Reconciled for Life
Topic: Biblical Verse: Luke 24:1–24:12
The Resurrection of Our Lord: Easter Sunday
April 21, 2019
“Go and Be Reconciled: Reconciled for Life”
It’s Easter Sunday, and we think of Easter eggs, candy and chocolate, spring flowers, bunnies and baby chicks… and ice cream? What’s up with that? I share with you an Easter story of two kinds of ice cream and a visit to a graveyard. I was born in a little town in northwest Iowa – Le Mars, home of Blue Bunny ice cream. Le Mars bills itself as the “Ice Cream Capital of the World,” and Blue Bunny is certainly very good ice cream. See the Easter connection here with the bunny? If you’re ever out that way, stop by and sample this at the Blue Bunny Ice Cream Parlor. You can also find it in your favorite grocery store here. And then there is this lesser known, obscure ice cream called Ben and Jerry’s; not too popular, I know. Last weekend, my wife and I were up in Burlington, Vermont for a godson’s Confirmation, and while there we visited Ben and Jerry’s ice cream plant in nearby Waterbury, VT – free samples at the end of the tour! We also visited the graveyard there. Huh? What’s a graveyard doing at an ice cream plant? This is Ben and Jerry’s ice cream flavor graveyard where flavors that don’t make it go to their final resting place. There are actual granite headstones for each flavor with the name, dates, and epitaph. Here’s one for “Aloha Macadamia,” which was only on the market for one year from 2001-2002. And here is the epitaph for this flavor:
We won’t blame the macadamia
But we were kinda in denial
The Marketplace had spoken:
Mac got aloha’ed off the aisle.
Note that this is spelled “aisle,” as in grocery aisle, not “isle” as in the TV series “Survivor,” and getting voted off the island. All kidding aside, on this blessed Easter morning, we gather not in a graveyard, but in the house of our risen Lord Jesus Christ who is risen from the dead, who lives and reigns to all eternity. More than chocolates, spring flowers, eggs, and ice cream, Easter means that death is not the final word. Easter means that death has no power over Jesus, nor does it hold power over those who trust in Jesus. Easter means that the grave has lost its sting. This same Jesus who rose from the dead is present here among us here and now in his Word and Sacrament. Through his life-giving death upon the cross and his glorious resurrection from the dead, we have been reconciled to God through the cleansing blood of Jesus. We have been set free! Through Jesus, we are reconciled for life. That is theme for the message on this Easter Sunday. May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word for Jesus’ sake.
Throughout the forty days of Lent, we have focused on a preaching series, “Go and Be Reconciled.” The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus means that God is at peace with us. Jesus has paid the price of our sin and disobedience through his atoning death upon the cross. That is good news that makes an eternal difference in each of our lives. God calls us to go and be reconciled beginning with the vertical dimension of the graphic: remembering whose we are as God’s beloved baptized children, confessing our sin before God, and receiving the gift of God’s forgiveness in Jesus. This overflows into the horizontal dimension of the graphic with our relationships with others: confessing to the other person, forgiving as God forgave you, and restoring with gentleness. In Jesus, who loves us and laid down his life for us, God calls us to be reconciled for life.
The challenge that we face is in living this out. It is best summed up in what the angels said to the women who came to Jesus’ tomb on that first day of the week at early dawn. The angels said to them: “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise” (Luke 24:5b-7). How we are like those women! Instead of being reconciled for life, we want to go back to what is dead and buried. We want to return again and again to the graveyard. Jesus, who is risen from the dead, calls us out of death to life. He calls us to see all of life through Easter eyes. Our risen Savior opens our eyes so that we no longer focus on long-ago wounds. He opens our hearts so that we no longer dwell on old grudges and grievances. He opens our minds so that, by his life-giving presence and power at work in our lives, we are able to let go of things that are not life-giving; things that draw us away from the risen Savior’s light and love. We may think this is impossible, but “nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).
The eyes of the world watched in disbelief last week (April 15) as the beautiful and historic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris burned. Although much was lost, much was also saved, and for this we give thanks to God. Plans are already being formulated to rebuild. Closer to home, a sister congregation in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, experienced a similar devastating fire nearly a year ago on May 15, 2018. This beautiful house of worship, erected in 1878, was on the national register of historic places. A fire is always tragic, especially for a house of worship. So many faith memories are wrapped up here: Baptisms, Confirmations, weddings, funerals, and much more. In such times, we must remind ourselves that the church is not a building, but the redeemed people of God. In the aftermath of the fire at Trinity church in Milwaukee, it was discovered that the altar paintings were amazingly untouched by the fire. And the central altar painting is of the risen Lord Jesus Christ, breaking forth from the grave on that first Easter morning. What a powerful image and reminder this is! In the midst of destruction, devastation, and death itself, the risen Lord Jesus Christ is present. Jesus walks among the charred and burned ruins of our lives, leading us out of death into life.
As many of you know, my mom passed away in January, so this is my family’s first Easter without her. Grief is a funny thing; it can catch us unawares: a piece of music, a particular smell, out of the blue something triggers a memory of our loved one. We suddenly become weak-kneed and teary-eyed. Following a death, everything in that first year is a first: the first Easter, the first birthday, the first Christmas, etc. And yet, because of Jesus we do not grieve as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). With Easter hope and joy, we release our loved ones knowing that they are rejoicing with us, but upon another shore and in a greater light. They are safe in the Lord’s care and keeping. Paul the apostle tells us in today’s Epistle lesson: “If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:19). Because of Jesus, every morning is Easter morning. We are reconciled for life, not for death. We say with the psalmist: “The right hand of the Lord has triumphed! I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord” (Psalm 118:16b-17). In Jesus, our risen, reigning, and returning Savior, we look forward to that eternal Easter in heaven where we will no longer walk by faith, but we shall see him as He is (1 John 3:2). And so will come to pass the prophecy of Isaiah which we heard in today’s first Scripture reading: “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind” (Isaiah 65:17).
Life is short, my friends. We do not know what this day, this week, this year may hold. We have only today, and we know only that Jesus is alive, and that in him we have forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. On this Easter Sunday, the Resurrection of Our Lord, let us go and be reconciled for life. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen!