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April 1, 2018

Welcome Home!

Preacher: Pastor Braun Campbell Series: Lent & Holy Week 2018: Return from Exile Category: Biblical Scripture: Mark 16:1–8

The Resurrection of Our Lord (Easter Sunday)
St. John's Lutheran Church, Alexandria, VA
Mark 16:1-8

“Return from Exile – Welcome Home!”

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!  Your exile is over.  Welcome home!

Have you ever been homesick?  How would you describe it?  When I’ve felt it, it’s come as this persistent sense that something is missing, though sometimes it’s much more abrupt, like a jab in the gut.  You might have felt homesick when you’ve been away from the people you know or the places you go, when you’ve been separated from those elements of your life that give it context.  Especially in times of stillness and quiet, the pangs of homesickness start to creep in and remind you of what you’re missing.  But what are you missing?

If you’re in exile, it makes sense that you’d be homesick every now and then.  People in exile have been cut off from their home, separated from the lives they once knew.  Home is far away, and you don’t have access to get back to it.  Throughout the season of Lent, we’ve been exploring what it means to be in exile – specifically, the exile that sin brought into our world and our lives, leading us to wander away from God and the life that humanity once had with Him.

If you’re in exile, you’ll probably start to look around for things you can piece together to make a new home, fragments of the familiar that might substitute for all that good stuff back home from which you’ve been separated.  You could be homesick and not even know it.  Look at how we tend to view the things of the world.  In our culture, we’re often driven by distraction, continually called to focus on the passing as if that is what matters most.  Our relationships suffer.  Our caring for our neighbor suffers.  Our spirits suffer.

We’re like those women we heard about in Mark’s account of that first Easter morning.  The first place we go to seek our connection to home is a tomb.  We look to the things and places and experiences that don’t last: the mortal, the dead.  We treat the pit of the tomb as if it were home.

Why did the women go to the graveyard to see Jesus?  Mark tells us that they went out early that Sunday morning to prepare his body for burial, and the tomb is where they expect him to be.  They thought he was dead, just as the rest of the disciples did.  They went to the tomb to see Jesus because the tomb is the home for dead people.

Death is part of reality.  Wandering through the wilderness of this world, death stalks us.  Watching the news, you can’t avoid stories of death’s victories.  It claims the lives of all people, robbing us of loved ones.  And it wants you, too.  The hard truth of this life is that no matter what you might do, you will still die.

Spiritual death is just as real as physical death, if not more so.  When you’re born into this world, you don’t know when death will come for your body; however, it’s already come for your soul.  Because of the problem of sin, you and I are born into the exile of death, separated from God, separated from each other.  We’re disconnected from the ultimate context of life: we’re outside of the relationship with God that is what truly brings us all together.  Because of sin, we are in exile with no ability to escape and no hope of return.  No wonder we live as if the tomb is our home.

This is why God the Son came into the world: to rescue you from exile, to deliver you from the reality of death itself.  In his life and in his death, Jesus took your place in exile.  He overcame the enemy who would hold you captive and keep you in the tomb.  Jesus faced death in your place and finished the work that God promised He would do for His people.  And once Jesus had finished that work, he was taken down from the tree of the cross and laid in a tomb as a lifeless corpse.  Death is part of reality, right?  That’s what Jesus’ friends and disciples all knew.

It’s what the women who went to the tomb on Easter morning knew.  They went to see Jesus among the dead.  Where else could he have been?  But when they get to the tomb and see the stone rolled away and see and hear the angelic messenger, the truth hits them: the reality of the situation is very different than what they’d been expecting.  “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here.”  Why do you seek the living among the dead?  Why do you look for Jesus in a tomb?  He is not here.  He is risen!

The tomb stands empty.  It’s not his home.  Three short days, and that place was vacant.  The grave – the land of exile that sin bought for us – wasn’t Jesus’ dwelling place.  Death could not contain him.  He is not there.  He is risen!

Your home is with Jesus.  The tomb wasn’t his home; it’s not going to be yours, either!

You have a living Savior, and he wants you with him.  Jesus won the victory over sin, over death, and over the devil.  He imparts that victory to you.  His victory is yours.  The tomb stopped being your home when you were baptized into Christ.  You are rescued from the wilderness, the land devoid of hope.  You are restored to God, who loves you and calls you His own child.  You are returned from exile, brought back into relationship with the One who gives all life meaning.  Welcome home!

The tomb is empty.  It’s not your home; don’t spend your time and energy on it.  Life isn’t about trudging along until your journey ends in death.  You need not be homesick any longer, because your exile as a captive to sin and mortality has ended.  You need not work to cobble together fragments of joy or peace or hope in an effort to make a home that will not last.

The tomb is empty!  We are people who look ahead to resurrection – bodily resurrection.  Just as Jesus is the firstborn of the dead, you and I have been given living, breathing hope that the separation of body and soul that death inflicts will itself be brought to an end.  We get to look ahead to life with God as human beings, not as disembodied spirits floating around in the sky.  The Creator and Sustainer of the universe, who made everything out of nothing, will welcome you home intact, body and soul united and free from the ravages of sin and mortality.

Don’t live as if the tomb is your home.  Your home is with Jesus, even now.  As people of the resurrection, you have hope to share with the world around you.  Share your hope in caring for your neighbor.  Share your hope in taking time with people in a culture that is driven to distraction and focused on the passing.  Share your hope in following the angel’s instruction to the women at the tomb, going and telling that Jesus is risen and that he offers a home to all.

Your exile is over.  Welcome home!  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!