Love Lives: Easter Sunday
As we celebrate Easter, we also begin a new message series. As a parish we take a topic and, over a series of weeks, delve into that topic. The series we are starting today is called Love Lives.
I know something about you. You want to be a person that truly loves the people in your life. You want the people in your life to feel the love you have for them.
This is why you put forth effort to spend time with them, get together with them. Maybe you express love by buying gifts for them, or you show your love by giving words of encouragement and affirmation.
You may express love through service. When something needs to be done around the office or you have a friend in need, you are right there. You spend hours in the kitchen cooking because that’s the way you love your family. You work hard to serve your family, so your children have good things while you provide a high quality of living.
If you are married, you want to love your spouse. If you are a parent, you want your kids to know and feel that you love them. You want your parents to know you love them. If you have siblings, you want them to know you love them.
Whoever you are, and wherever you are from, you are probably someone who wants to love the people around you.
Here’s something else I know about you. You don’t always love the people around you as much as you want. Even though you have a desire to express love for the people you love, you often fall short.
While you want to love your spouse, you wind up doing what is better for you. Rather than giving the time you want to give or saying encouraging words, you wind up spending time apart or saying critical things at the wrong times.
You want your children to feel your love for them, but more often than you like, you find yourself yelling at them or being critical of them.
You want to serve your friends, but when there are opportunities to serve them or sacrifice for them, you don’t do it.
We fall short of our desires to love people. We want to do better. If that describes you then you picked the perfect weekend to come to Church. Easter is all about accessing the power to love better.
We see this in the first bible reading we heard today from Acts of the Apostles. Acts of the Apostles tells the story of the early Christian Church. It shows how Jesus established the Church to be a movement of God’s love in the world. This movement shattered the idea God’s love is only for certain groups of people. They shattered the idea God’s love is for a certain nationality, or for religious people, or church people, or good people.
The movement shattered the idea God’s love is dependent upon our actions or behaviors. It shattered the idea God loves you when you do good, but doesn’t love you if you do wrong.
Crowds of people would come to hear Jesus teach. Wherever he went Jesus drew people toward him like a rock star. The people who knew Jesus, knew he was powerful. His power went way beyond physical power, there was a spiritual power. It was a power that seemed to come from deep within him, that came from who he was.
Jesus was, and is, love in action. He brought power to stand up for the lowly, and he defended them. He had a power and ability to develop relationships with people who were unconnected to God. He had a power that enabled him to feed thousands of people with simply five loaves and two fish.
Through his power, Jesus lovingly challenged people to get rid of self-defeating behaviors. He healed people who were sick. He made the blind see and the deaf hear. He gave a paralytic the ability to walk and a mute boy the ability to speak. The Bible tells us Jesus spent entire days healing people. In a world of hurt, Jesus brought healing to many, many people.
Everytime you see Jesus in the Bible, you see love in action. Sometimes his love is kind, sometimes his love is gentle, and sometimes his love is fierce and challenging. But every time you see Jesus, you see love in action.
Maybe we assume, since Jesus was love in action, everyone would have positive feelings for him because if someone loves others, does good, and brings healing to a broken world, that person will be accepted and loved by all, right?
Unfortunately, that’s not the way this world works. We live in a sin-stained world where justice is not always done. We live in a world where good things happen to bad people, and bad things happen to good people.
You can do good, and people might not like you. You can do good, and people will criticize you. This is what happened to Jesus. He acted with perfect love, and what did he get as a result? THEY put him to death.
Who are THEY? They were the religious leaders, and the Roman political leaders, as well as a mob of Jesus’ people. The leaders were threatened by Jesus. They were threatened by his teaching and by his good works, his popularity. They were jealous and envious of him.
They killed Jesus by nailing him to a cross. Jesus loved, and the payment he received was to die by the most agonizing death possible. Jesus loved others, and his payment were nails that pierced his hands and feet.
It looked like love had died; love had failed. Darkness celebrated as though love had lost. It looked as if love was powerless against the forces of darkness.
That’s the way this world often appears. It seems darkness and death defeat light and life. We see unnecessary terrorism and violence. We witness acts of poverty and injustice. It all seems so hopeless.
That’s the way those who followed Jesus felt the day he died. They were crushed because they put their hope in him for a better world, and when he died, their hopes and dreams were dashed. It looked like love had lost.
But. . . then — something — happened – something that no one expected.
Jesus didn’t stay dead! Jesus conquered death. On Easter Sunday, Jesus emerged from the grave victorious over sin, death, darkness, hatred, jealousy and violence! On Good Friday all these things seemed to have won, but three days later, on Easter Sunday, Jesus came out of the tomb! He, who is love in action, could not be defeated or kept down!
Easter Sunday is the celebration that love lives! God is love, and he lives. It is the celebration that love and light are greater than death and darkness.
Furthermore, it is a celebration that the same power that gave Jesus the ability to love others is available to you. Through a relationship with Jesus Christ you can access the power to love the people around you the way you really want to love them.
We don’t love people through our effort, but by the power of God’s love living inside of us. We can access that power. And that’s what this series is all about.
So I ask you to take two action steps, especially if you are new, or if this is your first time in church in a long time, or first time ever. First, commit to join us in this series. Over the next few weeks we are going to look at how we can access the power to love the people in our lives the way we desperately want to love them. The answer is to let God’s power flow through us in a relationship with Jesus Christ.
The second action will take place in just a moment. Every Easter Sunday we return to an ancient tradition. Those baptized are invited to renew the promises of their baptism. If you’re not baptized, you can participate. You certainly don’t have to, but you’re welcome to. It’s a way of recommitting, or committing for the very first time to a loving relationship with the living Lord. It is a way to connect to Jesus and his power to love people the way you want to love. You are welcome to sit this one out, no guilt, no pressure, no dirty looks. But if you do decide to stand and recommit, it might give you a new perspective.
You see. . ., the promise of Easter is the promise that love lives! And because love lives in the person of Jesus Christ, and because he lives, everyone — connected — to –Jesus — lives –forever.