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General

Death has lost its sting.

Dedicated to the memory of Lieutenant Jonathan Dent, promoted to Glory, April 2011.

Sermon presented to The Salvation Army, Marion Corps (South Australia) on Easter Sunday, the 24th April 2011.

Easter Sunday, 24th April 2011

Introduction

God had been promising throughout all of history the resurrection of the dead, the sending of the messiah and his death and resurrection. Throughout the Old Testament, and through many of the teachings of Jesus. Even so, even with the depth of their understanding of the scriptures and the realities of the Law and Prophecies, the Jews never actually expected that the messiah would be crucified and resurrected. Obviously, resurrection is one of those things that can be hard for us to get our heads around. And we might find ourselves thinking, oh yeah, it’s a good thing for Jesus, but what has it got to do with me, what could it possibly mean for my life?

It means God is keeping his promises. It means that Jesus really was the messiah that God had promised to the Jews.
It means that all things are being made new, that the new creation has begun.
It means that there is hope for a brighter future, even when the worst has happened.

Resurrection is the power of God to put things right. It means that when Christ returns we will be made new just like he was, our bodies too will be fully healed and transformed as his resurrection body was.

The resurrection of Jesus was God’s sign to the world that He isn’t finished with us yet, and that He will fulfil his promises to restore and recreate the whole of creation. What God has done for Jesus in the resurrection, he will do for the whole of creation.

He is making everything new.

/// The theme of this Easter series is “Out of Darkness”, based on a verse in 1 Peter 2:9 where the believers – where we – are addressed:

 “you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light”.

This statement empowers us into who we are, who God is, and what he’s done.

We are – a holy nation, a people that God chose, a priesthood of believers, who are called to bring more people to him. We are chosen, and chosen for his purposes.

He is – the one whose excellencies we are proclaiming – and not just for what he has done, but for who he is. And who he continues to be.

And he has – called us

OUT OF DARKNESS                          Into                                    His Marvellous Light!
Away from Death and Pain                  into                                    life and fullness
From being lost                                      to                                    being found
From being blind                                    to                                    seeing clearly

& seeing clearly the
mysteries of the kingdom.

From seeing Jesus dead on the cross                   to                  finding the tomb empty!

From thinking that things will always be as they will be to believing that things can be different.

From FRIDAY                                    to                                    SUNDAY!

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It’s was Friday.
Hope had lost
Death had won
Sin had conquered
Satan was laughing

It’s was Friday, it was only Friday.
Sunday has arrived!

Jesus HAS risen!
He IS risen!
Will you say after me, He is risen indeed!
He IS risen – He is risen indeed!

What we know to be true is that the Good Friday story was never meant to be a one part series. It was ALWAYS intended to have a sequel.

It was always the case, the resurrection was planned.

What happened on Friday was NOT THE END OF THE STORY.

ON FRIDAY the disciples did not believe or understand what was happening. On Friday, they were bewildered by what was happening.

ON SUNDAY we read from John 20;
1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)

On Sunday, some believed that Jesus had indeed risen, but they still did not fully understand what had taken place!

But, they knew that THE STORY WAS NOT OVER. What happened on FRIDAY was NOT THE END OF THE STORY.

STORY

This week, a friend of mine, from my training college session got lost in the bush. Jon is an enthusiastic bushwalker, the most energetic and adventurous outdoorsman you could come across. He and his wife Katherine moved to Tasmania at the beginning of this year when they were appointed there together to be the Corps Officers at the Ulverstone Corps. They were thrilled to be in Tasmania and absolutely loved having the “outdoors” at their fingertips. They took Tuesdays as their day off, and every week would take the opportunity to explore the local nature reserves and parks and thoroughly enjoyed having mountains, and valleys and rivers to pour over each time they went out.

This last Tuesday they set out for a 4 hour bush walk together and then decided to go in separate directions and meet back at a central point for some lunch. Jon didn’t make it back and after being in contact with Kat on the phone to let her know he hadn’t been able to find his way back.

