

O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquillity the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

If you are so moved, please repeat this prayer after me,  phrase by phrase:

I am no longer my own, but yours...

Put me to what you will,

place me with whom you will.

Put me to doing,

put me to suffering.

Let me be put to work for you

or set aside for you,

Praised for you

or criticized for you.

Let me be full,

let me be empty.

Let me have all things,

let me have nothing.

I freely and fully surrender all things

to your glory and service.

And now, O wonderful and holy God,

Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer,

you are mine, and I am yours.

So be it.

And the covenant which I have made on earth,

Let it also be made in heaven. 

Amen.  (J. Wesley)

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