Sunday, April 12, 2009
Sermon - Easter Sunday - 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Easter Sunday 2009
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
“What's the Plan?”
Christ is Risen. (He is risen indeed. Alleluia!)
“What's the plan of the day?”
“Well, it's Easter, so we'll go to church. And I suppose it's best to go to the ______ service. Then maybe we'll go out for brunch or have an easter-egg hunt with the kids. The kids are dying to get into their Easter baskets. We'll pick up some lilies on the way over to visit Grandma. And then it's a big ham dinner – you know we always have ham on Easter....”
What's the plan? We make lots of plans, don't we. Maybe you were planning for retirement and the last year made you change your plans. Maybe you were planning to grow old with your spouse, but it seemed that cancer had other plans. Maybe you had planned to work your way up the ladder at work, and now there's no more ladder and you find yourself falling.... No, this wasn't part of the plan. This wasn't my plan, anyway.
So where is God in all of this? John Stienbeck is famous for writing the line, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”. But what about the plans of God? On this Easter Sunday, amid all the celebration, is it fair to ask what God's plan is? What is he up to in the world, or more importantly in my life? Where do I fit in to God's plan?
St. Paul speaks to that in our Epistle from 1 Corinthians 15. In fact, Paul lays out the step-by-step plan that Jesus followed. The plan that was plotted and predicted ahead of time in the scriptures, and by our Lord himself. The same plan he fulfilled with perfection:
“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, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.”
Sin was never part of the plan – not God's plan, anyway. But when Adam and Eve brought sin into the world, God was quick with a plan to address it. He promised a savior – an offspring of the woman that would crush the head of the serpent. And Jesus is the fulfillment of that age-old plan.
Jesus died for the sins of the world, as the scriptures said he would. Jesus made this plain to his disciples, and he spoke of it publicly to others: “Tear down this temple and I will rebuild it in three days”. He knew he came to die. It was the reason he was born. Jesus is no mere example, no simple teacher, no plain prophet or miracle worker – though he is all those things – but he is the savior of the world. The one sacrifice for sin, who gave his life up on Good Friday in shame and agony. This was, of course, central to the plan.
He was buried, according to the plan. Unusual, perhaps, that someone who was crucified would be buried. Usually crucifixion victims were cremated by the Romans, and not given a proper Jewish burial. But the prophet had spoken the plan, “He was numbered with the transgressors, and assigned a grave with the rich”. So Joseph of Arimathea lends his own new tomb for the burial of Jesus, all according to plan.
But the plan was not for Jesus to stay dead. Even in the Old Testament, the prophet predicted, “You will not let your Holy One see decay, you will not abandon him to the grave”. Just as Jesus had to die, so did Jesus have to rise. This, too, was the plan. And on the third day, to boot, just as Jesus said plainly.
So why were they all so surprised on that first Easter morning? Why didn't they believe it would really happen? Perhaps because God's plan is so unbelievable? Or because we aren't so good at believing?
You see, while our best laid plans go awry, Jesus is the man with the plan, the God with the plan. When we don't know what the future holds, or where it's all going, our Lord does. He is ultimately in control. His will is done.
The trouble is, we don't always know what his will is. We don't know if it's God's will for John to get that job or for Susan to keep hers. We don't know whether Anna will recover from her illness, or if Pete will win the big game. God doesn't always tell us his plans. There's a lot we don't know.
Which makes it all the more precious when he does tell us. And all the more important. We're on a need to know basis. What do we need to know of God's plan? What is essential? This: that Jesus came for you, lived for you, died for you and rose for you. That he reigns on heaven's throne for you and one day will come back for you, for me, and all believers. That we will rise with all the dead, and just as Jesus conquered death, we will live forever in him. That's the plan! The plan of our salvation.
And did you notice that when Paul describes the plan in Corinthians, he doesn't just stop at the resurrection? Jesus, now alive, appeared to people. He came to Cephas (that's St. Peter) and the 12, then to James, and even once to more than 500 disciples at a time! And finally, Paul says, “he appeared also to me”.
We could write our own little postscript to that. That he, Jesus, has come to us, too. Each of us could say, “He has appeared to me!”. Not in visible, bodily form as he did to so many New Testament believers. But he appears to us in his Word. There, as we hear, we also see. And he appears to us, comes to us in water and word – Holy Baptism, and in bread and wine and word – the Body and Blood of his Supper. Here we see, that we too are a part of his plan!
In his word, and in those sacraments, you see, Jesus makes his plan personal. He applies his promises to you and me. He forgives us, makes us his people, gives us faith to trust and to believe the unbelievable. And one day he will complete his plan by bringing us out of the grave to live forever. We too will have our own “little Easter”. It's all written down in the plan. It's all included in the promises of God in Jesus Christ.
The best laid plans of mice and men do go awry – we are sinners living in a sin-filled, broken world. But God's plan is sure and true, and in Jesus Christ it is fulfilled. At the cross, at the empty Easter tomb, and one day in the glorious resurrection to come. Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia. Amen.