Rev. Dr. Merritt's Easter Sermon 2012
“We Have Seen the LORD”
Rev. Dr. Jim Merritt
Easter Sunday 2012
Jesus is Risen – HE IS RISEN INDEED.
Would you pray with me? God, we are amazed by the work of your hands and so we come again to honor you, to lift you up and to learn from you. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be pleasing and acceptable to you this day; in Jesus’ name we pray. AMEN.
The book of Isaiah really is a compilation of three books. Chapters 1 – 39 are First Isaiah, chapters 40 – 55 are Second Isaiah and chapters 56 – 66 are Third Isaiah. First Isaiah contains oracles of judgment and both second and third Isaiah contain oracles of salvation. So notice with me the uniqueness of this reading from first Isaiah, which sounds very much like an oracle of salvation. Notice the last section of the reading with me. “Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of the people and will take away from all the earth, for YHWH has spoken. It will be said on that day, Lo, (we might say “YO”) this is our God; for whom we have waited, so that we might be saved. This is (YHWH)the Lord for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in God’s salvation. For the hand of God will rest on this mountain.” So, I want to say to all of you this morning, let us be glad! Let us rejoice in God’s salvation! We have seen the LORD high and lifted up sitting on the throne of a new heaven and a new earth that has now overcome death and the grave and has risen from the dead and furthermore lives in the lives and in the minds and in the hearts of the chosen people of God. My sisters and brothers, that means you this morning! The divine presence of God is not only with you, but it is also in you. Now let me assure you of something and those who just finished the Isaiah class with me will verify for you; the children of Israel knew about suffering. And right here in the middle of a section known for its judgment, the prophet tells them to rejoice. Rejoice in suffering. Why: because God is with you. Rejoice in times of trial. Why: because God is with you. Rejoice in times of blessing. Why: because the most high God, YHWH IS WITH YOU. You know this today because we have seen the LORD.
Just one more point about the Isaiah reading; hear this. The words that we find just a little earlier in the reading are great encouragement for us. “Then God will wipe away every tear.” Let me be very clear; I do not mean to glorify suffering which is no fun whatsoever. What I do mean to suggest is that during times of suffering we have the opportunity to lean more and more on God. And in that moment when we see the LORD, YHWH God is going to lift us up one good time. God is going to wipe away our tears, and just like God did with the people of Israel, God is going to bring about that promised land for which all of us have been waiting. Why: because we have seen the LORD.
Imagine Mary coming early on a Sunday morning to visit the place where Jesus was buried. You’ve been there. Many of us go to visit the burial places of our loved ones. For me it always brings about a sense of anxiety. Will the space be overrun with weeds? Will the flowers I left last time still be there? Will the headstone be upright or will it be leaning again? Worst of all, will somebody have done something to the grave? So Mary enters the space and immediately experiences what some of us fear, the tombstone had been moved. “Oh my goodness,” she must have thought, “Who could have done this? “ “WHY?” She ran quickly back and brought her friends with her, fearing that someone had taken Jesus’ body. Peter arrived first and did not go in, but saw Jesus’ clothes lying there. “Why did they take off his clothes,” he must have wondered. Then Simon Peter went in, followed by the other Peter and they notice that not only were his clothes lying there, but that the head piece was folded and lying in another place. What could this mean? They did not yet understand and they went home.
Mary was left standing alone outside the tomb crying. I’m reminded of the many times women are left standing alone in times of difficulty. You may remember with me that scene from the movie Steel Magnolias where the young daughter is dying in the hospital. First one, then another and ultimately her father said his goodbyes and left the room. Finally the only one left holding that precious child’s hand when she died was her mother. Mary was there when Jesus died, crying, weeping, mourning, and now she stand crying again. “What have they done to him NOW,” she must have wondered.
Then a stranger approached and asked what was going on and she told him. Crying and weeping she explained the situation to him. He took it all in and then I see him gently placing his hand on Mary’s arm. He spoke in a voice both gentle and firm, “Mary.” And suddenly she knew she was in the presence of Jesus. Mary had seen the Lord. She ran, really ran as fast as her legs would move and began singing and shouting to everyone around here, “I HAVE SEEN THE LORD.”
Now here’s the bottom line for this morning. Open your ears and hear it. Just like Jesus spoke to Mary on Easter morning, Jesus is speaking to you this morning. (names)…and you are seeing Jesus. What will you do with him? Whom will you tell? Henry Knox Sherrill, for whom the library at Episcopal Divinity School is named says this, “ The joyful news that He is risen does not change the contemporary world. Still before us lie work, disciple (and) sacrifice. But the fact of Easter gives us the spiritual power to do the work, accept the disciple, and make the sacrifice.” We are called to become the hands, the feet, the voice of Jesus in our world.
Finally, I love the words to the song that says, “I've just seen Jesus. I tell you he's alive. I've just seen jesus, our precious lord alive. And I know, he really saw me too, as if till now, I'd never lived. All that I'd done before won't matter anymore. I've just seen Jesus, and I'll never be the same again!”
Sisters and brothers, JESUS IS RISEN. HE IS RISEN INDEED.
O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you, I will praise your name; for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure. For you have made the city a heap, the fortified city a ruin; the palace of aliens is a city no more, it will never be rebuilt. Therefore strong peoples will glorify you; cities of ruthless nations will fear you. For you have been a refuge to the poor, a refuge to the needy in their distress, a shelter from the rainstorm and a shade from the heat. When the blast of the ruthless was like a winter rainstorm, the noise of aliens like heat in a dry place, you subdued the heat with the shade of clouds; the song of the ruthless was stilled. On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. And God will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever. Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of the people and will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. It will be said on that day, Lo, this is our God; for whom we have waited, so that we might be saved. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in God’s salvation. For the hand of the Lord will rest on this mountain.
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes. But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Parent and yours, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.