Sermon for Easter Sunday by Pastor Joel Pukallus.
Stop telling me what to do!
You hear it all the time, from children, who are supposed to be playing together, who all of a sudden resent the authoritative attitude of their older brothers or sisters. Stop telling me what to do! Or, “You aren’t the boss of me!”
There are a lot of people who have thought lately that the government can’t tell them what to do when it comes to coronavirus and social distancing, and I can still go to house parties and the beach, “they can’t tell me what to do” But now the police have some powers to do just that.
And as Christians, this should not be hard for us to deal with, because today, we find once again, as if we needed any more evidence, that we Christians are counter-cultural. We are the most “told-what-to-do” people in the world aren’t we? We are what is almost a swear-word in the world today. We are “followers”
I mean, just in four short days, we were given a command on Thursday (Imagine that, outside of the army in this day and age, being given a command, and following it!) and today we are told again in our Epistle lesson what we are commanded to do.
That is what a lot of people think that religion is, isn’t it? A set of rules, and commands, and demands, and that we are unthinking followers who have no choice but to do what is demanded of us?
But Christianity is not just about slavishly following rules and commands. Well, we have a choice. We can disobey every command if we want. But today, on this Easter Sunday morning, I am urging you, telling you to get on board. With these two commands we have received over this easter Weekend.
Be commanded. Be a follower.
The late Pope John Paul the second once famously said “we are Easter people, and hallelujah is our song.” Beautiful. But do you know what it means? We don’t have it as one of our easter hymns for today, as we can’t sing them all in one service, but it is one of my favourites: Jesus Christ is risen today, hallelujah. Hallelujah! Hallelujah is our song. Do you know what the Hebrew means? It means we are making a demand on those around us. It is a demand.
What that hymn says literally is: Jesus Christ is risen today, now all of you (plural) praise God! Hallelujah: Praise ye the Lord.
We are Easter people and Hallelujah is our song, so in other words, our song is a demand. All of you, praise God!
We make that demand with our lives, with our joy, with our willingness to get out of bed and come to worship, we tell those around us that if they really understood what it means that Jesus Christ is risen today, if they really understood what it means that we died, and that our new lives are hidden with God, they would be praising God, too. If they really understood that forgiveness of sins is through him, and that they can stop blaming others for everything that goes wrong with their lives, then they would gladly come and accept that freedom from the effects of sin that the Easter news brings.
Christianity is demanding. The news of the death and resurrection of the man who is God, Christ Jesus, demands a response. Is he my Lord or not? Is he risen for me or not? Am I willing to give up the right to be my own god, and to become a follower?
We are commanded and we obey. We are not commanded to sacrifice our firstborn son like Abraham and Isaac, no, God our Father did that himself.
We are not commanded to keep hundreds of commandments and laws in order to get close to God and remain right with him, no that was the imperfect Old Testament system, that could never bring salvation.
We are not commanded to pray 5 times a day, in order to try and be sure that our God is pleased with us, and to keep lots of dietary requirements and ritual washing.
We are not commanded to visit a certain amount of houses every month, lest we have a black mark put against our name, or be thrown out of our group, never to be spoken of again by our families.
We are not commanded, in fact, to do anything scary, or sad, or painful.
The nature of the commands that we are given to follow and the nature of these other religions speaks volumes about the difference between Christianity and every other belief system the world has ever known.
So What were the two commands over this Holy week and Easter?
Love one another. This was the command after which Maundy Thursday was named, and today we hear that we are to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead.
It’s not so hard, is it? Love one another, and testify with your lives, with your easter joy and with your lives that Jesus Christ is risen.
All of you, Praise the Lord! All of you, by being Easter people, preach to the people, and testify that Jesus is the one whom God appointed judge of the living and the dead.
All of you, Praise God.
For he is risen!