Every year I struggle more with the Easter sermon than any other. To whom am I preaching? The ones who are there every Sunday? The C & E Christians? The visitors who are there because they want to please a beloved elder relative? The ones who are just curious? It get’s complicated. I hardly ever use a prepared text, or even notes, on other Sundays. But on Easter? So, I’m posting here a draft of what I might have to say, in God’s name, on Easter Sunday. If you have any comments to offer, go for it.
Holy Week is largely ignored by all but a few. So our week long struggle with the many, and often contradictory, meanings of evil, betrayal, salvation, suffering, faith, sacrifice, renewal, and death has little meaning for most. Most of us leap right into the joyful celebration of Easter, happy that in Christ, God has triumphed over evil and death, but with some difficulty understanding what that means.
As for me, I tend to spend my time in holy week thinking about the nature of evil. If the cross and resurrection are signs of God’s triumph over evil, what is evil and why did God have to triumph over it?
Which brings me to the question of evil itself. What is it? The short answer is that it is the power of deception and fear. That’s all. Just lies and fright. If that’s all it is, how can it be so…evil?
When we deceive our selves and others, when others deceive us, we act in ways that are hurtful, oppressive, unjust and destructive of relationships. Think about it. Name something, anything, that you recognize as evil, whether tiny or great, that is not based on a deception, or many deceptions. Why do we lie to ourselves, to others and fall prey to those who lie to us? Fear. It’s simple as that. We are fearful of what might happen if the deceptions that overwhelm us are true after all. We are fearful of what might happen if they are not. Deception and fear, the source of all evil. Some people say that the devil is the one behind it all. I don’t give the devil that much credit. We have mastered the skills of creating evil all on our own and don’t need his help.
God did not have to triumph over it because it was never a contest in the first place. God is not beset by evil; we are. We humans are very much aware that, whatever evil is, it can easily triumph over us, individually and collectively. We can be overwhelmed by evil others perpetrate, and we can be the source of evil we perpetrate on others. Where is the evidence that the good is victorious, not in part but totally, once, for all, for ever? We got ourselves into this quagmire; are we condemned to live and die in it, or is there some way out?
Obviously we are not capable of making that happen, however, we Christians assert that God not only can do it, but has done it in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is a demonstration that, by the power of God, good triumphs over evil, truth triumphs over deception, courage triumphs over fear, and life triumphs over death.
What we can have in our present life is a foretaste of a greater life experiencing that triumph. It can be already ours, at least in part, even if the fullness of it is yet to come. It can be, but it doesn’t have to be. We are under no obligation to live into that foretaste, but God has encouraged us through all the prophets, and in Christ himself, to do so, because it will mean a life more filled with what is true, honorable, just, pure, and pleasing, not for ourselves only, but for all with whom we live, work and play.
Whatever else our lives are, they are for us a preparation of a greater life yet to come, not as a reward but as a gift. Some will say ‘Prove it. What is this greater life? Show me someone who has experienced it.’ The current popularity of books about near death experiences is a measure of how urgent is the demand for evidence of what we most desire to be true. I don’t care much one way or the other about them. What I know is this, Jesus was dead and buried. It was no near death experience. He was dead. Then he wasn’t. It wasn’t a story told by wishful mourners, but a fact experienced first by one or two, then by dozens, and finally by hundreds. What he said was true, where he is going, where he is now, is our place also, and he will take us there.
God’s triumph over evil in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is not for God’s sake, but for the sake of our weak faith, limited vision, ignorance and fear.
So I have a question for you. How would you like to live a life filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? You can begin to experience a foretaste of it today by accepting God’s gift of new life in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.