“Easter” Day 2020
July 5, 2020
“Free at Last”
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 as we celebrate Easter 2020 will be the Gospel Lesson from Matthew 28.
My dear friends,
The date…mid 18th century. America’s “Declaration of Independence” was the culmination of years of dissatisfaction in the 13 emerging American colonies. People had been grumbling for a while, but the real anger started most clearly around 1763, at the end of the Seven Years’ War or the “French and Indian War.” Colonists after the war believed all that land won in the war would be available for them to settle, and their contribution would be recognized and result in lower taxes on them levied by Britain. However, with the debt of the war, the British government needed to make the colonies as profitable as possible, so literally the exact opposite happened. The Colonists were taxed even more, and you can imagine how happy the people of the colonies were about that.
American colonists weren’t allowed any representatives in British Parliament, yet they were paying loads of taxes to the British government. Instead of changing policies, the British started adding on more taxes of the colonies. The most famous is the “Stamp Act,” which required colonists to use special stamped paper for nearly everything. In reality, the tax wasn’t a huge financial burden on the colonists, but it was the principle of the thing…taxation without representation. Not cool. In late 1773, Colonists dumped 342 chests of tea into Boston Harbor…the “Boston Tea Party.” This protest resulted in the closing of the port of Boston and the declaration of martial law. Things were falling apart…rapidly.
In 1775, Britain’s King George III declared the American colonies in open rebellion against England…and they basically were, which triggered the start of the Revolutionary War in April 1775. A year later, on June 7, 1776, the Second Continental Congress passed a resolution which said that the colonies should be independent of Britain. The Declaration of Independence was presented on July 2, 1776, edits were made, and the final version was approved on July 4th, 1776 – our Independence Day. America was free from British taxation and oppression when the war ended in 1783. America was free at last.
The date…early 1st century. It was dawn of the first day of the week after the Sabbath. Some women are coming to a newly-used garden tomb. They are there to properly prepare Jesus’ body for burial since there was no time on Friday before the Sabbath began. Tradition was very specific about how a body was to be prepped for burial, and Jesus’ body had been done hastily before sundown on Friday. It was time to prepare the body right.
Before they even got into the tomb, there was a great earthquake. How common are earthquakes in Jerusalem, you wonder? Well, the region can have earthquakes because the Jordan Rift Valley is part of an earthquake fault zone. But, how many GREAT earthquakes has Jerusalem had? Oh, about half a dozen major earthquakes have hit the city…over the last 1000 years. 6…in 1000 years.
If that wasn’t uncommon enough, an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone of the tomb and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow; white is a color of purity and power and perfection. The Roman guards, left in charge of guarding the tomb so Jesus’ disciples didn’t come and steal the body, trembled and became like dead men. Playing dead? Not a good tactic for a Roman soldier. With the guards out of the way, the angel said to the women, “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. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.”
Turning, the women then saw Jesus risen from the dead and He spoke to them words of encouragement and instruction: “Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” Sin had been paid for with blood on Friday. Physical death is now conquered on Sunday morning. Jesus is risen from the dead; that’s what Easter is all about, Charlie Brown. The world – your world and my world – is free at last from the tyrannical power of sin, death, and the devil.
The date…Year of our Lord 2020 in modern America. 2.6 million confirmed cases of COVID-19; 128,000 reported deaths. 146,000 Coronavirus cases in Florida alone. Across America, our city streets are full of protests, violence, and senseless destruction and the police are nowhere to be seen and who can blame them when there are socialists who pander to these violent crowds and advocate “defund the police?” Closer to home, our congregation was rocked with the news of the tragic and sudden loss of Bruce Ficken, an otherwise normal and healthy 60-year-old man who died suddenly last Sunday.
There is much anger, uncertainty, and fear in America today. We hardly feel free at all…held prisoner by virus and violence. But faith is the only thing I know that is greater than fear. Faith doesn’t take our problems away…it leads us through them. Faith doesn’t take the pain away…it gives you the chance to endure it. Faith won’t calm the storms in life…but it does calm you in the storms of life. How? Because we are free in and through Christ.
Paul wrote in Romans 8, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us…creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (v. 18, 21). My friends, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). We are free…free at last! The Son of God, the risen Christ, sets you free from sin, death, and the devil. That will never change. We are set free to be the people of God in this glorious and free country of ours that we call America. As the people of God, we are free at last, free at last. America is a far from perfect country, but the best place to live is not where everything is free and easy; that place doesn’t exist. Instead, the best place to live is where it’s easy to be free. That was us – once – and we can be that again when we return to One Nation Under God.
Thank God Almighty, even amid the trouble, toil, and turbulence of our modern viral-and-sin sick America, we are free…at last. Let’s make sure we do what we can to never lose that. Happy Independence Day and Happy Easter to you all, my friends!