Sermon April 1, 2018 (Easter Sunday)
Do Not Be Afraid
Do you like gardening or keeping potted plants? Unfortunately, I grew up not appreciating it. Whenever my mother asked me, “Did you see how my flowers bloomed?” I would go, “Huh? What flowers?” She was disappointed that I didn’t pay attention to her plants. But since I moved to Kimberley, I discovered the joy of keeping plants and seeing them prosper. I also experienced my plants almost die and then come back to life. It was an exhilarating experience. But what about people? Have you seen a sick person’s colourless face come back alive? How about someone who hit rock bottom, then bounced back? Now they look healthier and happier. If you stop and think about it, this kind of “coming back to life” moments happen more often than not. And sometimes, even someone who has been dead for a little while can be brought back to life, although maybe not for several days later.
We are celebrating Easter today; we heard the story of Jesus’ resurrection and witnessed a child being reborn in Christ through the sacrament of baptism. The story of the Son of God rising from death after three days may seem far-fetched and ridiculous. You don’t HAVE TO believe that this is what historically happened two thousand years ago. What we should hear from this story is the message of hope that the Easter story brings us. In the biblical stories, especially the gospel stories, we can find people like us whose lives are full of ups and downs, despair and hope for a better future, and putting their trust in God even in suffering. Now think about this; your people have been under foreign occupations for several hundred years. You have serious theological questions about why God’s chosen people suffer so much. Even within your own country, you don’t have much privilege and your religious leaders call you a sinner because you can’t afford to offer all the sacrifices according to the Law of Moses or because you have a medical condition that is considered unclean according to the Law. Then came a man who definitely looks like God’s chosen one. You followed him because you thought he would free your people from the Roman Empire, but he was captured and executed as a traitor. He who performed all those miracles could not or would not fight back; he just accepted his death like a little lamb. Now you think it’s over. You are scared for your life too. Then comes your teacher, alive again, and you realize that his death was not the end. His story, your story, is not a tragedy after all.
The risen Christ stood among the first disciples, giving them comfort and courage. They received the courage to pull themselves together and continue the ministry that Jesus started. We also go through ups and downs, joy, fear, and despair. The gospel story, the Easter story, teaches us that our trials and sufferings don’t last forever. We are in the presence of the risen Christ who appeared to his first disciples full of fear. Just like the first disciples, we need not fear the events of our lives. We live in companionship with the God who raised Jesus from death and turned the miserable bunch of the scared disciples into the apostles of the gospel of Jesus.
Therefore, let us hear the message from the empty tomb; “Do not be afraid.” When we think all is lost, a messenger of God tells us not to be afraid because our Lord conquered death. God who raised up our teacher Jesus, wouldn’t this God help us through our life’s troubles and bring us relief? Sometimes it is difficult to have faith. There are tragedies and traumas in our world or in our lives that make us feel that we don’t have the strength to keep our faith and trust in God. But in any of our life circumstances, I hope that we will be able to remember the Easter story and hear God’s message, “Do not be afraid.” So, let us not be afraid. We belong to God, who loves us and chose us, and who raised Jesus from death. Let us be hopeful and joyful. And like Mary Magdalene, let us go out and spread the Easter hope to those in our world who despair.
Rev. Sunny Kim