April 21, 2019
“Against All Odds!”
Grace, mercy, and peace be and abide with you all in the name of our living Savior and Good Shepherd Jesus. The basis for the sermon today for our glorious celebration of Easter is the First Lesson read from Exodus 15.
My dear friends,
At the beginning of the 2018-2019 NHL season, the Tampa Bay Lightning were a 3-1 favorite to win the Stanley Cup. When the playoffs started, they were an 8-1 favorite. Before game 4 of their series against Columbus, they were a 14-1 favorite to win the Cup. How about their chances now! Breathe…breathe…breathe. Okay.
Enough about hockey. What are the odds that you will be struck by lightning? One in three million. A man named Roy Sullivan holds the world record for being struck by lightning. Roy, a park ranger, was struck seven times. Interesting note…Sullivan survived 7 lightning strikes but could not survive depression. He shot himself back in 1983. He was only 72 years old. True story.
The most important “what are the odds” question, though, is this. What are the odds that a man, brutally beaten and then crucified by the mighty Roman Empire, would come back to life? The odds are astronomical, but get this—it happened! It really happened! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! True story!
Today we consider Exodus 15, a song of celebration after Israel defeated Egypt. What are the odds that a group of Israelite slaves who had never fought anybody, would defeat the most powerful military force on earth – the Egyptians – led by that mean and mighty Pharaoh? Probably the same as the lowly wild card Columbus Blue Jackets offing the Lighting in the FIRST ROUND! Breathe…breathe…breathe. Okay.
As the Israelites flee Egypt they look over their shoulders and see Pharaoh madly chasing after them screaming, “Get back here! You’ll have hell to pay!” He was mainly mad at himself; he had let his entire slave workforce leave. But it gets even worse! The Israelites become surrounded and stuck on all sides. Exodus 14:11, “They said to Moses, ‘Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die?’” They were pretty funny people.
Just when the odds were completely against Israel we come to Exodus 15:4–5, “Pharaoh’s chariots and his host he cast into the sea…The floods covered them; they went down into the depths like a stone.” No wonder Israelites sing in Exodus 15:2, “The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation!” All of this, though, is just a peek, a prelude, and a preview into the Bible’s greatest against-all-odds story ever.
Opposition began early in Christ’s ministry and it never seemed to let up. After 3 years, the religious leaders finally got what they wanted. Once arrested, Jesus is bound, accused, blindfolded, and mocked. But it gets worse. They strip him and beat him into a bloody pulp. But it gets even worse. Jesus is blood-soaked and nailed to a Roman cross and left to die. It took six hours, and then Jesus breathed “it is finished.” He is, as we confess in the Creeds, “crucified, dead, and buried.” True story.
Just when everyone thought it was all over, the angel announced, “He is not here! He has risen just as he said!” Mary shouts, “Teacher!” Then Thomas for the ages, “My Lord and my God!” Against all the odds, Jesus LIVES! True story!
Jesus lives, but no one ever said our lives would be easy. It feels like opposition began early in our lives too and it never seemed to let up. I’m talking about the 1 in 3 people whose parents got divorced. I’m talking about the 1 in 4 women who were sexually abused as children. I’m talking about the 1 in 7 people who grew up with an alcoholic parent. I’m talking about the people who grew up in families with absentee dads, controlling moms, screaming parents, addicted sisters, and abusive brothers. You feel as though the odds are against you.
Maybe we experienced a devastating loss. For some of you, this means your spouse died, your marriage died, your child died, your career died, or your father died. For others, it means your dream died. And I’d venture to guess that for some of you your will to live has died; no more reason to lift your head off the pillow each morning. Maybe we are crippled by a destructive habit. It’s Easter morning…time to come clean. What is it for you? What is making you rlife an against-all-odds situation? Gambling? Drugs? Alcohol? Pornography? Work? True story? As a result, you might feel as though the odds are against you.
All the odds were against a man named Lee Capps. Lee, who didn’t know how to fly, took off in a private plane in 1996 with a friend who was a pilot. When they got up to cruising altitude Lee’s friend, the pilot, had a heart attack and died right there at the plane’s controls. Lee grabbed the radio and cried for help. An air traffic controller in Renton, Washington, heard Lee’s cry. He said, “This is your lucky day. I’m not only an air traffic controller, I’m also a flight instructor. Would you be interested in a flying lesson?” Being otherwise unoccupied, Lee Capps said, “Sure! Why not?” The air traffic controller said, “Lee, you’re going to have to take a shot at landing the plane. No practice, no dress rehearsal, no spring training!”
Lee Capps came in like a drunk duck. He was all over the place. He tried an emergency water landing, but the floats collapsed! Thanks a lot! The 2nd attempt would have to be on hard, solid terra firma. And he hit pretty hard. But Lee Capps walked away from it all with only a few minor cuts. Afterwards, the air traffic controller was interviewed by several TV stations, “Did you really think he would walk away alive?” The air traffic controller responded, “Folks, Lee Capps made it against all odds!” True story!
I know. Oh God, I know. Stuff is going on—a whole lot of stuff is going on in your life. You’re circling the runway and trying to land. Your greatest fear is that you will crash and burn! Let me remind you of two honest-to-God facts. Against all odds, Israel made it out of Egypt. Better yet, against all odds, Jesus Christ is risen today! That fact alone is enough to help you overcome all the long odds in your life.
In John 14:19 Jesus said, “Because I live, you also will live.” Talk about beating the odds! Easter happened. Easter is happening in you. We live now and we will live forever. True story! Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
Happy Easter everyone!