April 16, 2017 sermon (Easter Sunday)
Colossians 3:1-4/ Matthew 28:1-10
Pass It On!
A lot of years ago I came upon a movie titled Pay It Forward. It was the first time I had ever heard of the idiom “pay it forward”. I understand that “pay it forward” is in a way the opposite of “pay it back”. You do something good for someone, and instead of paying you back for your kindness, that person does something good for someone else. It becomes a chain reaction of good deeds and the kind spirit spreads wider and wider. It’s like when I was studying to be a teacher in Fredericton; one spring, there was a bad flu going around and little by little, probably more than half of the Frederictonians got infected, including yours truly. Cold and flu are contagious in a bad way, of course, but good things are contagious too; kind spirit, positive energy, happiness, laughter, and so on. When we “pay it forward”, good deeds get contagious, and it inspires others to do the same. More and more people do good deeds, and more people become happy.
Speaking of spreading stuff, whether good stuff or bad, we have reached the climax of the gospel story and of the Christian Year. As we all know, the Christian Church spread all over the world through the followers of Jesus who traveled far to spread the gospel of Jesus. It all started with the frightened disciples, the empty tomb and the messenger of God, and the resurrected Jesus who showed up to his disciples. The resurrection of Jesus and the Holy Spirit they received, the disciples received courage to keep on preaching the gospel, healing and helping people.
In today’s gospel text, some women came to Jesus’ tomb. It doesn’t say in Matthew’s gospel why they went, but according to Mark and Luke, they went to anoint the dead body, which was the custom. Blah blah blah, we are familiar with the story, so I won’t repeat it; but I would like to draw your attention to one particular part of this story. When Jesus met these women, he said “Do not be afraid.” Actually, before they met Jesus, when they first came to the tomb, the messenger of God said the same thing; “Do not be afraid.” This is the message from the resurrected Christ; “Do not be afraid.” Both Luke and John’s accounts of the resurrection story testify that the disciples were scared when the risen Christ came to visit them. According to John, this is also when Jesus breathed on them and gave them the Holy Spirit. Luke’s account doesn’t include the Holy Spirit because for Luke’s author, it happens on Pentecost when the Holy Spirit comes down like tongues of fire on the disciples gathered in Jerusalem in the Acts of the Apostles. Footnote; Luke’s gospel and the Acts of the Apostles are generally thought to have been written by the same author.
The point is, resurrected Jesus came to his scared disciples, gave them peace and courage to continue the mission, the ministry that he started before his death. That was a preview for the Season of Easter that will continue for the next seven weeks. The spiritual movement that Jesus started, which is called the Jesus movement, is like paying it forward. The gospel message, the unconditional love of God taught by Jesus, his proclamation of God’s kingdom where love, compassion and justice for the marginalized rule, are meant to be spread and passed on. The love of God embodied in the followers of Jesus are meant to be contagious.
Through resurrection, Jesus received a new life, life eternal as our Christ. Through the resurrection of Christ, we the disciples also received a new life. This new life is portrayed in the Colossians text we read today; we have been raised with Christ. We have died, and our life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life is revealed, then we also will be revealed with him in glory. I paraphrased what we have read. Think of the baptism. Through baptism, we let our old self die and we are reborn in Christ. What we read in Colossians today connects to the meaning of baptism. Now that we follow Jesus, we should only live in Christ. We strive to follow Jesus in thoughts, words, and actions. We cannot claim to follow one leader and then demonstrate the values of another leader, now can we? What we believe and do should be in sync with Jesus. If we have received a new life, a life eternal through our Christ Jesus, we should follow the example of the human Jesus by bringing new life to people of our world. During my sermon about the living water, I mentioned that we whose thirst has been quenched should in turn quench the thirst of our neighbours. Today I am telling you that we, who have been given a new life, should in turn bring life to people of our world. Recently I have been disturbed to hear a lot of stories about different groups of people being persecuted and killed; people in Syria, gay men being persecuted and killed in Chechnya, trans people whose basic human rights are being violated in pubic bathrooms, First Nations people whose rights to their ancestral land are violated, immigrants who are being harassed, discriminated against, and deported, and the list goes on.
Disciples of Jesus, we have received a new life in Christ through the resurrection of Jesus, and through our baptism and commitment to God. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, our fear is dispelled and we received the courage to boldly live in Christ. As people of God who received a new life in Christ, let us celebrate Easter by bringing a new life to our world. This is a life guided by the principles of God’s kingdom that we learned from Jesus; unconditional love, compassion, and justice. This is what the author of Colossians meant when he said, “If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above.” Let us remember and act for the marginalized and suffering people of our world. Let us get out there and seek the values of God’s kingdom and live by those values. Blessed Easter!
Rev. Sunny Kim