Romans 6:3-11, Luke 24:1-10
“Do you know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?”
I speak with you in the Name of God the creator, Jesus the savior, and the Holy Spirit that makes all things new. Amen!
Were any of you shocked by our passage from Paul read just a few moments ago? I wasn’t either. It sounds like pretty typical churchy type stuff. Thoughts like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah baptized into death for new life…whoopty do preacher, it is Easter you’re supposed to say that,” might be running through your head. And, I don’t blame you if they are. When I was reading the passages this week in preparation for this sermon, I certainly flew by that first sentence of Paul’s. My hectic, day to day, what’s the next thing to get done, eyes just skimmed right over it with ne’er a thought at all. But something drew me back, and made me look again. Paul writes, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death;” not his kingdom, not his paradise, not his club, gang, or crew, not even into his family, but into his death.
Let us not breeze past this death, let us not euphemize this death with phrases like, “He passed on,” or “He was at rest,” or “He was no longer with us.” He died! The Christ, the savior of all was nailed to a tree and left to hang there until he suffocated, until his lungs filled with fluid and he literally drowned in mid-air.
We should not, indeed we cannot, overlook this death because death is our common denominator. Despite our desires to the contrary we will all die. Despite whatever advances in the practice of medicine might occur we will all die. Furthermore, death hurts. Be it our own or that of a loved one, death will always entail suffering; either the physical pain of the dying process, or the emotional grief that comes from losing one we love. Death, like love, hurts!
Let there be no doubt on this point, Jesus’ death was a human death, complete with suffering and mourning. He experienced agonizing pain. Those that loved him experienced bewilderment and grief.
But Jesus’ death was more than a human death. Jesus’ death was the ultimate act of solidarity on the part of God. Jesus lives into the name Emanuel, God with us, in the fullest sense when he experiences what we all experience: death. Jesus’ dying on a cross is a bold and clear message that God is with us in our darkest hours, in whatever depths of pain and suffering we might find ourselves, God is there with us.
The cross of Christ is also a conviction; a pronouncement that we reject the love of God. The violent shameful death of Jesus is a clear condemnation that a society based on domination can not handle a freely loving God; therefore that freely loving God must be destroyed. Now, we have no grounds to judge neither the ancient Romans nor the ancient Jewish leadership. For indeed we continue to kill Christ to this day. Jesus told us in Mathew 25 that when we serve the least of society we serve him. Consequently, the opposite is true as well. When we hate, we hate Christ. When we allow people to starve, we are starving Christ. When there is injustice in our laws, we are wrongly convicting Christ. When we fight wars, we kill Christ. Therefore the cross stands before us, a constant reminder of our inability to be what God intends for us, a reminder of our inability to accept the love of God, indeed the cross of Christ will always remind us of our sin.
At this point, you might be wondering if I have gotten my days confused. You might be thinking at this point, “Preacher, this sounds a whole lot like a Good Friday sermon instead of an Easter Sermon. Where’s the glory, the joy, the praise? Why are you dwelling on Death and sin?” Indeed, you are right, the cross is more then solidarity, more then conviction, it is also a sign of Hope. The death of Jesus on the cross is a sign of hope because it points to the Resurrection. Jesus’ commitment to be God with us—the divine in solidarity with human kind—continues on past death, beyond this mere physical existence to whatever is further than death. The Cross points to our hope in the Resurrection because beyond the indictment and condemnation we receive from the cross there is forgiveness in the Resurrection. From the cross and the empty tomb we learn that nothing can separate us from the love of God, not even our sinful rejection of God’s love for us shown in Christ Jesus. Therefore, indeed, there is joy today, praise, and thanksgiving; for God, as we have heard this night in the account of salvation history, has been about saving us since the moment we went astray.
But how do we get there? How do we get to this redeemed resurrected holy life? How do we live in this world but not of this world? How do we not look for the living among the dead? How do we come to this table, this altar of God, to receive the body and blood of the risen Christ? How do we get beyond the cross and, indeed, beyond the empty tomb?
The answer is in the back of the room. We enter this resurrected life through the death of baptism, and that is why I linger this evening upon the death of Christ. My brothers and sisters in Christ, through our baptism we are united with the Israelites in their deliverance by God through the waters of the Red Sea. Through our baptism our dry bones are given new life, breath, blood, and tissue. Through the waters of baptism we are united in the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Through the waters of baptism, “This is the night, when [God] brought our fathers [and Mothers], the children of Israel, out of bondage in Egypt, and led them through the Red Sea on dry land. This is the night, when all who believe in Christ are delivered from the gloom of sin, and are restored to grace and holiness of life. This is the night, when Christ broke the bonds of death and hell, and rose victorious from the grave.” My brothers and sisters, Christ is risen. The lord is risen indeed. Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen!