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Learn: Whom Are You Seeking?

March 23, 2008 Speaker: Pastor Braun Campbell Series: 50 Days Ablaze!

Topic: Biblical Verse: John 20:1–20:18

Easter Sunday + March 23, 2008
John 20:1-18

"Learn: Whom are you seeking?

I remember playing Hide and Seek back when I was growing up in South Bend, Indiana. A number of us kids who lived on the cul-de-sac would get together on a summer afternoon, gathering at one house or another to just hang out and play. Around our old house, there was a particularly good hiding spot, back behind the bushes around by the air conditioning unit. Provided that the bushes had filled out with their little leaves, that spot would give refuge to anyone brave (or foolish) enough to have climbed around the bushes' scratching, scraggly back branches. Hide and Seek is a pretty simple game at first glance: while one player closes their eyes and waits, everyone else goes and hides away, hoping that they've found a spot that will shield them from searching eyes. Some of your families may have run a variant of this game just this morning, running around seeking brightly-colored little objects of the hard-boiled variety. But what happens when you lose track of how many people (or eggs) you're supposed to find, or if you don't know what - or who - you should be looking for?

This Easter Day, whom are you seeking? What brings you here to a church on this spring day as life is blooming in the world around us? Are you, like me, looking for a new beginning? There are days when you fall short of being perfect - actually, it seems every day is like that - and you just want another chance, a mulligan, a reboot, where you can start anew with a clean slate. What would it be like to have a life where every day is a new beginning, a day filled with promise and potential? But making that a reality seems unrealistic: it'd be like a game of Hide and Seek that goes on forever. Could you ever expect to find anything that would make that life possible?

Coming to a worship service on a Sunday, one might expect to hear choirs and hymns, to see beautiful flowers and banners. And on Easter Sunday, anyone familiar with Christianity might expect all those things and more. On that first Easter Sunday, Mary Magdalene and Peter and the beloved disciple had certain expectations, too. Mary came to the tomb where Jesus had been laid, expecting to properly prepare him for burial, something that they had not had time to do after taking his lifeless body off the cross on Friday afternoon. Peter and John came running to the tomb, probably thinking either that Mary and the other grief-stricken women were seeing things, or, worse yet, that someone had come and disturbed the resting place of their dear teacher. They all expected to find Jesus' body, cold and dead.

Whom are you seeking here? Is it the same Jesus that these three people expected to see: Jesus, who died - and stayed dead? A Jesus who was a great, wise man and a teacher who just wanted everyone to love one another - but nothing more? A Jesus who we would remember through pretty songs or rote repetition of ritual? If that is the Jesus that you'd been expecting, if that is the Jesus that you'd been seeking, you won't find him here. If indeed that were the real Jesus, then there wouldn't even be a point in any of us being here today. If Christ has not been raised from the dead, as St. Paul writes, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. If Jesus is still dead, then there is no new beginning to be found here or anywhere else. But that Jesus, the dead Jesus, doesn't exist.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Christ Jesus, God's Annointed, is alive - and he has found us. That is why we are here. On Good Friday, God transferred the weight of our faults, our sin, onto Himself. Out of a love beyond our understanding, He who was without sin became sin for us. Jesus was sentenced for our guilt, and on the cross He gave up his life for you and for me. And although death has power over mankind because of our sin, it could not contain the one who was both truly God and truly man. Jesus rose from death and will never die again: as the once-for-all sacrifice to God for our sin, Jesus has broken death's ultimate power and opened the door to new life.

Just as he called Mary Magdalene by name outside the empty tomb, Jesus has called us. God turns our hide-and-seek upside down: because of our imperfection, we have been people seeking after a new beginning, but God comes seeking us, even when we're not looking for Him. He gives the gift of a new beginning in the waters of Baptism. There, we are joined to the dying Christ of Good Friday even as we are joined to the risen Christ of Easter. Because God does this for us, for you, each and every day can be a new beginning in Him, that day you'd hoped for, full of promise and potential, a clean slate. This is the reality of life for the Christian, for all those who God has found and called to Himself.

So now, being found, we respond to God's grace by seeking Him: we learn. As the psalmist wrote, the Lord has said to us, "Seek my face." And as those who have been found, we respond with the psalmist, "Your face, Lord, do I seek." When they ran to the tomb that first Easter morning, Peter and John did not yet understand from Scripture that Jesus would rise from the dead. John, seeing the empty space where Jesus' body had been placed, and the folded cloth that had once covered Jesus' head, finally believed that Jesus had risen. It was then that the beloved disciple's eyes were opened, and he knew the truth. Even though he and Peter had been Jesus' disciples for years, they still did not understand that Jesus must rise from the dead. Understanding comes through faith, God's gift, and through the eyes of faith, we learn.

Christians today have been blessed with the testimony of those first women and men who bore witness to the resurrection. We do not seek Jesus in a tomb, among the dead; rather, we can seek God's face in His Word, through which He makes Himself known. As God speaks through the Scriptures, you may be convicted of the imperfection of your life - but you will also feel even more keenly our Lord's love for you, shown on Good Friday's cross and in Easter's empty tomb. You will learn that the living Jesus is with us, even here, even now; he is the One who serves as the mediator, the ambassador, between God and man. You will learn that because he is the One through whom we are forgiven, each day really can be a new beginning.

We learn. This is the first of the seven responses to God's grace that we'll be looking at together during the great Fifty Days of Easter that precede Pentecost. We have fifty days to listen to God's Word, to grow in faith and trust in the One who has found us. We have fifty days to intentionally talk with our Father, bringing all the things that wear us down and build us up before Him in prayer. We have fifty days to support one another as we contend with a world that would have us believe that Jesus is dead and that we have to save ourselves. We have fifty days to carry the good news of Easter to the people we are now sent to find, the news that proclaims, "Christ is not dead, but alive!"

The God of Easter has found us. Because Jesus lives, we now live. Because Jesus lives, every day is a new beginning.


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