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Sermons

I Know that My Redeemer Lives

April 11, 2004

Bible Reading

I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last will stand upon the earth. (Job 19:25)

The Lord is my strength and my song;
     He has become my salvation.
Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous:
     "The Lord's right hand has done mighty things!
     The Lord's right hand is lifted high!
     The Lord's right hand has done mighty things!"
I will not die but I will live,
     And recount the deeds of the Lord.

(Psalm 118:14-17)

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: 'He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.' Now I have told you."

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. "Greetings," he said. They came to him, clasped his feet, and worshipped him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me."

(Matthew 28:1-10)

Sermon

On Easter morning we celebrate the victory of life over death. The women came to anoint Jesus' body, but the tomb was empty. The Christ is life itself, and cannot be embalmed. Jesus had risen and had gone on ahead of his followers.

Our two readings from the Hebrew Scriptures proclaim this same victory of life over death. From Job, we hear a great proclamation of faith, "I know my redeemer lives, and at the last will stand upon the earth." And as if spelling out a corollary, from Psalm 118 we hear: "I will not die, but I will live, and recount the deeds of the Lord."

Through the resurrection, life had won out over death. The Swedenborgian faith understands that each of us continues to live as a unique individual person after the body has died. It refers to life lived to the fullest--a life that never stops growing.

Many large and small deaths can take place in the midst of our lives. For instance, as we enter our middle years, there can be a loss of youthful idealism. It is so often tempting to give up our highest aspirations and settle for second best. Over the years it is possible to give up on what we once wanted to be, to give up on our families, to give up on our jobs, or even to give up on people generally, and perhaps worst of all to give up on ourselves. It is so easy for the mind to close: to stop learning, to stop questioning.

It is possible to die before you die! Allow the mind and the heart to close down completely, and you will have died spiritually before your body passes away.

When I am tempted to give up, when I allow myself to stop growing, when something once vital in me is ready to die, then it is time to recall the Easter faith. Then I can say with Job, "I know that my Redeemer lives, and will stand at the last upon the earth." I can make a personal resolution to live, saying with the Psalmist: "I will not die but I will live, and recount the deeds of the Lord."

All of us human beings present here today, all of us children of God, are very much alive. But we are not as alive as we could be! The natural world in spring is so full of illustrations. The plant that stops growing is a dead plant. So, too, a human spirit. We are like are the rosebud before it opens, the tadpole before it becomes a frog, the caterpillar before it becomes a butterfly.

Now, the rosebud is beautiful just as it is. Yet the greater beauty of the rose blossom lies ahead of it. Maybe the tadpole or the caterpillar is not conventionally beautiful--not beautiful in the eyes of the human world. But as ancient forms of life and creations of the earth, they have their own special kind of beauty. They rest in that beauty; but they have the still greater beauty of the frog and the butterfly ahead of them.

Each of you here today is alive. Each of you is beautiful just as you are. Whether the world thinks so or not. Whether you think so or not. And your greatest beauty is yet to come!

This, too, is the Easter Faith. The tomb is empty. Let us celebrate this morning the call to a greater life, issued to us by our Resurrected Lord. Let us ever say, "I know that my Redeemer lives, and will stand at the last upon the earth."

Prayer

O Risen Lord and Redeemer of all, as you rose from death, call us also from death to life, from sorrow to joy, from the weight of the material to the joy of the spiritual! Amen.

Rev. Dr. Jonathan Mitchell