A myHT Fortress

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Rising from Your Watery Grave: A Homily for the Resurrection of Our Lord

Mark 16:1-8

Resurrection of Our Lord

8 April 2012

St. John's, Chicago, IL

In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Alleluia! Christ is risen! [He is risen, indeed. Alleluia.]

In a week, it will be the one hundredth anniversary. While many passengers had already gone to sleep in their cabins, others among the upper classes were up late from their elegant dining and elite socializing. But then, in the icy north Atlantic waters, the R.M.S. Titanic struck an iceberg, and within a few short hours, over fifteen hundred people froze, drowned, and went down in a watery grave.

The shipbuilders, the general public, and the newspapers all boasted about the "unsinkable" ship. They practically seemed to be daring God to stop this colossal vessel. They trusted in themselves and failed to see any danger.

You boast too. Far too often, you are trusting in yourself, not the Lord. You mock Him as your trust is in yourself, and you fail to see the danger of your self-idolatry. As dangers in this life face you, often you feel you can handle things, and don't need the Lord. With that God-and-death-defying attitude, it is not simply a body in danger of dying, it is your entire self, body and soul.

When the Carpathia finally arrived, they tethered life boats and a small group of survivors were pulled from the water and rescued. Grieving, and in shock, these people had a new chance at life. Pulled out of the waters of death, they received the gift of life.

We don't like to think about it in that way, but in a sense, your Baptism also had such lethal consequences. Your Old Adam struggled, but fighting against that Word of God at the font, the sinful self went down in a watery grave.

At Baptism, there was no lifeboat, nor was there a need for one. The Old Adam needed to die, but Jesus worked an amazing rescue. In this Sacrament, He gave you not merely a new chance at life; He gave you a new life! Pulled from the waters of death in that font, you received the gift of life itself.

Those who came to the aid of the Titanic were not sure what they would find. It had been hours in the icy cold, and many bodies of the dead floated throughout the area. They were helpless, as death had seemed to win.

The women coming to Jesus' tomb knew what they would find. Well, they thought they knew. But what they thought they knew, was not the case at all. They "knew" that they would find Jesus' body, wrapped in linen, and laying on a stone slab in Joseph of Arimethea's tomb. They "knew" that they needed the spices and ointments and perfumes they were bearing to give their Lord a proper burial. They were helpless, as they thought death had won.

You often join that same flawed, sinful assumption, that death has won. When you talk of a departed Christian in the past tense, and speak of them as "dead," be careful how you understand that. Their bodies have ceased to function, but they are not dead. Jesus says so. God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. They are alive in Christ, awaiting the Resurrection. Do not think for a moment that death has won!

Death has not won. Alleluia! Christ is risen! [He is risen, indeed. Alleluia.]

By giving Himself into death on that Friday, Jesus defeated death. That ancient enemy suddenly lost all its power. It was completely unable to keep its hold on Jesus, because it is finished. And in the perfect completion of His saving work, Jesus Christ completely crushed death. It had to let go of Him. Death could not lash out at Him; Jesus was the Victor.

But the Resurrection is not simply some history lesson. It is history. It is fact. But it is not something that happened a long time ago, with no relevance now. The resurrection occurred then, but has a lasting, eternal impact. It is not simply magic. The Lord delivers the gift of the fruits of His death and resurrection to you.

Alleluia! Christ is risen! [He is risen, indeed. Alleluia.]

He did it at your Baptism. Christ brought to you the rescue and forgiveness He purchased on the cross. And He washed you into His death and resurrection, joining you to Himself, so that you have the sure and certain promise of your resurrection.

Alleluia! Christ is risen! [He is risen, indeed. Alleluia.]

He is doing it right now. Jesus is using the words proclaimed to you from this pulpit to bring the forgiveness, life, and salvation won at the cross. And in a few moments, He will feed you His risen Body and Blood, preparing your body for its own resurrection at the Last Day.

The dark and earliest hours of the 15th of April, 1912, were a tragic, watery, earthly end for hundreds of people. But for all of them who died in the Lord, they were washed away in the baptismal reality that their Risen Lord swept them to Himself, where they await their own resurrection.

And you too. Easter is not simply about Jesus' resurrection. Sure, that is most important, but it does not stand alone. Jesus' resurrection insists then upon yours. Even as the Holy One was not abandoned to the grave, so also, He will not abandon you to yours. He gathers you to Himself at the moment of death, and He anticipates the Day when He will unite, perfect, and glorify your resurrected body, to enjoy His presence without end!

Alleluia! Christ is risen! [He is risen, indeed. Alleluia.] Amen.

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