In the name of the F, S, and HS.
Last night I read an absolutely beautiful sermon. I didn’t write it, but it was beautiful. It spoke of Christ descent to the dead and his giving life to those who had gone before him.
So quotes from it are:
‘I command you: Awake, sleeper, I have not made you to be held a prisoner in the underworld. Arise from the dead; I am the life of the dead.
“Arise, let us go hence. The enemy brought you out of the land of paradise; I will reinstate you, no longer in paradise, but on the throne of heaven. I denied you the tree of life, which was a figure, but now I myself am united to you, I who am life. I posted the cherubim to guard you as they would slaves; now I make the cherubim worship you as they would God.”
Christ went down to Hades to give us a gift that we were not previously able to receive. We have been give much more. We have been granted access to the very life of God.
Imagine, if you will, the joy in those for whom Christ descended to hear the good news that they might not miss out because they were, like St. Paul, “one untimely born.” Christ does not let the grave stop him. They got to see the fulfillment of all the promises declared by God. This, I’m sure was the cause of the earthquake that caused the dead to rise—their joy that they were not forgotten but now get to live the life that they were created to live in the first place. And much more because they now have intimacy with the Father that was denied even Adam and Eve.
This is to be our destiny as well, for it was for all of humanity from the beginning of time to the end that Christ came to save. But why does the world continue on if the battle is already won? Why not just stop so that we don’t have to fight anymore, but enter into the joy of the Father? Because God has not finished creating people yet. And if God hasn’t finished creating people yet, then all the sins of the people haven’t been forgiven yet because I keep sinning, and you keep sinning, and all the people outside keep sinning, and Christ died for their sins as well. So the world is still going because God hasn’t decided that there are enough people to populate heaven yet.
So in the meantime, you and I have got some work to do. We have been given two tasks: 1) to find people who need to hear the good news and share it with them, and 2) live lives that are reflective of our new situation.
The first part I would say is the easiest. Normally, for our denomination, we see this as the hardest, but in reality, this is by far the easiest because it is giving people good news: “Jesus died for you, there is nothing you did to deserve it, nor is there ever anything that you can do to deserve it, but it is a gift freely offered and ready to be accepted if you are willing.”
See? That is the easy part. It is giving someone a million dollars for doing absolutely nothing.
“Why am I getting this? I didn’t play the lottery or invent something, or do ANYTHING that would warrant being given this money.”
“That’s right, but do you want it?”
“Then take it. It’s yours. “
“Because I love you.”
The next task is the hard one because it takes much more effort on our part. We have to change our lives and live them according to Christian standards. This is easy in theory, but in all actuality it is much harder. We have the interesting job descriptions of being in the world but not of it. We now no longer get to do the things that we want to do, we are to do the things we have to do.
Doing the things we want to do made Jesus have to walk the Via Dolorosa, the Way of Suffering, to atone for those sins. Doing the things that we have to are things like loving your neighbor even when they don’t deserve it. The Good Samaritan is good not because the man deserved it by the way he treated the Samaritan prior to their famous meeting on the road where the man lay dying. The Good Samaritan was good because he cared for him in spite of all previous history. He is good because he did it because he was a fellow creature of God made in his image. This is the kind of thing we have to do.
Lucky for us, we are not left comfortless. Jesus tells his disciples that it is to their advantage that he goes away because if he did not the Helper would not come. Jesus provides us with the Holy Spirit to aid us in the things that we have to do—even by helping them to become the things we want to do.
We have just experienced the death of sin and death as we went through Lent and Holy Week. We saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven this last week. Jesus tells us that we have been given authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt us. But in order to do this, we must not look back to Egypt.
Looking back is what got the Israelites in trouble, they didn’t believe that Go could accomplish that which he promised he would do, so they doubted and had one foot with him and one foot back in Egypt with all their weight on the foot in Egypt. The Angel asks in our Gospel lesson today: “Why seek the living among the dead?” The things we seek are before us not behind. God calls for complete buy-in.
We have seen the end to which sin leads—death—but we have also seen what Jesus has the power to accomplish—life. We too can rejoice like those in Hades whom Jesus came to grant access to the Father, because we too have been granted the very same thing. Now we too must shake the earth with our joy as they did. We must leave death behind fully and walk toward life leaving it behind forever. As we do so, we must trust that God will make up the lack as we proceed to a place that we have no right to be, but are called nonetheless.
In the name of the F, S, and HS. Amen.