Sermon for the Third Sunday of Easter

Micah 4:1-5; Luke 24:36-49

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” Micah here looks forward to the Age to Come, the transformed creation filled with the light of God where we learn from and follow God in peace and living in perfect love, our weapons transformed into farming implements, tools of nurture and creation rather than war.

Humanity, of course, has not learned the lesson. War rages still, and though we Americans rarely see the effects, the wounds fester elsewhere; our selfish greed still drives our exploitation of other people, whether directly or indirectly; our pride tears us from each other, as we react with anger and resentment towards others. 

There are, of course, a number of ways humans have tried to resolve this problem on our own. One of my favorite fictional takes on this is the 1953 science fiction novel by Arthur C. Clarke, Childhood’s End, which has been on my mind recently. In the novel, earth is visited by extraterrestials known as the Overlords, who enforce peace on humanity. They do this with their extremely further advanced technology in order to help humanity prepare ourselves for the next step in evolution, to be received into a greater reality. However, the only way it can happen is if we stop being so petty, violent, and evil. The most fascinating part of the book, however, is the explicitly Christian symbolism and ideas used, but as scientifically explained, as if it all comes from some inherited memory. We are taught, so to speak, by the Overlords, in a very recognizable form that I won’t spoil, and taught to be at peace, to stop striving against each other, and to welcome the future that awaits us.

Yet, as you might expect, it is a deeply unsatisfying story, one that ends in a way that is somehow both horrifying and sad, even as from another perspective might be seen as encouraging or aspirational, because at least it gives us some kind of purpose, meager though it may be for us. Either way, it recognizes one thing that is true: In order to achieve paradise, help must come from above. Or, put another, Christian way, Jesus Christ embodies God’s purposes for humanity.

Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, is the culmination of God’s purposes to save humanity from sin and death. He is God and Man, two distinct natures united in one person. As John puts it in his first letter, We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us.” The life of God, eternal, self-sustaining, never-ending and unquenchable, did not come to us merely as a word from the sky, or an illusion, but as a person, touchable, audible, visual; as in Luke, even in his risen state, Jesus says, Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see, for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” The eternal God the Son, in a manner too mystical and intellectually transcendent to reduce to mere formula, is also the enfleshed man, Jesus, once dead but now resurrected.

What is clear from these passages, however, is that it is not merely a divine play, but that Jesus Christ is the means by which the mystery of human life makes sense. This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all…if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” God is light, that which by all else is illuminated. When we are in the dark, stumbling, searching, panic perched close to consume us, we look for the nearest source of light in order to escape the darkness. And Jesus is that light, and when found, we can’t but walk in the path of Jesus, taking the path of self-sacrificial love that only makes sense if what Jesus Christ teaches us is true.

It is easy for us to be blind to this. The allure of success, wealth, power, or at the very least, security and comfort, color our expectations and can make it difficult to see the utter emptiness of them, like taking a pumpkin that looks bright and fresh on the outside but once cracked open reveals a squishy rot. That is why Jesus, following the resurrection, needs to explain it to the disciples: These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures,” as Luke records, and what do those scriptures teach according to Jesus? That he is “to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations,” in defiance to human expectation. 

This, as 1 Timothy would have, is the “mystery of godliness: He was revealed in flesh, vindicated in spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among gentiles, believed in throughout the world, taken up in glory.” The same God who transcends creation itself and exists by his own will, is the God who took on flesh in one individual human male, and through death, resurrection, and ascension accomplished the raising of us all from the dead in the Age to come. And that Age, while we wait for its completion, is here now.

Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord…that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths” Micah says; “if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin,” John teaches. According to Luke, Jesus says, You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised, so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” The new Age has begun, God in the person of Jesus Christ has taught us the way, the way of following him, of advocating for implements of life rather than death, of rejecting war and rather to enjoy God’s gifts to us and to fear no more, and he has sent the Spirit promised in Luke in order to accomplish that within us. By God’s power we can walk in the light, confess our sins, and be cleansed from that sin and able to walk in self-sacrificial love. It is, from beginning to end, the work of God in us, Jesus Christ embodying God’s purposes for humanity in himself, accomplishing salvation and calling us to walk in the light even now, that the Age envisioned by Micah can be present in and through us by the power of the Spirit. As we await the culmination of God’s plan in all the world, we proclaim him through our words and through our lives, revealing the Age to come even now. Amen.

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