Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Easter Sermon 2012

Easter 2012

As we arrive at Easter morning and run with Peter and John to the empty tomb, we have to think about the events which have preceded this moment. As Peter and John look into the empty tomb their minds are filled with the memories of these recent events.

Peter and John remember how just a week a ago Jesus came into the city seated on a donkey, the way the prophet said the Messiah would come. He enters the city during the week of the Jewish Passover. The day that Jesus comes is the very day that people will pick out their pascal lamb to be sacrificed later in the week. It is like the day that the family goes out pick a Christmas tree in our culture. The Jewish families are out anticipating the holiday and into town comes Jesus. They hail him as King. The deep irony is that, as they pick out the pascal lamb for their family festival, they are also choosing the true Pascal Lamb, Jesus. All this happened last week on Palm Sunday.

As the Jewish family prepares for their holiday, they do spring cleaning. Every bit of leaven in the house must be found and thrown out. Why? Because during their holiday they eat only unleavened bread to remind them of their ancestors' journey out of Egypt, out of slavery. The leaven symbolized the oppression of slavery of in Egypt. So they get rid of all the leaven, every crumb, every drop. On the day of the feast they eat unleavened bread only. They will be purified.

Peter and John remember that this is the same unleavened bread that Jesus picked up at the Last Supper. He holds this bread in his hands. He blesses it. It reminds them of the unleavened bread their ancestors ate as they left Egypt. Soon they will be free from oppression. It also reminds them of the manna with which God fed them as they wandered in the desert.

Now this bread that Jesus holds becomes something new. He says, “This is my Body.” All of a sudden the bread becomes the Pascal Lamb. The Pascal Lamb becomes the bread. The bread becomes a body – the body of Jesus. Jesus becomes the new Pascal Lamb. It is the blood of Jesus spread on the lintels and doorposts that saves the people. The blood of the Lamb, the blood of Jesus.

Then Jesus picks up the cup of wine and he says, “This is my blood.” My blood which is shed for many for the forgiveness of sins. They drink the blood in the form of wine. They are washed clean by the blood as the blood of the lamb cleansed the people on the Day of Atonement.

Wait a minute, Israelites don't drink blood. They are forbidden to drink blood. Why? Because blood belongs to God. You cannot touch, much less drink, what belongs to God. Blood in the Jewish mind is the life force. It is what gives life to the body. Life and death belong to God so mere men and women, mere mortals, mere creatures cannot touch blood. It has to do with life and death. This is God's realm.

But Jesus says, “This is my blood. Drink it.” Jesus is Messiah, Jesus is King, Jesus is God. To drink the blood of God is to have the life of God. Jesus says, “This is my blood given for you, drink of it.”

We drink the blood and it washes us clean, just as clean as if we had just been bathed in the waters of Baptism. We drink the blood containing the life of God and we share in that life. We are given the life of God.

He who eats my body and drinks my blood shall live forever.” (John 6.55-58) We have the very life of God and that life continues forever. We will live forever.

All this happened before Easter morning, before Peter and John and before we see the empty tomb.

The disciples remember how Jesus offered the cups of the Passover at the Last Supper. There are four cups blessed and given at the Passover meal. The third is called “the Cup of Blessing.” This third cup was the cup Jesus used to institute Holy Communion, the true cup of blessings. The fourth cup, the Cup of Consummation, the cup that ended the Passover meal, was not taken at the supper which Jesus ate with his disciples.

To show how profound this new cleansing would be, Jesus washed their feet after the meal. He washed their feet to show cleansing and forgiveness and love. They remember how he said, “Now you are not just my servants, now you are my friends.” And since you are my friends, I want you to be friends with another. These are my orders to you: that you love one another.

They leave the supper, but the rite, the new Passover continues. They go to the garden. Jesus prays “Let this cup pass from me.” This is Cup of Consummation, the last cup of the feast. The feast must go forth to its end. Jesus sees and knows how hard this will be. “If possible, let this cup pass from me.” But he says to the Father, not my will but your will be done.

Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. We pray this in the our Father all the time. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. This once, the Father's will was done on earth as it is in heaven. Jesus goes to his passion knowing that the seed must die before it bears fruit. He knows how much fruit his passion will bear.

The disciples remember that the very day that Jesus died was the day of Preparation for the big feast, the Passover feast. At the very moment that the Passover lambs were being slain in the Temple for the feast, Jesus, the true Passover Lamb, died on the cross. The veil covering the Holy of Holies in the Temple is torn at the moment Jesus dies. Our way into the Holy of Holies, our way into the very presence of God, is opened by Jesus.

All this happened before Easter morning. And now we stare into the empty tomb. The disciples knew that all of these previous scriptures were fulfilled in the life and death of Jesus. There is just one left. Can God give life to the dead? Look, here is the empty tomb. Gosh, it must be true. God can give life to the dead. God gave life to Jesus. The tomb is empty. He is risen! Halleluiah! The Lord is risen indeed.

As Jesus rises from the dead, he takes our hand, just like in the icon he takes the hands of Adam and Eve and he lifts them from the grave, he lifts us from the grave, from death. On Easter with Jesus, we pass from death to life.

We stare into the empty tomb. Dare we believe? How can we not believe? We eat his body; we drink his blood. We are cleansed, washed in the waters of our Baptism. He has called us his friends. We have received the Holy Spirit. The New Fire has burned away the remnants of our old life of sin. We have cleaned out all the old leaven. We are filled with the unleavened bread of sincerely and truth. We have new life, resurrection life.

Alleluia, the Lord is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

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