JESUS CHRIST IS RISEN! …
So what are you waiting for? Don’t get me wrong; I understand how comfortable; how pleasant it is to just come to church each Sunday morning and sing, pray, and fellowship with one another. I know how attractive it is to think of the entirety of the hardships of your Christian walk in terms of what you put in the offering plate and the effort it takes to stay awake through the sermon, but this is not what it means to be a member of the Body of Christ, and this is not what our Lord died for. So, what are you waiting for?
This Sunday, we have a confluence of four significant events, each of them is important for us to acknowledge. One week ago commencement was held at South Dakota State University, and one week from now commencement will be held at Deubrook High School. Both of these days serve as important moments of transition in the lives of young men and women. These are the moments where we acknowledge the completion of preparation for living one’s life as an adult and the commencement of that life. For many – if not most – young men and women, this moment creates a sense internal conflict where one experiences both excitement and apprehension in equal measure. And where is the source of this conflict? In a word, Mothers.
Today we also celebrate Mother’s Day. And I think it is important for us to acknowledge on this day just how Mothers have made this moment of transition for each of us so difficult. How, you might ask? By just being Mom. You see mothers care for us; mothers nurture us; mothers protect us and defend us; mothers raise us up in the way we should go. Now, when we are children and are looking forward to being grown and going out into the world, we see our mothers as constraining us; as limiting us; as holding us back. So as that moment of commencement approaches, so does our excitement at finally being free of our mothers restraining hand and running free into our life ahead. But when the moment comes, so does the realization of the burdens and responsibly that go with it. We realize just what our mothers had been doing for us all that time and we’re not all that sure we want it to stop. How much easier it would be to just go home and let mom take care of you. But the title mother does not mean servant and your mother did not carry you and give birth to you; did not feed you and care for you; did not nurture, protect and defend you throughout your childhood just so you could stay at home and let her continue caring for you. No, your mother’s divine stewardship of your childhood was given to her by God for a purpose. Your mother was given to you and you were entrusted to her so that she might raise you up and prepare you to go out into the world equipped to face the world and in your time to raise up the next generation to follow you. So at the moment of commencement you feel the excitement at the anticipation of the life for which you have been preparing and have been prepared, while at the same time you feel the apprehension of facing that life ahead without the nurturing and protection of your mother.
Today is also Ascension Sunday and this moment acknowledges this same crisis of commencement for the Body of Christ. Traditionally the church considers next Sunday – Pentecost – as celebrating the beginning of the Church (with the coming of the Holy Spirit). But I’m not so sure that we’re right. If we are looking for the moment when the Church commenced, the ascension of our Lord feels more right. At Pentecost the Body of Christ was baptized with fire from the Holy Spirit; the Body of Christ was clothed in power by the Holy Spirit and went forth in that power proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ. But that just doesn’t feel like commencement to me. But at the ascension of our Lord, Jesus commissioned them as His apostles (His sent ones) and then ascended to the Father – His work finished. It is this moment when the Body of Christ commenced. Though feeling weak and naked; totally ill-equipped and unprepared for the lives ahead; and looking back with fondness and longing for when Jesus walked with them and cared for them and protected them, they now had to step out. Their moment of commencement had arrived. Now the power and comfort that Jesus had promised would come, but at this moment – as their life as the Body of Christ commences they do not feel this comfort and power.
But this is the way of faith. Faith is not the result of convincing arguments and proofs. Faith is given by the Father before the Good News can be acknowledged and received. The gift of faith precedes our acknowledgement of that faith. If faith waited on our conviction of the truth, then it would not truly be faith, but only intellectual apprehension. And when we – the Body of Christ – go out in response to our sending we likewise go unconvinced. We go out weak and helpless, with no strength and conviction of our own, but wholly dependent on Christ’s promise that in going we will be clothed in power by the Holy Spirit and that in sharing the Good News, our words will be set aflame in the hearts of all those the Father has graced with faith. We go out solely dependent on His promise and nothing else, just as our faith is based on the promise of the cross of Christ and not on any work of our own.
We are brought together here each Sunday morning to bind ourselves together in the promise of the cross of Christ and to clothe this one Body in the power promised by Christ so that – as this one Body – we might go out as witnesses. We go out feeling unprepared and uncertain of how to succeed at the task our Lord has set before us. But that is how it’s supposed to be. You have not been entrusted with the outcome of your sending just with the testimony you have been given. “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be Christ’s witnesses” and you will proclaim the suffering, death and resurrection of our Lord and you will proclaim the “repentance and forgiveness of sins in His name to all the nations.” You have been born to new life, raised and nurtured, protected and defended as the Body of Christ, not simply so you can come to church on Sunday morning; sing, pray, and fellowship; put your tithe in the offering plate and stay awake through the sermon; to just stand here looking up to heaven. Though here we feel safe, comforted, and comfortable, this is not what our Lord died for and this is not the purpose for which you have been saved. So what are you waiting for? Today is your commencement day.
Jesus Christ is Risen! … Amen.