Resurrection: God coming to raise us up. Thatâ€™s what this day is all about.
â€˘ The Resurrection, when God came to roll away the stone that locked a borrowed tomb and raised the crucified, dead and buried Lord Jesus to life.
â€˘ Our Resurrection, when God came to stir up the waters of baptism for each of us and raise us all to new and everlasting life.
â€˘ The great and final Resurrection of which Paul and Jeremiah and Jesus speak, when God will come from the new heaven to the new earth and raise every child of earth to never-ending life.
Resurrection: Christâ€™s resurrection; our resurrection, the great and final resurrection of the world yet to come and all those little resurrections which, as people of faith, we have come expect from God, when we experience â€ślittle deathsâ€ť in between; when God comes to raise us up every time we are low and every time we have fallen. Today is the First Sunday in Advent; and like every Sunday, today is about resurrection, first and foremost â€” Christâ€™s, ours and the worldâ€™s as God comes down to us, over and over and over again, to give us, over and over again,
new beginnings and new life. Resurrection â€” Christâ€™s ours and the worldâ€™s â€” is the living center of every Sunday liturgy; the beating heart of every faithful life. Resurrection â€” Christâ€™s, ours and the worldâ€™s â€” is the reason we can hear, do and say everything we hear, say and do today without fear and trembling, without second guessing, and with sure and certain hope about the future. Resurrection â€” Christâ€™s, ours and the worldâ€™s â€” God continually coming to raise us â€”â€”is what Advent, Confirmation and ministry are all about. Thatâ€™s why we celebrate all we do today as new beginnings. Thatâ€™s why we look to the future with joyful expectation for life yet to come on this side of the grave as well as on the other.
I hope youâ€™ve noticed that Iâ€™ve defined resurrection as God coming to us to raise us up; not as a one-time or end-time event but as a repeatable and repeating activity of God. You may not have heard this before, but Juliet, Lilly and Sophia have heard it, over and over again â€”in the pastorâ€™s office, on our various field trips to other houses of worship, the Planetarium, museums and over lunch at their favorite restaurants; they can tell you that
â€śGod coming down to raise us upâ€ť is exactly the way resurrection is understood in the Bible, both â€śoldâ€ť and new testaments, in Lutherâ€™s Small Catechism and in the confessions of the Lutheran communion. God coming to us to raise us up: thatâ€™s how we define sacraments and Gospel-centered preaching in the Church. Thatâ€™s what the â€śreal presenceâ€ť of Jesus Christ when the Word is preached and the sacraments rightly administered really means: that God comes here to us to raise us up through bread and wine and water and word because these are the means that the crucified and risen Christ has promised God will use to come to us. Juliet, Lilly and Sophia learned that as â€śup and down religionâ€ť and â€” fair warning to parents, parishioners and preachers â€” they know what to do when they hear â€śup religion,â€ť when someone tells them they need to say or do or be something to get themselves to God. They know that Godâ€™s love for all is unconditional; and that, God always comes to us to give to raise us up and give us new life. Theyâ€™ll let you know in no uncertain terms if you try to tell them anything different. They get it and they know how to apply it; and as only New York teenage girls can, theyâ€™ll happily apply it on you!
Being able to apply resurrection â€” Godâ€™s coming down to us â€”in daily life is whole point of catechetical instruction. While these young women have learned the catechism and learned about the Bible (and like so many of us, may actually forget or even reject what theyâ€™ve learned) my confirmation class goal has been to be their pastor, not their teacher and thus to give them tools to grow in faith and regularly experience Godâ€™s love in Christ and give them tools to protect that faith by rejecting anything that makes them feel unworthy of Christâ€™s love. They have come to enjoy their relationship with God in Christ as well as with each other. That, along with a nice lunch, is why they insist on coming back.
Being able to apply resurrection â€” Godâ€™s coming down to us â€”in daily life is the whole point of Word and Sacrament ministry too. Itâ€™s particularly expected of Lutheran pastors, but Iâ€™m sorry to tell you that those who have the ability to do that â€” without resorting to self-referential silliness or legalistic malarkey â€” are few and far between. In our three-year experience with Jared Robert Stahler before his ordination we saw the promise of that ability â€” thatâ€™s why God and the people of Saint Peterâ€™s
called him here â€” and in the five years since his ordination to public, Word and Sacrament, pastoral ministry, we have seen that promise blossom. Pastor Stahlerâ€™s ability to apply resurrection â€” Godâ€™s coming down to us â€” to his own and our daily life hasnâ€™t blossomed in a vacuum. I know of only one other pastor who, at so personally and at such a young age has been forced to confront Death in all its forms; in the most horrendous demonstration of its power and in its many lesser demonstrations of its power â€” those little deaths, diseases, disappointments and other â€śdis-esâ€ť we all experience â€” and continue, without fail to apply the power of resurrection â€” Christâ€™s ours and the worldâ€™s to come and manage to both keep faith and grow in faith. But, my dear Jared, in five years of ministry and before you even reached age 30 you have done precisely that. You are sure and your life and ministry joyfully proclaims that resurrection â€” Godâ€™s coming to us to life us up â€” is Godâ€™s last, best and most effective Word to yourself, to those youâ€™ve loved and buried and those you love who love, respect and honor you today. My dear Jared, today Saint Paul expresses the way we all feel exactly:
â€śHow can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you?â€ť
This, I think, is the answer. We have given you the high privilege to regularly lead us to Christâ€™s Table, to give us a taste of resurrection â€” Christâ€™s ours and the worldâ€™s to come â€” every time we gather where God consistently comes to us to lift us up to â€śpublicly nourish us to creatively shape li fe in the city.â€ť
Resurrection â€” Christâ€™s, ours and the worldâ€™s yet to come â€” that what these meal, the Church, your confirmation, your ministry and our life is all about. Thatâ€™s why these times and this end time are a time of hope. Thatâ€™s why we meet our new beginning with confidence and joy.