She didn’t hear from him again, and after engaging some locals to help her look for him, had to report him missing. I cannot imagine what would have been going through her mind.

Early the next morning, the session were informed about his being missing and we all immediately engaged in as much prayer and support as we could muster.

There were a million and three things going through my head all of Wednesday. What’s happened? Where is he? Why? Please Lord, direct the rescue helicopters in the right direction, please lord give Katherine peace, please Lord comfort Jonathon if he is in pain or if he is distressed. What is going on? Why? What has actually happened?

The other thing I knew to be true though, was that what I knew, and where we were on Wednesday was not the end of the story. Someone was lost, literally. But where something is lost, they are to be found – they have to be – that’s the promise of the word that I was holding on to.

The STORY was NOT OVER YET. This was NOT THE END OF THE STORY. It couldn’t be.

And then a whole day had past, and they had to call off the search because darkness had fallen again. The sun had gone down.

That’s when it became hard to sleep. Something else was going on here. It was really hard to fathom.

Again the thoughts and questions; Why, where? How? Oh Lord, Peace for Katherine.

We found out just after 2 o’clock on Thursday afternoon that he had died.
They still don’t know what happened to him, or how. But, he had died.

Suddenly, it felt like the story was over. A tragic end. A complete numbness. A hollow heart that has no way of knowing how possibly to move forward into a new minute, a new hour, let alone a new day.

And then a friend said to me, “Perhaps this is how the disciples felt on Friday”.
And I was floored. It was true. This is how they would have felt, and I’ve heard the story a hundred times, but I’ve never felt it like this before. I’ve never felt it like they would have been feeling it.

He died, he really died. And it’s completely unfathomable, and completely bewildering.

And we look at the disciples, and we think – “they didn’t get it, how could they not get it, Jesus had been teaching them, God had been preparing for a death and resurrection for ever, how stupid are they for not getting it, and being so upset that he had to die”.

But, he really died. He was really a man, and he really died. And the disciples were his BEST FRIENDS. His closest and most precious friends. They loved him and they felt broken and sore inside when he died.

Even if their minds understood what was happening, their hearts would have been feeling like they were dying aswell.

Yesterday morning, all of our session buddies received a message from Katherine. She said;

To all my buddies, just to let you know I’m coping. I didn’t have nightmares, only woke with joyful memories. I am very much looking forward to seeing you all.
I have a request. Tomorrow, preach with resurrection power. Preach as if it’s your last. Death no longer has it’s sting.

When we all get to heaven
What a day of rejoicing it will be
When we all see Jesus
We’ll shout VICTORY!!!

It gave us such joy to read Katherine with such a resoluteness to her words, with such conviction that DEATH NO LONGER HAS ITS STING.

DEATH NO LONGER HAS ITS STING.

Those words rang in my ears all day yesterday.

DEATH NO LONGER HAS ITS STING.

Suddenly I knew that THE STORY WAS NOT OVER YET. THIS is NOT THE END OF THE STORY.

Really, if you could sum up Easter and its story in one phrase it would be that Death no longer has its sting.

Jesus, through his life, death and resurrection WON Victory over death.

Effectively, Death died. Death has been swallowed up in a Victory.
Jesus claimed for us a victory over the power of sin and death.

We don’t understand it, but we know that death is not the end of the story.

It wasn’t for Jesus, and in ways we cannot comprehend, in the eternity of this world and the next, death is not the end of the story for Jon.

In 1 Corinthians 15 we read;
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death is your sting?”

In Hebrews 1 we read;
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.

In Hosea 13
“I will deliver this people from the power of the grave;
I will redeem them from death
Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?

This Easter we celebrate that God has called you out of darkness into his marvelous and glorious light.

It was in the death of Jesus that death itself died.  A man named Joseph laid Jesus in his tomb, but it was Jesus who would ultimately put death itself away for evermore. You can think of it as Jesus literally laying death in a grave. Putting death away for good.

