Sermon

Future Perfect (Easter & Baptism) – April 1, 2018

John 20:1-18 

Happy Easter, everyone!  Today, many Christians shout and celebrate “Christ is risen!  Christ is risen, indeed.”  It is not an April Fool’s day joke.  It is not fake news; it is the Good News of our Lord, Jesus Christ!  We truly believe Christ is risen from the dead.  How do we believe it?  As the Gospel story tells us, the Empty tomb proves it.  Countless lives that have been changed by the encounter of the Risen Lord also prove it.

For Eastern Orthodox Christians, the 1st Sunday after Easter is known as “Holy Humor Sunday.”  It is a day of joy and laughter with parties and picnics to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection.  This custom is rooted in the musings of early church theologians like Augustine and Gregory of Nyssa that God played a practical joke on the devil by raising Jesus from the dead.

Resurrection is God’s ultimate joke (not April Fool’s day joke) on death, Satan, and all the forces of evil.  “Surprise!  I’m back!”

Indeed, there’s an Easter Card shown by Steven Colbert last week…, the front cover is just like any other Easter Card.  It says, “Happy Easter!”  When you open it, you see a picture of laughing Jesus, saying, “Thought I was Dead?  April Fools!”

Yes, today, we are celebrating God’s ultimate ‘joke’ on sin and evil in the joyful remembrance of Christ’s resurrection.  Today, we also celebrate the baptism of Max Stevens and ours as well.  If you are already baptized, I hope that this celebration helps you to reaffirm your baptism.  If you are not baptized yet, I encourage you to prayerfully consider to be baptized and join our fellowship.   If you have any question about baptism, please, don’t hesitate to let me know.  I would love to sit down and talk with you either in my office or in your home or any restaurant in town.  Just let me know, please.

When I was a High School student, one of the things I remember about English  language class was how difficult time I had in understanding the Tenses, especially, the Perfect Tense… not necessary because I am stupid or slow to understand (believe it or not), but because there’s no Perfect Tense in Korean language.   I understand Past, Present, Future very easily… but what is the Future Perfect?  Now I know that the Future Perfect expresses the idea that something will occur before another action in the future.   It can also show that something will happen before a specific time in the future.   

It may be difficult to understand the Future Perfect in the English grammar, but it is not necessary difficult to understand and live the Future Perfect Life in Jesus Christ.   That’s the Good News on this Easter Day.   

As we look at the passages of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, we’re really looking at all the various tenses of life.  We look at the past, what happened on that first Easter, we think about the Future and the promises of God, and we also realize that the Risen Christ is working in our lives in the present.  And combined, all these remind us of our Perfect Future or if you will, our Future Perfect life and faith. 

Because Jesus is Risen from the Dead, you and I have a wonderful future ahead of us.  We no longer have to fear death.  Nor do we have to live a life of sin, separated from the love and grace of God.  We have been set free.  The chains of sin and death that bound us and separated us from God have been broken.  Our future is bright.  Our future is grace filled.  Our future is full of promise… only IF we simply choose the way of Christ by being baptized.   By being baptized, this future becomes ours – a future that promises eternal life basking in the Love and Grace of God through Christ.  That’s the future we’re promised. 

But the promise isn’t just for the Future either.  The message of the Resurrection isn’t some pie in the sky that we won’t be able to experience until after we’re dead and gone.  The Resurrection is something we can experience every single day of our lives as we walk in fellowship and companionship with Christ Jesus our Savior.

John Wesley knew.  On his dying bed, John Wesley’s last words were, “And best of all, Christ is with us.”  In his dying breath, John Wesley knew the Tomb was empty because Christ Jesus was present with him in that moment.  As John Wesley said: “And best of all, the Risen Christ is with us.”  No matter what my English teacher might say, THAT, my friends, is Future Perfect. 

The Future Perfect…, all it really takes is a new identity given by baptism.  Because, by resurrection, Jesus already claimed us and gave us new identity – citizen of the Kingdom of God, all we have to do is claim our identity by baptism.  Once we are baptized, we become heirs to all the promises and hope and treasures of heaven. 

In South America where the Libration Theology was born, pastors use the following baptismal formula: “I kill you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  And I make you born anew to love and serve the Lord.”  We die, at our baptism, to one kind of life and are born to another.  And the fact that the life we are born to is life eternal does not make the dying any less terrible, does it?

But, we should remember that this dying and being reborn is a wonderful gift – it is something that ultimately we have to accept; it is nothing we can earn or even choose.  We cannot say, “I have now reached the point in my spiritual development where I am ready for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.”  We are never ready for the great events of our lives.  I was not ready for baptism.  Were you?  I was not ready for marriage.  Were you?  I was not ready for fatherhood.  Were you?  I was not ready for the deaths of those closest to me.  Were you?  Certainly, not.  Even if we could live thousand years, we would not be ready in our time. 

But, thanks be to God, the great events of the Holy Spirit, (for example, baptism and Holy Sacrament) are God’s gifts and they come in God’s time (kairos) and not ours (chronos).  At our baptisms we are killed, willy-nilly, and started on the journey God has planned for us, wearing as a banner the name that God has given us.  At our baptisms, we have been killed to transient things and then born again that we may live not only the eternal life but also the fullness of life here on earth.

By Christian baptism, we are called to live fully, during our mortal lives, enjoying the beauties of this earth given us by the Creator, the wonders of this blue and green planet, and the loveliness of human love.  By Christian baptism, we live fully and richly both in our time – chronos – and in God’s time – kairos.  That is the promise of baptism and it is guranteed by Jesus’ resurrection on this day. 

My brothers and sisters in Christ, dare to live fully in kairos as well as in chronos.   Dare to live a Future Perfect Life.   Dare to know and celebrate that today Jesus Christ our Lord is risen and by baptism, Max Stevens is affirmed in God’s love and he shall live a fullness of life here on earth and he shall live forever in the Kingdom of God as well.  Thanks be to God!  Amen.  Alleluia.

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