Monday, April 21, 2014

The Walking Dead - An Easter Sermon

I had cancer surgery a few weeks ago. By God's grace I am recovering well. I was blessed to preach my first sermon since my surgery yesterday morning for Resurrection Day. Below are the notes from the sermon, which was preached at Faith Fellowship, a church that meets on the campus of the University of Hartford.

          For years my mother told me our family had this condition called Lynch Syndrome. It is an inherited genetic mutation that makes us more prone to certain kinds of cancer. For years I ignored her, after all, I felt fine. Clearly I did not have cancer.  But finally I went to get tested, assuming everything would come out fine.
          I remember sitting in the doctor’s office while he was explaining my test results. After he used the word “cancer” half a dozen times, it finally dawned on me what he was saying. I had cancer. It was a life changing moment.
Terry's Colon Cancer
          The odd thing about cancer is that it starts small. Most people do not even realize it is inside of them. People with early stage cancer just keep living their lives, going to work, loving their families and do not even realize that they are the Walking Dead. But the cancer keeps growing until it eventually causes problems. That is when most people realize it. It is often too late.
          Thankfully, in my case, my mother and a genetic counselor and the U Conn Colon Cancer Prevention Clinic kept pestering me until I got myself checked out. I really did not like all these people putting their nose in my personal business. And I really did not like all the invasive tests that had to be done to confirm that I had cancer.
          The surgery to remove my cancer was rough and though I am doing well, I am still limited by certain aspects of my recovery. But I am now CANCER FREE!!!! I am no longer the Walking Dead. I am more fully alive than I have ever been.

What Does All of that Have to Do with Easter?
          All of us have a deadly cancer growing inside of us. Perhaps not a physical cancer like I had, but a spiritual cancer called sin. It starts small and at first it does not seem to have a negative impact on how we live.
          Family members, Sunday School teachers, pastors, and friends warn us about it and tell us to deal with it before it gets out of hand. But we typically ignore them because it seems like life is going just fine. We may even be offended that these people put their nose into our personal business. After all who are they to judge us or our behavior?
          Our sin slowly grows until it begins to cause problems in our lives. That is when we realize we are the Walking Dead.

James 1:14-15 - 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
          Each of us desires different things in life. Some of them are good, but some of them are bad.
          What starts as a bed desire grows into sin. Sin, left unchecked, will eventually destroy us.
          Sin brings death to relationships. Sin brings death to our hopes and dreams. Sin sometimes brings physical death.
          But there is a solution to this sin sickness.

1 Timothy 1:15 - This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.
          Jesus came to save sinners. He came to make the Walking Dead fully alive and full of joy.
          Jesus accomplished this through two aspects of the Easter story.

1 Peter 2:22, 24 - He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 
          The first part of the Easter story is Jesus dying on the cross.
          Jesus was sinless, therefore He was pure enough to offer Himself as a sacrifice for us.
          On the cross all our sins were placed on Jesus. His wounds have the power to heal us of the cancer of sin that is inside us.
          How do we know He is really powerful enough to cover all our sins?
          The first part of the Easter story is Jesus dying on the cross. The second part of the Easter story is the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. If Jesus can conquer death then He can conquer anything, even our most despicable sins.

Mark 16:1-7 - When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”

Verse 1 - When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so they could go and anoint Him.
          In those days they did not have modern embalming methods. The way they prepared a body for burial was to put spices in the cloth that they wrapped the body with.
          The Jewish faith required them to rest on the Sabbath, so they were not able to care for Jesus’ body until the next day.

Verse 3 - They were saying to one another, "Who will roll away the stone from the entrance to the tomb for us?”
Terry coming out of Jesus' tomb outside Jerusalem
          On the way to the tomb to care for Jesus’ body, the ladies discussed how they would move the stone that was across the entrance to the tomb.
          This stone would have been large enough to cover the entrance way, which would have been about waist high for an adult. It would have been fitted into a slot in the ground that sloped down, making it hard to move.
          It would have taken quite a force of strong men to open the tomb. There is no way these three ladies were going to be able to do it themselves.
          The women realized that the stone was a problem to be solved, but they walked by faith toward the tomb anyway.
          Every one of us has some “stone” we have to overcome in order to believe.
          But if we do not start toward Jesus, believing that somehow that stone is movable, then we will never find Him.
          We must stop looking for excuses for not believing, and start trusting God to help us find a way to overcome our doubts.

Verse 4 - Looking up, they observed that the stone—which was very large—had been rolled away.
          As the ladies neared the tomb, they looked up and saw that stone was already rolled away.
          If we start toward Jesus, even while we still have questions and doubts, we will find that our stumbling blocks have somehow become stepping stones toward the Savior.

Verse 5 - When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; they were amazed and alarmed.
          The ladies entered the tomb and saw an angel. The other Gospels tell us there were actually two angels there, but they saw this one first and they were both amazed and alarmed.
          God often sends us numerous messages to get our attention, but we finally see one and start listening. When we first begin to sense God at work in our lives, we may be both amazed and alarmed. We are amazed because we cannot imagine that we are important enough to God that He actually wanted to do something big for us.
          We are alarmed because we wonder what God might require of us and what will happen.

Verse 6 - "Don't be alarmed," he told them. "You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has been resurrected! He is not here! See the place where they put Him.
Terry and Kay inside the actual empty tomb
          The angel told the ladies not to be alarmed because Jesus was alive and everything was going to be alright.
          Jesus displayed the ultimate power in the universe when He conquered death. Jesus is no longer in the tomb.
          Some people say that is narrow minded and arrogant for Christianity to claim to be the only way to God. But Jesus is the only founder of a world religion whose tomb is empty!
          Though other great religious teachers may have done good deeds and helped others, only Jesus conquered sin and death. Other founders of world religions did their thing, good as it may have been, and then died. Jesus did His thing, died and came back to life!
          If Jesus has the power to conquer death, he has the power to conquer anything.

Verse 7 - But go, tell His disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you to Galilee; you will see Him there just as He told you.'
          The angel told the ladies to go and tell the disciples, and Peter, that Jesus was alive.
          Likewise, we have an obligation to tell the Walking Dead around us that Jesus is alive and that He can make them alive as well.
          Why would the angel specifically mention Peter?
          Peter had failed Jesus by denying he knew Jesus, just when Jesus needed him most. The angel wanted the ladies to specifically tell Peter that Jesus was alive so that Peter would realize there was hope for him to correct what he had done wrong.
          Sometimes we feel like we have let God down so much that we can never make things right with Him. We think our sin cancer is too great for God to fix. But Jesus wants us to know that His power to conquer death also gives Him the power to conquer our sin, no matter how great it is. None of us are so far gone that the One who conquered death cannot transform us from the Walking Dead into the fully alive! We are only hopeless if we refuse to respond to Jesus’s calling to salvation. We are only hopeless if we are determined to remain part of the Walking Dead.
          If we have not yet made a commitment to Christ, TODAY would be a great day to place our faith in Him.
Dear Lord,
I know I have sinned many times in my life. I realize that sin will one day destroy me. I believe that You died for my sins and rose again to conquer sin in my life. I ask You to forgive me of my sins. I commit to serve You for the rest of my life to the best of my ability. In Your name I pray, Amen.

                  The power of the Easter story is that if we will commit ourselves to Jesus, He will change us from the Walking Dead into the fully alive.

                  The power of the Easter story compels us to share this important truth with those around us so they too can be transformed from the Walking Dead into the fully alive. This is especially important for those who think they are too far gone for Jesus to change.


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  2. Good sermon pastor.
    Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness,Isaiah 5:20
    I was at a gypsy colony some weeks back to give relief materials to the people of that colony since their houses( shelters) had been gutted by a raging fire. I arrived early and was standing at the entrance to the colony stifling the unbearable stench that emanated from the colony. All of a sudden a pack of dogs(seemed like wolves to me!) closed in on me and began barking outrageously!! I ignored them. But soon a couple of them advanced towards me to examine me closely while barking all the time. Thought of my friend's son who died recently of dog bite ( rabies ) I froze ! Thought of Daniel in the Lions den.. and did what Daniel did. I prayed . Hallelujah. The dogs slowly moved away and their barking died down slowly and stopped !!
    The dogs living in the colony seldom come across 'normal' people.
    Likewise when we live in sin, 'righteousness' seems odd ! But Praise the Lord Jesus.. "He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
    Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! 2 Cor 9:15