O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Running with fear and great joy
"Running with fear and great joy"
Based on Mt. 28:1-10
Preached on Apr. 24, 2011
Dear Brothers and Sisters in the risen Christ, can you remember the last time that you ran for something? Now I'm not talking about a healthy jog, I'm talking about hold nothing back, get the lead out, sprinting! Running for your life! True, it's not the typical behavior of an adult. I can even see some faces cringing at the thought of what might happen if they tried that out. It would take a pretty strong emotion to get the average adult to sprint. Emotions like fear and great joy. Emotions that seemed much more acute when we were kids.
Can you remember the way it felt back on that hot summer afternoon, when you were playing in the yard or the park, and you heard that familiar tune ringing through the air? All of the kids perked up like deer. Eyes popped opened. Toys were dropped to the ground. And then, when you were certain your ears were hearing correctly, you broke out into a full sprint for home, forgetting all else. The Ice Cream Man! The Ice Cream Man is Coming! I even remember being in the middle of a neighbourhood baseball game, and at the sound of those bells, everyone just ran home leaving the field completely empty. And boy did you run. You ran with fear and great joy! Fear because if you were too slow, you might miss the Ice Cream Man. And overjoyed because of the good news those bells had brought to your ears. The Ice Cream Man is Coming.
Well this morning your ears will hear good news that can make you feel like a kid again. Good news that may make you want to run. Good news that has the power to free you from the weight of all the guilt and worries that the world has piled on you over the years. Good News that cuts through time and pain and the strongest defenses of the heart. For Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! He is alive, and yes, He died on the cross, but He has risen from the dead.
The two women from our text experienced this first hand. They were heading down a rocky path towards His tomb with their heads hung low, remembering how He had been crucified and sealed in the earth, and this was now the third day since His burial. As the sun peeked out over the horizon, they could make out the guards who were posted at the tomb. Suddenly the earth shook violently and as they looked up a bright angel rolled back the large tombstone and sat on it smugly. The guards were so overcome by fear that they fainted. The two women were likely on the verge of fainting themselves when the angel spoke to them.
"Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where He lay."
The two women peer inside the grey cave. The cool air from within hits their faces. The tomb is empty. Can you imagine what you would have felt like to see His empty tomb? A whole list of emotions comes to mind. Disbelief, Wonder, Confusion. What does this mean? What does this mean? The two women did what anyone in their right mind could have done. They broke out into a full sprint, running with fear and great joy. They had been reduced to little kids, running at the tune of Good News that rang from the angel's mouth.
Now our resurrected Lord did not rise from the dead so that we would be full of fear. He wants to remove the fear. He wants only the great joy to remain, and so He met these athletic ladies on their way. They were running because of the Good News of His resurrection, and there He was waiting for them on the path. They ran up to Him and fell at His feet in worship, out of breath, crying and shaking with fear and great joy – just like little kids at the prospect of ice cream.
But it was not ice cream that Christ had for these two women. It was certainty. It was comfort. It was His risen self, body and all, the very thing these two women could not take their hands off. They wanted Christ. For they had heard Him beg for the forgiveness of those who had crucified Him. They had witnessed Him give His life as a sacrifice for the wrongdoings of all people. And now, they clutched at His living ankles, and they never wanted to let go.
Now, I don't know how it was for you, but in our house when the Ice Cream Man came around it was a family affair. Mom and Dad would hear us kids coming from the next block and they knew exactly what was happening. By the time we reached the door, they were on the front porch rifling money out of their pockets. "Get a snowcone for your sister, and a creamiscle for your father..." Nobody was left out when the Ice Cream Man came around, because it was a family affair.
And that is exactly what our living Lord was creating through His resurrection. His resurrection is a family affair. He restored the family of God by winning the victory over death. He made sure everyone could have ice cream, even us poor earthly kids who can't afford it. Your heavenly Father sent Him, the Only Son to bring you into their family. As Jesus told the two women as they trembled at His feet, "do not be afraid, go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me." Did you hear that? Brothers. Brothers? Aren't these the same disciples that abandoned Him three nights ago? Aren't these the same disciples that denied that they knew Him? Aren't these the same disciples who doubted Him? They were not being good disciples, why would Jesus call them brothers? And yet, He is pleased to call them His brothers.
The Man who came back from the dead. The Man who is worshipped by trembling women. The Son of the Living God is pleased to call you His Brother, His Sister. And just like His disciples, it is not because of anything that you have done, certainly not because you have been a good disciple, but because He wants you to be in His heavenly family. He knows who you are, and He loves you.
But what does this all mean? We may still be as confused as the two trembling women. It means that Christ has defeated death for His family. He has defeated death for your family. It means that death is not the end for Christ and His family. As He says, "Because I live, you also will live." Christ forgives you for all that you have done wrong. He promises that you will rise from the dead with Him to live forever in heaven, where death and pain and tears are no more.
And at the sound of this Good News, when you come running to Him, it will not be ice cream that He serves you to satisfy you eternally, but His resurrected body and blood, the same body and blood that has overcome death. He serves you the same power that raised Him from the dead. The same power that brought His dead, cold corpse to life is poured down your throat and crushed between your teeth. Here at this altar He prepares His Holy Supper, a foretaste of heaven, one enormous Easter family meal where you are His relative by blood. In the Lord's Supper, you are a blood relative of Almighty God. Forgiven, Free, Alive.
So come running with great joy! Let your heart run to His merciful table and with your head bowed low like the two women, clutch at the body of Your risen Lord and never let Him go. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr