MP3 Audio: WS330347_Fr-Michael_Pascha-2014.mp3
Epistle Reading: Colossians 3:1-7
Good morning. Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!
I’m looking in the third chapter of Paul’s epistle to the Colossians, and he says, “If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above where is Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are of earth.”
We celebrated all of Holy Week from Palm Sunday until now, the Feast of the Resurrection. Most of you have been very faithful in this and have been here for service after service. We come here to this day, and we proclaim to the world our belief in the reality of Christ rising from the dead, the restoration of his soul and his body which have been separate just as ours is separate, preparing for his ascension into Heaven. This is my thirty-ninth Holy Week or fortieth – time flies when you’re having fun – and we go through Easter-tide. Even in Church when we say, “Christ is Risen”, and we get, “Indeed He is Risen”, and the enthusiasm begins to die a little bit, because many a time we don’t allow the fact of Jesus’ resurrection and conquering of death to be a reality for us.
Now there are two kinds of death. There is physical death, the death of the body. And that we shall endure because it’s a part of life in the creation. We plant, things grow, they die, they return to the earth – you know, it’s simply a part of how life goes. And that in and of itself is not the biggie from the Christian perspective. Spiritual death – that is being separated and cut off from God. This is the biggest issue that faced mankind up until the time that Jesus went to the cross. And quite frankly it’s still, I think, a bigger problem today. Now there are people, even Christian people, who are afraid to die. That should not be. There is no reason for us to be, if we actually believe in what we are commemorating and celebrating and entering into now. There should be no fear of physical death whatsoever. But sometimes people’s faith weakens, or it’s not as developed as what we would like, and we become afraid. But we know about the resurrection, so even if we approach our own death, perhaps somewhat fearfully, we know what the end is going to be. What know what the possibilities are going to be.
What really should be scaring the bajeezus out of us is spiritual death – being cut off from God. This is what happened of course to the people of Israel. Well, it happened to everybody, not just to the people of Israel. Once Adam sinned, once death came into the creation, we were cut off from God. And it let loose in this world a long list of nasty things. Not just death, but disease. Not just disease, but disintegration. Not just disintegration, but upheaval. What Adam did – God bless him – took every palm tree and pussy willow over the side with him when he fell into spiritual death. Every time a major crisis happens somewhere in the world, whether it’s an earthquake in California, or a flood in Bangladesh, or an avalanche in the Himalayas . . . We get people, even people going on TV offering up opinions and saying, “Well, if there was a God, why would He allow this?” He didn’t bring it about! Adam is the one who rejected the life that God gave him. We are the ones that continued on in that rejection. God has nothing to do with it. If you want to go and find out who causes ferries to sink and mountains to fall down, go home and look in the mirror because the sins are ours! They are mankind’s. Not God.
So that spiritual separation from death – which Adam inaugurated – is also overcome, when Jesus rises from the dead, establishes His Church, ascends into Heaven, all of those things. Do away with that [death], if – of course – we are faithful. But you see, it always comes down to our choices. God has done absolutely everything necessary for us to share a life with Him. But He can’t live it for us. We are the ones who have to be willing to live in faithfulness and righteousness in terms of following Christ daily. And that’s where some of us become almost kind of atheists, not in terms of denying that there is a God, but by continuing to live as if there were no God.
In the chapter beforehand – second chapter, twentieth verse – Saint Paul writes, “If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe,” (and the elemental spirits of the universe are those things which are in opposition to God: Satan, and his demons, all of that) . . . “If you have died with them, why do you live as if you still belong to the world?”
And we do! At least I do. I will go home, I’ll recover for a couple of days, and then I’ll get ready for my next trip. But I’ll be grumping about who did this, that and the other thing, and that particular congregation, and I’ll say, “Lord, when will they listen to what I have to say, and what-have-you . . .” Because we tend to live as if everything we commemorated this week didn’t really happen.
Now remember what I told you . . . about God and time: that God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – the Holy Trinity – are not bound by time. Time only affects the creation and us in the creation. So for God there is no yesterday. For God there is no tomorrow. There is now. For those of us who run according to the clock – have to be at work at a certain time, have to be at Church at a certain time, gotta be here, gotta be there – that can be a hard concept to wrap your brain around.
But for God, everything that we commemorated this week happens all the time, eternally. We don’t mean that we re-sacrifice Christ, but that His offering of His sacrifice goes on for all time until the Second Coming. So we don’t commemorate an event, we participate in it. It’s almost as if, for us, the Church was a time machine that took us right back to what Jesus endured and experienced during His life. So Paul goes on and he says, “When Christ who is our life appears that we may also appear in glory”, we have to concentrate on the things above. We have to concentrate on the things of God. And again, this is our choice. We can continue to live as if the world and the things in the world are more important to us than God, or we can say, “You know, this resurrection thing has ‘mystery’ written all over it. It has ‘important’ written all over it. And I’ve got to start living that way, because my life is now hid with Christ in God.”
What we can do – and this is the wrong response – is to continue in our passions. Paul says, “Put to death therefore whatever is earthly in you. Fornication, (that’s sexual immorality between people) impurity, (that’s the Bible code-word for gay sex) passion, evil desire, covetousness, which is (and this I think is the interesting description) idolatry.”
Idolatry. Now we know what idolatry is. Idolaters worship Idols. The Canaanites did that; the Phoenicians did that. Many people in the Old Testament times did that. Many people of the time of our Lord worshiped Diana and Zeus and all of those gods, and had little handmade statues of them. On their super-bowl day, they drove their chariots around with their little statues of Zeus on them, hoping they were not going to get themselves killed or something like that. And yet he says fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness are idolatry! The reason being is that when we sin – when we give into our passions and our pleasures, apart from God – we are worshiping ourselves. It’s a self idolatry. The Scripture is clear, no idolatry can be in the Kingdom of Heaven. So if the result of our Easter is just to go back to business as usual, just to go back to committing the same sins, getting wrapped up in the same situations, then we kind of fall into that atheism which may acknowledge God’s existence but does absolutely nothing about it.
He goes on and he says, “Put these things away.” I love when he says, “On account of these things, [things mentioned], the wrath of God is coming.” The wrath of God is not what you look like at 6:00 in the morning. The wrath of God is God’s hatred of sin, not the sinner. Never, ever, ever does God hate a sinner. He desires not the death of the sinner, but that we should repent and live. But He hates those things which cut Him off from us. And that’s His wrath against those things. So it says, “Put off anger, wrath, malice, slander, and foul talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old nature with it’s practices, and have put on the new nature which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of the Creator.”
Like I said, if we go back to business as usual, we begin to self-destruct again. And God, who has given us freedom – He has already sent three boats and a helicopter, you know – isn’t going to stop us because we are free and we want to be free. God loves us so much that He allows us to go to hell if we so choose. He’ll call after us, He’ll send patriarchs and prophets and teachers. Sometimes He’ll even send angels and archangels. He’ll do everything He can [to show you] that this is the wrong way to go. One thing He’ll never do is stop you from going that way if you wish to. God loves too much to control us. God loves too much to prevent us from living freely, even if it means denying Him.
Now we can go the negative way that way, or we can say as he says, “Put on God’s Chosen One’s Holy and Beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, patience, forbearing one another, and if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other as the Lord has forgiven you. So you must also forgive.”
The resurrection is about life and restoration. How many relationships have we killed. How many families have been pulled apart. How many friends have been pushed away by our anger, by our wrath, by our malice, by the false and superficial judgments we make about other people, often without having all the facts (but that doesn’t tend to slow us down a great deal when we get into that kind of mode). That’s not what the resurrection is about.
The resurrection is about embracing those who have hurt you, forgiving those who have abused you, opening your hearts to those whose hearts are closed and stony, because Christ rose from the dead to change fear into hope, anger into joy, long-suffering into patience, and above all, compassion.
Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen!