Easter Sunday                                                   St. John, Galveston 4/4/21

1 Corinthians 15:1-11

+ In Nomine Jesu +

Christ is Risen! 

He is Risen, Indeed! Alleluia!

Grace and peace to you, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

The message this Easter Sunday is based on the Epistle reading from 1 Corinthians 15, where St. Paul says, “I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.  For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time.”

We are living in some challenging times for the Christian church. From a historic perspective, much of our challenge isn’t new. Religious belief has been strongly challenged on an intellectual level over the last 3 or 400 years. Human beings have come of age, says the argument, such that we no longer need the religious beliefs that sustained people 1,000 years or more ago. At the same time, science, even when it delves into speculation and theory, is thought to be empirically sound, proven and reliable.

Again, the Church has been dealing with this challenge for several hundred years. There is a new challenge though on the horizon that will likely confront the church in years to come. The challenge lies, not so much in a general skepticism regarding the teachings of the Bible, but in a new movement that has been sweeping rapidly across America of late. Some call it “cancel culture.” If you believe or espouse something that is considered to be outside of the cultural norm, you are subject to being “canceled.” Ultimately, “cancel culture” is a movement designed to eliminate whatever it is that the culture considers offensive, unenlightened, or, perhaps simply outside of the pale of what is considered acceptable or sanctioned belief. Cancel culture finds its victims both in the present, as well as in the past. 

From a historic perspective, cancel culture manifests itself in the destruction of statues and monuments and books, as well as in the silencing of those whose life or whose viewpoints are seen as contrary to what cancel culture considers appropriate and acceptable. A recent article in the Jerusalem Times highlighted some of the victims of the phenomena. “They came for the book Babar the Elephant, which was deemed a “celebration of colonialism” because the title character leaves the jungle and later returns to “civilize” his fellow animals. Then they came for Curious George books, because the premise of a white man (with a yellow hat!) bringing home a monkey from Africa was said to be demeaning to Africans and especially African Americans. Then they came for children’s movies, leading “Disney Plus” to pull Peter Pan, Dumbo, The Aristocats, Lady and the Tramp, The Jungle Book, and Swiss Family Robinson from its offerings for children under seven. Disney labeled these as movies that contain “stereotypes and negative depictions of people or cultures” that could corrupt the souls of young people. 

It is into this cultural movement, a mindset that one can simply dismiss, cancel, or erase what they don’t believe or what they don’t like, that the Bible and its message stands as a historic record of the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth. The Scriptures, which are by their very nature counter-cultural, continue to condemn sin, to exalt humility and to caution us against pride and self-indulgence. They hold up the cross of Jesus as the single event in human history that can rescue us from sin and death and from eternal torment and isolation from the mercy of God in hell. And they do so, even though for many, as the Apostle Paul tells us, “The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

Even as the Scriptures assure us of God’s forgiveness and grace in Christ Jesus, they also set before us the historic record of Jesus resurrection from the dead, the very reason we are all gathered here today! In that sense, the Christian faith never has been, nor will ever be a faith that is based on blind suppositions. Rather, it is based on the eyewitness accounts of hundreds of people. Thus, in the Epistle reading for this morning, St. Paul says, “I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time.”

In the same letter to the Church at Corinth, Paul writes more about the historic nature of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. In words that may appear somewhat shocking, he tells us that if Jesus’ resurrection from the dead isn’t established and rooted in history it is of no value to any of us. In his day, there were already those who were trying to dismiss or to cancel Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. “If Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile, and you are still in your sins.”

The very thing that “cancel culture” hates the most, namely, any sort of an exclusive claim, is the only hope to conquer death and the grave, which is what makes Christianity a likely target of the movement. The Christian faith is the most exclusive religion the world has ever known. It is based on historic events in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, who said of Himself, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes unto the Father but by Me.” 

At the same time, the Christian faith is also the most inclusive religion the world has ever known, in that God, who sent His Son to die for the sins of the whole world, “would have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 

What Paul proclaimed to the Church at Corinth is just as relevant to us here today. He delivered to them, to us, to you, the eyewitness testimony of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. “I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” The message can be ignored. It can be rejected. But it cannot be “canceled.” 

Christ is Risen!

He is Risen, Indeed! Alleluia!

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting.  Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +