The Rev. Ian Emile Dunn
Death has Died
A Homily for Easter Sunday
All Saints Anglican Church, Prescott, AZ
April 21, 2019
Text: Colossians 3:1-4
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen in deed! Alleluia!
This past week, I read a quote from a well known Christian teacher. I honestly cannot remember who it was, but he was referencing the resurrection. He said “watergate convinced me of the resurrection.” “How is that?” He was asked “well, after the resurrection, twelve men went out preaching Christ raised from the dead, and almost all of them went to a grisly death, meanwhile with Watergate, 12 men couldn’t keep a lie straight for a week. The apostles weren’t very likely to have persisted, and been martyred for a lie.”
The calling of the disciples to take up our cross and follow Christ, to set our minds on the things above, even if it meant their death, was driven home yet again today as news broke about a series of church bombings in Sri Lanka. As Christians gathered to worship their risen Lord, someone set evil in their heart to shatter our fellow Christians’ peace. This morning as those lives were taken more men and women were added to the noble army of the martyrs who now get to sing the eternal praise to God, and witness to us our calling to take up our crosses and follow Christ, to leave behind the things of the world and be ever eternally focused.
For the Christian, it is not merely enough to come to church on Sunday, though this is good, but it requires a total commitment of life – sacrificing to God your thoughts, your words, and your deeds. Giving up ourselves for the sake of the Christ – so that when the end comes, it may be sad for those around us to say good-bye but for us, it is a joy to enter into our truest of lives. Our lives made possible by the death and resurrection of Christ.
For this is what it means to be raised with Christ – that we would forsake the things of the world, that we would leave behind our wickedness, our vices, leave behind immorality, our selfishness, pride, and vanity and cling tightly to our Lord, who is our savior. Not only leave it behind, but pursue the gifts of the spirit, pursue Christ, seeking him in fellowship, in the reading of the word, in prayer, and in the sacraments of life. For in these things we meet Christ and he sustains us in the race that we are running.
But in Saint Paul’s writings we find that there is a recurring theme, for the human condition is tarnished by the first sin of Adam, and we like Adam, too often desire that which we know is not good for our souls, that which is not good for us and leads to our death – spiritual and physical. But like Adam and Eve, we hear the devil tempting us, “ahh, but surely you won’t die, surely God won’t mind if your forsake His good gifts and his holiness for this little thing.” And we like Adam, go for that which has been forbidden. We, like Adam, stutter and fall, we, like Adam, choose the thing that leads to our deaths.
But this is the good news of Good Friday, and Easter Sunday, for we must have both – Christ died in place of us, Christ died so that we might live, but He not only died – but he rose again, that in that we too would be risen. So, if we are risen in Christ we are called to seek the things above.
All together, too often we end up focusing on the things that are not eternal, the things that rust and fade. We worry about our earthly security, forsaking our eternal security, we worry about what we possess, or who we possess, not about being held by Christ, we worry about who our friends are, what our position is, what others will think of us, not about dwelling more deeply in the one who set us free from our sin, and draws us deeper into the Lord our God, the one who when we dwell in Him holds tightly to us. For if we are in Him, He is us and we are His.
Yet – if we cling too tightly to this life, cling too tightly to the things of the world, we will find that we no longer have life – but like Adam we will meet death. So – we are called to focus heavenward. We are called to cling tight to God and be secure in Him. It has been said – when we focus on the earthly, we will not find what we are looking for – but when we focus on the things of eternity – the things of Christ – then we will have all we are looking for. So, dear friends – forsake the things of earth, forsake the things that would distract you from Christ and turn your eyes upon Jesus, and seek those things that are above.
For it is there, in heaven when Christ is seated. In one of our readings this year in the Tridium, (the days leading up to Easter Sunday), we read from Hebrews and were reminded that Christ is the perfect sacrifice, and not only that that he is in the eternal holy of holies, seated with God, merely because it is his rightful place, but because he is there to be our great high priest. He is there to make petitions for us.
Friends, think on this for a second. Life can be hard, life can be painful, life can be beautiful, life can be good, but no mater where we are – Christ Jesus the one who died for our sins, and was risen again is now in heaven making petitions for us. We have direct access to God because God the Son became incarnate and walked among us, died for our sins, rose, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father. He is seated there, and hear’s our prayers and places them before the Father, not as paltry words of feeble minded beings – but as living sacrifices. Our prayers are sacrifices to God that are sweet smelling and given Him joy.
