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Easter Message by Pastor Bruce Ray

 

During this shelter in place, it is hard to keep track of what day it is. Thank God for Sundays. It has become my touchstone. It keeps me oriented. And it is good to be with you this Sunday—Christ is risen! Amen?

Have you ever wondered why the resurrection happened on Sunday and not on a Tuesday? Or a Wednesday?  I believe God chose Sunday on purpose.

In God’s seven-day calendar, the first day of the week is always associated the creation. On the first day of creation, God said, “Let there be Light” and BAM, there was light.

And on the 7th day of creation, God rested. The Sabbath was set apart as a day of rest and enjoyment of creation. It was the end of the cycle. And the number came 7 came to symbolize completion. Interestingly, the first day of the week also became known as the 8th day. The number 8 in Hebrew literally means “fat” or “abundant.” The eighth day was the first of a new series. A “renewal.” And the number 8 came to symbolize regeneration and the renewal of all creation—the beginning of a new series—a new era of fatness and superabundance.

So it is on the first day of the week that the women went to the tomb. This is the first day of God’s new creation, and the 8th day of God’s superabundance. It was as if God said, “Let there be life” and BAM, there was an empty tomb. This is the beginning of God’s new heaven and earth where righteousness and justice dwell. In the book of Revelation, chapter 21, God announces, “the old order of things has passed away… I am making everything new!”

Theologian NT Wright has said: “God’s new world, the future world as God intends it to be—has broken into the present. The world has already been turned upside down. We don’t need to wait until some future time for God to do something to make things right. God has started the process already. It started on Easter Sunday. God has brought the future into the present in the person of Jesus Christ.”

The resurrection is the fulfillment of God’s promised plans for the world—plans to prosper us and not destroy us. Plans to give us a future and a hope. Isn’t that exactly what we need right now? In these time of coronavirus, it doesn’t feel like we have a future—and so many have lost hope. Take heart; rejoice! God is making all things new!

The old order is crumbling. And while everyone—especially our leaders—promise that everything will “go back to normal” sooner than we think, Easter shouts out, “going back to normal” is not the way to survive. The “old order” is the way of death.

To go back to normal is to go back to the old creation marked by oppression and inequality, the haves and the have-nots, domination and abuse. The old order is marked by environmental destruction and violence and hatred and discrimination. The old order is littered with the bodies of sweatshop workers, migrant labor, desperate immigrant, black and brown prisoners. The old order is good for a few, but it is killing the world. We need to let the old order die so God’s new creation can burst forth.

Instead of wishing for the old normal, God invites us to receive God’s new normal. A world that is changed and is life-giving. Many people are imagining that world. One of the most powerful voices is coming from Kitty O’Meara. Her poem, “And the people stayed home” envisions a new future out of the death of the old normal.

 

 

The resurrection is God’s invitation to go forward into a new life—a life that is marked by righteousness—everything in the right order and in right relationships. This is the new order where all share in the abundance of God; where the lion lays down with the lamb; where the chains of injustice are broken; where the slaves are set free; where swords are turned into plowshares; where there is no male or female, slave or free; where love and peace reign.

The resurrection is just the beginning. Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! And you are raised with Christ. You are a new creation in Christ. The old has passed away and the new has come. Today is the beginning of God’s new normal for all of us.

In the words of the old gospel song by Bill Gaither, “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I know he holds the future, and life is worth the living just because he lives.”   Amen.

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