Wow! I’m finally standing here!
Psalm 4: 7: You have put gladness in my heart,
more than when grain and wine and oil increase.
First sermons are always exciting. There’s always the temptation to make it about myself, but it’s Easter how can I keep from preaching? I promise some personal introduction at the end, but this is my opportunity to make an impression, to preach so that by the time I’m finished, you might believe that it is by my own power or piety that Jesus walks.
It isn’t of course, but I’d like to preach that sermon, to at least raise him in our hearts.
Words have that power, words in the right moment, with the right fervor, said often enough, can persuade people to anything. But, little children, let no one deceive you.
Why are you watching this service? Why do you come to church, week after week?
Maybe it’s for the human connection, or for the music, but I would wager that you’re here because you believe Jesus rose from the dead. Maybe it’s a deep conviction, or maybe it’s just a “wow, what if it’s true” suspicion, but in some way you believe it’s at least possible.
How did you come to believe? Why do we believe anything? Peter and John, and the other disciples had it easy, they saw Jesus walking around. Somebody, somewhere along the way told us. Our parents, a pastor, our Sunday school teachers.
Somebody you trusted told you, and you believed them.
Driving down interstate 84 in the last week, I saw a billboard that said, “Who was Jesus? Read Matthew’s Gospel.” Maybe you’re one of those extremely rare people who picked up a bible one day, read it and believed it. Maybe you sat down on the airplane, and the person in the next seat turned to you and asked, “Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?” Maybe you logged into Facebook and saw, “I believe Jesus rose from the dead, “If you do, share this post.”
Believing without some level of trust is rare, but it has been known to happen. We usually believe people we trust, but anyone can be persuaded of anything. As you grew up, no matter how you once trusted your elders, you likely questioned what you had learned as a child. When we are teenagers, we stop believing our parents.
“The grass is green and the sky is blue.” “That’s not what I read on Instagram.” Then in college, we’re meant to question everything, challenge assumptions, and rebuild our structures of belief. All of us have at some times doubted, maybe even today, but still we’re here looking at our screens.
Even people we trust sometimes lead us astray, they trick us, or like Peter’s audience are ignorant but still here we are, even when we can’t meet in person we gather.
Why do we believe, even through doubt? Peter and the other disciples were witnesses of these things. They saw it for themselves, and even then Jesus had to prove he wasn’t a ghost. They believed because they experienced the risen Christ for themselves. And I suspect you have too. Now, unless you are truly blessed, Jesus has not appeared to you, shown you his hands and feet, and asked for a second helping of gefiltefish.
But still, you are here, not just because you heard it on Fox News or MSNBC, but because like Peter, you have experienced the risen Christ. You know that The Lord does wonders for the faithful. Maybe you did have a vision, of Christ or an angel, or a burning bush. Maybe it was reading a passage of scripture, or just spending a moment pondering existence and suddenly, just for a second, having you mind opened to understand. Maybe you were singing a hymn or reading a poem, and found yourself transported by it so that you saw a glimpse of heaven. Maybe you received the bread, and suddenly knew it as the living Body of Christ. Maybe you were frightened, driving through a storm at night, and suddenly knew for certain that you would be OK. Maybe it was seeing the face of your baby, or the view from a mountain top. Or maybe nothing good ever happens to you.
Remember, Christian belief isn’t just light and sunshine, Jesus still bears wounds. Maybe you experienced the presence of Christ in your own pain, when your loved one died, Jesus wept your tears when you were mocked the sticks and stones hit him, when you were lost in tomblike darkness he lay with you. And because he is risen, we will too. We came to belief first because someone we trusted led us.
We are here still, because we are witnesses of these things. Now, that’s a wonderful reminder,that the resurrection wasn’t just one event back then in that place. The resurrection changed everything eternally, and it is also today in this place.
But I have a couple questions for you, before you leave this virtual Jerusalem, to wander through the nations.
You are witnesses to these things.
What did Peter and the disciples do, after experiencing the risen Christ? What did Paul do after his experience on the road to Damascus?
Many are saying, “Oh, that we might see better times!”
Can you think of someone who trusts you?