Sunday, April 18, 2021

From our Gospel reading, these words from the Easter story: Jesus himself stood among them and
said to them, “Peace be with you.” Thus far our text.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Christ has risen! Alleluia! (He is risen indeed! Alleluia!)

So… do you believe that to be the truth of Easter? Do you truly believe that Jesus Christ was
the Son of God, who lived a life of perfect love and service, yet was arrested, mocked, spat
upon, and tortured, who died via horrific execution by crucifixion, only to be raised back to life
on the third day? Pastor Ryan preached an excellent sermon last week on the trustworthiness of
our belief in the resurrection. Do you believe in the truth of Easter?

I trust you do… otherwise, why would you be here? But let me ask yet another question: if you
believe Easter to be true, then what difference has it made, is it making, and will continue to
make in your own personal journey through life? We are talking about Easter living on…

Today we are going to consider the “power of the Resurrection.” I am going to encourage us to
dwell on the truth that Easter brings both the power to save and the power to be transformed.

In our first reading last Sunday we heard that “With great power the apostles gave their testimony
to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.” The “great grace” is now
upon us all. That is the heart of the Gospel message: Because of “the resurrection of the Lord
Jesus” we have been saved by grace! Without the resurrection there is no salvation.

Paul affirms this truth in 1 Corinthians 15: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you
are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. If for this life only we
have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the
dead, the first fruits of those who have died.” The truth of Easter is the power of Easter to save.

Yet it is vitally important we come to understand that we are not only saved from sin and death,
and we are not only gifted with eternal life, but we are saved by grace, through faith… for good
works (Ephesians 2:8-10). The power of Easter not only saves us, it also transforms us. Grace
is the most powerful change agent in the world. It not only has the power to change us from
enemies of God to children of God, but also the power to increasingly change us into children
of God who more and more resemble our Brother, Jesus.

Paul expands on this important theology in Romans 6, where he writes: “What then are we to
say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died
to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were
baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as
Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”

This process of ongoing transformation is both a fruit and a discipline. This is because we
continue to be—as Martin Luther taught-- “both saints and sinners at the same time” (Latin:
simul iustes et peccator). As saints, our faith-based and grace-saturated encounters with the
resurrected Jesus, who breathes His Spirit upon us and speaks “Peace be with you” into our
often-troubled lives and hearts, fills us with gratitude and love, and we naturally, organically,
and increasingly bear the fruit of good works. This is the ideal. We lovingly serve as we have
been loved and served by Jesus.

Yet the self-centeredness of sin never completely goes away on this side of our graves, and the
evil one never gives up in his efforts to draw us away through doubt or despair or distractions.
There must always be a battle with the sinner in us, with the broken world around us, and with
the evil one. Therefore, there will always be a need for us to be disciplined and to commit
ourselves continuously to following Jesus and living out the power of Easter to change.

For the rest of this message, I’d like to try to look at this transformation concept from a different
perspective, one which comes from the marvelous final chapter of Timothy Keller’s book, The
Reason for God, which has the unique title, “The Dance of God.” Keller shares this quote from
C.S. Lewis: “In Christianity God is not an impersonal thing nor a static thing – not even just one
person – but a dynamic pulsating activity, a life, a kind of drama, almost, if you will not think
me irreverent, a kind of dance… . [The] pattern of this three-personal life is … the great
fountain of energy and beauty spurting up at the very center of reality.”

I absolutely love this description of the Trinity! It is the most helpful image I have ever come
across…the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit orbiting and dancing around one another as one.

Later Keller writes: “God did not create us to get the cosmic, infinite joy of mutual love and
glorification, but to share it. We were made to join in the dance. If we will center our lives on
him, serving him not out of self-interest, but just for the sake of who he is, for the sake of his
beauty and glory, we will enter the dance and share in the joy and love he lives in. We were
designed, then, not just for belief in God in some general way, nor for a vague kind of inspiration
or spirituality. We were made to center our lives upon him, to make the purpose and passion of
our lives knowing, serving, delighting, and resembling him.”

Yes, that is how we were created. But along came the fall into sin, and we lost the dance.
Keller describes it this way: “We became stationary, self-centered. And according to Genesis 3,
when our relationship with God unraveled, all other relationships disintegrated as well… We
lost the dance. The dance of joyful, mutually self-giving is impossible in a world in which
everyone is stationary, trying to get everything else to orbit around them. However, God does
not leave us there. The Son of God was born into the world to begin a new humanity, a new
community of people who could lose their self-centeredness, begin a God-centered life, and, as
a result, slowly but surely have all other relationships put right as well.”

Brothers and sisters in this family of Christ, that is what is happening here. The power of Easter
to save and transform our lives is an invitation to return to the dance we were originally created
to participate in. One last quote from Keller: “If the beauty of what Jesus did moves you, that is
the first step toward getting out of your own self-centeredness and fear into a trust relationship
with him. When Jesus died for you he was, as it were, inviting you into the dance. He invited
you to begin centering everything in your life on him, even as he has given himself for you. If
you respond to him, all your relationships will begin to heel… when we discern Jesus moving
toward us and encircling us with an infinite, self-giving love, we are invited to put our lives on a
whole new foundation.”

That foundation is love. Love received and love extended. Love expressed in the divine dance,
the beautiful “Easter Dance” if you will. The power of Easter saves and transforms us as we
return to the dance. Shall we dance?

 
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