Sermon Details

The Edge of Easter

May 21, 2023
Wabash Avenue Presbyterian Church in Crawfordsville, IN invites you to join us every week for Sunday morning worship. Today's 7th Sunday of Easter service will be led by Pastor John Van Nuys and Liturgist Alex Thomas. Pastor John's sermon title is "The Edge of Easter". Hymns will be led by Jennie Fights. Accompaniment, prelude and postlude will be performed by Alan White and Jim Heinzman. Thank you for joining us remotely.
(12) Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. (13) But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. (14) If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you.

(6) Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. (7) Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.
(8) Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. (9) Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering.

(10) And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. (11) To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.
– 1st Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11

We are Easter people in a Good Friday world. If we, who belong to Christ, follow our Risen Lord and incarnate his way of Life, then we are going to have trouble in a world that is addicted to death. Being in the world, but not being of the world is hard. How else could it be?

In a dog-eat-dog world, to forgive seventy times seven makes no sense. It’s weird. It’s wrong. But it is also the way to stop hate. It’s hard to forgive someone who should not be forgiven. But as we do, we break the chain that keeps us enslaved to wrath, violence, and retribution.

All of Christ’s ways are antithetical to the ways of the world. That should not surprise us. The antithesis of death is life. The opposite of selfishness is selflessness. That’s why so many of Christ’s teachings involve reversal: The first becoming last and the last becoming first. Losing your life in order to save it. Christ’s Easter way intends to roll back, counter, and transform the way the world is and the way we are.

Our old, self-centered nature is never fully displaced. The tyrannical ego still tries to enthrone itself as the ruler of our hearts. That’s why following Christ often involves struggle. In fact, if you are not struggling at least some in following Christ, you’re probably not as fully engaged in that Life as you could be.

If you think about it, the church – the Body of Christ, which is made up of all who believe and seek to follow Christ – is really a resistance movement that is engaged in confronting the powers and principalities that seek to exploit, dominate, and destroy.

In World War II, evil ruled in Germany, but there were countless, courageous Germans who opposed that evil. The wealthy industrialist Oscar Schindler saved hundreds of his factory workers from execution. After their son was killed in combat, a working-class couple Otto and Elise Hampel channeled their grief into action by secretly distributing all across Berlin handwritten cards denouncing the war and urging resistance. Pacifists like the peasant farmer Franz Jagerstatter refused to serve in the army because of their faith. The aristocratic officer Claus von Stauffenberg and others tried to overthrow the government multiple times. Devout Christians, including the dissenting pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, preached against the war, hid fugitives, spied for the Allies, and undermined the German war effort, risking their lives – and often losing them – because they refused to be complicit with evil.

None of us should seek martyrdom, but all of us should be willing to stand up and be counted: When someone is being bullied at school; when a coworker is being unfairly treated; when someone who is different is marginalized; when we see someone falling through the cracks.

Our action, our faith, our love makes a difference. When we extend ourselves in faith to act, we are really extending Easter. By grace, we are incarnating Easter. We become the living edge of Christ’s Easter Kingdom of love, justice, and peace. In Christ and by the Spirit, we become the channel through which a higher set of values is born/borne on Easter’s advancing edge. Being on that edge is often costly. We should never underestimate the cost. But we should never underestimate as well the joy.

Case in point: The refugee family we just resettled. Seven, small local churches teamed up to do what none of us could do separately: We helped a family out of hell. Fleeing a war zone, they arrived with nothing. They lost everything. But you, the Church, welcomed, shared, and helped them create a new life. You loved them into life. Resurrection happened thanks to God and you. It was not easy, but it was good. Getting to know this family has blessed us all. Their joy has brought us joy. Their healing has brought us healing. Their resurrection has resurrected us.

Deep joy can be found when we live out the often-demanding, counter-cultural, Easter ways of Christ. Yes, doing what is right is difficult. Sacrificial generosity is costly. Genuine love takes it out of you – but it also puts something back into you, too: And that something is Life – the best life of all.

Don’t just wait for eternal Life to start when you get to heaven. You can have that Life now. Give yourself away in love. Love everyone as Christ loves us all. Despite the cost, join the resistance. Share Resurrection. Be part of the avant-garde of God’s Easter order. Make Easter come alive today.

In reading this, your heart may be stirred. What you’re feeling is the Holy Spirit drawing you to Christ. To begin or renew a relationship with Jesus, just pray:

“Lord, help me receive your love. I regret the wrong I’ve done. Forgive me. Jesus, I believe you are God’s Son and the Savior of the world. Be my Savior. Save me from myself. Save me for yourself. Enter my heart. Fill me with your Holy Spirit. Help me to serve you faithfully and well. Help me to love as you love. Lead me in your Way, Truth, and Life now and forever. Continue to show me who you are and who I am in you. Amen.”

If you pray this prayer, contact a pastor. They’ll show you how to live for Christ with purpose, peace, and joy. Jesus says: “Behold, I make all things new.” That definitely includes YOU!