The Parish Church of Connersville, Indiana

Easter Day 2024

Sermon Date: April 1, 2024

Passage: Colossians 3

For ye are dead, and your life is his with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:1)

A guiding principle of today’s epistle from the Apostle Paul is that you and I are seeking something. The human creature is nothing if he is not searching, learning, building, longing to find stability in a wounded universe filled with the signs of decay and death from which no amount of technology or entertainment could ever shield us. Deep down, all men know they are merely pilgrims and sojourners in a reality turned against us: a world perpetually caught in the horrifying cycle of watching our greatest works and wonders, inventions and accomplishments, rebel from supporting our noblest principles only to join the darkness which seeks nothing but our enslavement and destruction.

Here is why God warns us, through His messenger Paul, not to set our affections, not to place our love and hope, on those things which absolutely cannot save us. Like a doctor warning us against drinking battery acid to feel more energized, Paul, who has seen heaven and the Everlasting Man who reigns victoriously from its throne, will not standby and let us destroy ourselves with the poisons and illusions sold to us for the low, low price of our souls. He will not let us become those he calls, ‘the enemies of the cross of Christ’, those ‘…Whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, they who set their mind on earthly things’ (Philippians 3:18). Our many enemies have used every mechanism at their disposal to train us to live in fear and to define our very identities by the fleeting pleasures they use to make money off humanity’s loneliness and grief. God says, ‘No more,’ to us this day and forever. Why? Because, you are already dead.

To understand this reality, we must think more like the divine image bearers we are rather than the brute, unthinking beasts our world would have us be to control us more easily. The things of this world are in a state of decay just as terminal as ours. On the scale of eternity, our things, our loves, our lives are more dead than alive: ‘The days of man are but as grass, for he flourisheth as a flower of the field. For as soon as the wind goeth over it, it is gone, and the place there shall know it no more.’ (Psalm 103:15-16). Our hold on this life is finite and fragile, most of us will live a shorter life than an undisturbed oak tree, but what does the Psalm say next, ‘But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children; To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them’ (Psalm 103:17-18).

Paul can look us in the eye and tell us we are dead, with joy and hope, because he is not writing to the lost and the damned; he isn’t writing to people he hopes to convince with his perfect arguments or therapeutic reasoning; no, Paul is writing to baptized members of Christ’s Church. As he wrote just a few verses earlier, ‘And ye are complete in [Christ], which is the head of all principality and power: In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it’ (Colossians 2:10-15).

If you are a baptized Christian, a member of the covenant, and empowered by God the Holy Ghost to remember His commandments and do them, then you are not lost but found; you are not a rebel or a stranger; you are a wounded son or daughter being carried to heaven in the arms of the shepherd who will always leave the ninety and nine to find you. You are complete, whole, even as this awful world rips pieces off you until there is nothing left to take. For in the end, our bodies will betray us as the great, final lesson revealing how much we aren’t God, how much we need God, but the people of God need not fear it, for the Holy Ghost has already reached down to us in the waters of baptism and united us to our resurrected brother and Lord. This spiritual resurrection has already occurred in us, and we are living in its magnificent, unfolding reality. Sin is no longer our master, but a pathetic, wounded tyrant and Christ has given us the blade to finish the job. Death is no longer to be feared, for we are tethered to heaven and the bodily resurrection to come by our unbreakable link to the victorious God/Man. Life is no longer a slow-motion tragedy numbed by drugs, legal and otherwise, but rather a daily march towards holiness, towards the wonder and glory humanity was always meant to embody.

How do we know this? How do we know Man was meant for glory rather than filth and misery? We know because a Man now sits on heaven’s throne, sits in the nerve center of reality. Jesus, the resurrected everlasting man who walked out of his tomb on the first day of new creation, now sits and rules in the glow of His perfectly finished work to save the world. His triumph over death is entirely His own, and so He can bestow upon His people the laurels of victory; He can shower us in the unmerited favor and love remaking the world one human heart at a time. And on the final day of this war between good and evil, we will shine like the stars; we will be His glory: His rightful heirs of eternity.

When the first deacon, a man named Stephen, was about to be murdered by an angry, hateful mob for telling the truth and helping the suffering, he looked up to heaven and saw his resurrected king beckoning him to glory. Stephen died not with bitterness or fear on his lips but with forgiveness for the snarling, evil men hurling stones at him. Paul, who wrote today’s letter, was there holding the coats of the men so they could more efficiently murder an innocent, unarmed servant. We really don’t understand the undeserved resurrection speeding toward us like a runaway freight train until we understand the love and joy Stephen piled on Paul when they were reunited in heaven. This unmerited, unstoppable love and joy is coming to our world; in fact, it is already here. If you are Christ’s, then you are a living, empty tomb whose every action signals to Satan his time is short; you are a harbinger of deliverance, and by God’s grace, nothing will stop our victory.

So then, let us seek with all we have and find the things of heaven, for they are our promised inheritance and our rightful glory.