So in our Joy and in our anger, in our gladness of heart and in our heartbreak, in our repentance from the heaviness of our sin, and in our pursuit of Holiness we give to God our prayers, we give to God all our heart and He is delighted. For there we have an intercessor who will not fail us. What good news this is! This is, really the Easter promise. Let us rejoice in that.
Let us not only seek the things that are above but set our minds upon them – there is a difference here – for first we must seek them out, we must look for them as one would look for treasure for they are the greatest treasure, but then once we find them, we do not stuff the treasures, the things of heaven into our sock drawer, to be forgotten about. Do not set them aside for a rainy day, but we set our minds upon them. Let them permeate every aspect of our minds until our minds are solely set upon Christ.
We have already discussed this – but it bears saying it again – it is easy for the things of the world to become distracting – it is easy for us to be tempted like Adam to let our minds wander. But in this the saint calls us to repentance – calls us back again, and again – set your mind on the things of heaven, not of earth, and in this respect it is good to be singleminded. It is good to be so deeply focused on the jewels and gems we find in Christ that all else fades away. Let it be so for us.
Death, my friends is a scary thing – but the Christian is called to death. The Christian is called to put away his or her old self and put on their new self in Christ. For we are reminded of this – time and again through out the year, and the liturgy – die to self, be buried in Christ. Yes, the first death will come for all of us, unless Christ come to retrieve us first, yes death will snuff out our breaths, and we will be laid in the ground, but my friends – death is not the end, and death is no longer permitted to be proud – death is no longer mighty for Christ died and in that Christ over came death, in Christ – death is defeated.
So for the Christian, we are called to die, we are called to put on Christ’s death, we are called to lay aside every earthly care, and hang it upon the cross with Christ, we are called to be buried with Him, so that when he comes again to raise the living and the dead we may be found there waiting for Him.
Friends – this is why the Christian funeral, though sad to say good-bye to an old friend – is not observed in the sorrowful color of purple or black but celebrated in white, because – we know that we go on to eternal life. We know that Christ is the resurrection and the life and we know that our brother or sister that has left us is gone on to be truly alive, they have finished their race, and now they rest eternally in the God who saves, and redeems.
This my friends is the Easter promise – this is the amazing and good news, that when we die in Christ we are made alive, so that deaths sting no longer holds a power over us. So that death dies, and we live. Let us rejoice in this good news, let our hearts be glad, let us live lives intently focused on heaven, in order that we might glorify God forever.
For then being bound with Christ we are raised with him, and we dwell in His glory for eternity. Too often, we want the glory for ourselves, we want to glory in our own accomplishments, we want the show to be all about us. For the pastor this is often one of the biggest temptations that we struggle with. We want praise for our service to the Lord – but the Lord calls us to point back to Him. Calls not only the pastor but all Christians to do good works and then point to our Father in heaven, and say “look what good thing the Lord has done.”
It costs us nothing to glorify God, but in glorifying God we enjoy His glory all the more. Think of it this way – when someone we love does a good work, and is rewarded for it. It costs us nothing – but gives us all the greater joy to delight in their good work, to delight in the reward that they have been given. What a great joy it is! What a greater joy it is to constantly be delighting in the good works of the Father than He is doing through us and around us.
Too often we think of an eternity with God as becoming mundane, but, I think this is a mistake. I can imagine no greater thing that basking in His eternity. Friends, life can beat us up and be hard, we may be called, as the apostles were, and our brothers and sisters in Sri Lanka were this morning to lay down our lives, to give them up completely for Christ’s sake but let us remember that where we are going – is the place of eternal joy, the place of dwelling in the presence of the Lord forever, the place where the pains and strife of this world are finally over.
We do not earn this – but it is God’s grace that draws us out of death, that draws us away from our sinful affections, that draws us deeper and deeper into His presence. So, let us now forsake the things of the world, forsake the things that lead to death, and turn our eyes back to the things of heaven. Seek them, and set them as our focus one focus. For Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again.
This ancient song of praise is the Easter promise, the good news that we let rest with joy in our hearts – it is this that we look forward to. As we go to the feast of the Lamb, to break the bread that is His body, and drink the wine that is His blood, broken and shed for our lives, and then go from here strengthened in His word, and His sacrament – let our focus be on Christ – that our lives may be lived out as a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to Him, and that we may draw all people not to ourselves, but to our savior who lives.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed!
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Amen.