Death is no longer the end of the story. It wasn’t for Jesus, and will not be for those who love Jesus and follow in his ways.

The power of Jesus death on the cross that day took away the power that death has over your life.

The power of Jesus takes away the power of sin and death. We don’t have to die in our sin anymore. Jon knew that Jesus had won the victory for him. Jon is enjoying the fullness of the kingdom of God right now, because he knew that sin had no place in his life anymore, and death could not keep him from the love of God.

Jesus put death away for good so that we could have eternal life in Christ Jesus.

The gift of God, is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Death is no longer the end of the story.
In the same way, wherever you are right now, whatever is happening in your life or in the life of your loved ones right now is not the end of the story.
There is more to come. It may be completely incomprehensible, but the story goes on.

We don’t understand how it’s not the end. We feel like it’s the end. In our situations, it sometimes doesn’t feel like there is any possible way of walking forward.

For the disciples, when Jesus had died, they didn’t understand. When he had risen, they still couldn’t fully comprehend what was going on. What is happening? What does this mean? What does this mean for our tomorrows? What does this mean for the story that we are living?

We also reflect this weekend on the Anzac Story. The very reason that every year we remember again the sacrifice of those who fought in war, is because the story goes on. The preciousness of what happened then is part of a rich story that Australians and New Zealanders live as part of each and every day. We tell the story and live the story every day, because it kept going.

God promises to restore and recreate the whole of creation. He has begun this restoration through the death and resurrection of his son Jesus. He is making everything new, starting with Jesus.

God knows that there are some in this room for whom sin is an issue. He says in his word that the wages of sin is death. BUT the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

God knows that there are some in this room for whom the fear of death is an issue. His word says that the fear of death has the power to hold someone in an inward state of slavery, a slavery to fear. Jesus conquered death, and conquered fear, in order to break you free from that. The reality of the Kingdom of God is that you are free of that bondage to fear through Jesus.

If your sin, and your resolute defiance of God, or his call on your life is separating you from the eternal life that God offers to you through the story of the cross, then today is the day for you to reconcile with your Lord. The story is not over for you, THIS IS not the end of the story.

Sin does not have to be your master any more. Jesus paid and price and has won the victory over the power of sin. It doesn’t have to rule you anymore. He arose, and so can you, out of the darkness, into his glorious light!

If your fear, and the bondage that makes it feels like you are held in chains is keeping you from being able to life a free and full life, then today is the day for you to come to the cross and allow Jesus to life the burden from your shoulders.

Fear does not have to be your master any more. Jesus paid the price and has won the victory over the power of fear. God’s perfect love drives out all fear. It doesn’t have to rule you anymore. He arose, and so can you, out of the darkness, into his glorious light!

Nobody here can tell you what is going on in your own heart, but you know the kind of freedom and salvation that God is calling you to.

God is restoring the whole of creation back to him. Starting with what he did on the cross, and continuing today.

As we spend time in reflection now, come to the cross. Lay everything down, because the work is done. He is risen! And what has happened, what he went through, has to count for something here today.

SONG – “Majestic” (Transmission – http://transmission.virb.com/majestic)

Finish up prayer,

The greatness of your love, is pouring over us
And we now sing the song of the redeemed.
Your mighty arm has raised our souls up from the grave
You’ve saved us from the hands of enemies
No earthly eye has seen, no mind can comprehend
what our God has in store for those who love him.
Thank you Lord, for reaching out,
Thank you Lord, for your great love,
Your arm is not too short to save.
Oh Lord, Our Lord, How Majestic is your name in all the earth.
Oh Lord, Our Lord, How Majestic is your name in all the earth.

 

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Kathleen Johansson

We shall win.

"The decree has gone forth that the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ and that He shall reign whose right it is from the River to the ends of the earth. We shall win. It is only a question of time. I believe that this Movement shall inaugurate the final conquest of our Lord Jesus Christ."
- General Catherine Booth

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