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Easter at Westside

April 3, 2024

Audio Recording

Whether your response to Jesus’ resurrection is filled with faith like Mary, or plagued with doubt like Thomas, the risen Savior will meet you with the grace and love He has made accessible to us all.

Westside Church Podcast
Westside Church Podcast
Easter at Westside
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Sermon Transcript:

Speaker A: You're listening to a live recording from.

Speaker B: Westside Church in Bend, Oregon. Thanks for joining us. Well, good morning, everybody. Happy Easter. You know, there's this old tradition of the church going back centuries where someone would say, he is risen. And the response is, he is risen indeed. So let's try this out. He is risen.

Speaker C: He is risen indeed.

Speaker B: Oh, it sounds so good. Sounds good. We're so glad you're here at Westside Church, spending your Easter with us today. We are really excited about this. We're going to baptize quite a few people right now in the service, those that are expressing their faith publicly in Jesus. And what's so cool about today is that right now, millions around the world. And next hour, next hour, as the time zones pass, millions in all the different languages and hundreds of different cultures are celebrating this one thing, that because Jesus came out of that tomb, we, too, can have new life. And today, for those of you who are about to be baptized, this is a very practical expression of that spiritual thing that's happening, that you're stepping into new life. Paul said this in romans six four about baptism. He said, we were buried, therefore, with him through baptism into death, that like, as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life. That is the message and the hope today of Easter. And the message and the hope for the rest of our lives is that we can have new life because Jesus lives. So we're gonna go back into a time of worship. We'll be baptizing as we do, and celebrating this new hope, a new life that we have in Jesus. So would you bow your heads with me as we pray and turn back again into worship? This prayer is from one Peter, one, three. Blessed are you, God, the father of our Lord Jesus, the anointed one, because you have raised Jesus from death through your great mercy, we have been reborn into a living hope, reborn for an eternal inheritance held in reserve in heaven that will never fade or fail. We thank you, Lord, for your presence here among us. In Jesus name. Amen.

Speaker A: Excited to be here on Easter. It is a day of celebration and victory in our christian tradition. But that victory and celebration does not come at the expense or at the ignorance of forgetting about what happened on Friday. The pain and the sacrifice, the blood that was shed, the flesh that was pierced. It doesn't come with the idea of. And now we forget everything, and we move into this blissful kind of ignorance in our celebration instead what Easter does at the resurrection of Christ is it teaches us that these difficult days and dark nights of the soul are real and they exist. And there is something greater than those deaths and difficulties on the other side. That alongside with our wondering and our pain, eventually we push through into this resurrected life with Jesus. And that is something worth celebrating. But what does it mean for us here? Well, it can mean dinners and lunches and eggs and. You know, by the way, my son had a little disappointment. I didn't realize this happened last year, but he told me yesterday, dad, I'm not sure I want to do the Easter egg hunt at west side because I discovered a few empties last year. He called them empties, which is a discussion to have. So I guess you could find some disappointment in the middle of the victory and the celebration. But what does this mean for us? Well, I think the resurrection teaches us something more than just an incredible miracle of a dead body coming back to life, of a closed tomb being opened again. But instead it teaches us about the miracle of the nature of God, the truest and core nature of God. And that is he is with us. Nt Wright says this. He says so much. Western Christianity has been concerned about how we humans find our way to be with God, but the Bible is far more concerned with how the creator God intends and promises to come and be with us. So how does this work? Well, let's look at it. In Matthew, chapter 28 it says this. In verse one, it says, early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb. Now I want to acknowledge that. I think it's really funny that Matthew sat down to write this down and he went, Mary Magdalene and shoot this Mary. Right? Another Mary. Last name, anybody? No, just the other Mary. Yeah, good enough for sure.

Speaker B: Matthew, can you like ask someone for.

Speaker A: Help or, you know, oh, we see in verse two, he's like, suddenly there was a great earthquake. Okay, we gotta get to this stuff. All right. Suddenly there was a great earthquake. For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone and sat on it. His face shone like lightning and his clothing was as white as snow. And the guards shook with fear when they saw him and they fell into a dead faint. And then the angel spoke to the woman. Don't be afraid, he said, I know you're looking for Jesus who was crucified. He isn't here. He's risen from the dead and just as he said would happen, so come and see where his body was lying. And now go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, that he is going ahead of you to galilee. You'll see him there. Remember what I have told you. And the women ran quickly from the tomb, and they were frightened, but also filled with great joy. They rushed to give the disciples the angel's message. And as they went, Jesus met them, and he greeted them. And they ran to him, grasped his feet and worshiped him. And Jesus said to them, don't be afraid. Go tell my brothers to leave for Galilee, and they will see me there. So Mark's account tells us that these women were headed to the tomb in order to embalm his body. But they're not quite sure how they get past the stone. And they were there out of this sense of duty, right? They had a job to do. But even more than that, they approach the tomb out of a sense of deep love and faith. Now, really, these two are an incredible blueprint for what we're shooting for when it comes to our spiritual formation, the christian faith. They approach this place where Jesus is at great danger to themselves. It was not a safe thing for the followers of Jesus to be out and about at this time. In fact, all the other disciples are hiding in various houses, doors locked, afraid of what they might encounter or who might come and attack them because they're connected to Jesus, this one who had been crucified. And yet these women come out in incredible courage and bravery to seek after Jesus. I want to have this kind of courage. I want to be brave. I want to perform this duty in the middle of this journey and this walk with Jesus as they did. And they are rewarded for this courage and bravery with an encounter with Jesus. But notice where they don't encounter him. They don't encounter him at the tomb. I think sometimes we do this in our faith. We memorialize Jesus into this good time, moment, or era of when we were praying the right way, when we were worshiping the right way, when life was generally good. And we think, if I could get back to that place where I know Jesus is or where I know my faith is, then I'm accomplishing the goal that God has for me. It's a little bit like how all of us interact with music once you hit a certain age. How many of you guys know that they haven't made any good music since you were 25? It doesn't exist. My kids played something, some kind of playlist on my phone the other day, and I was like, what is this noise? This is not music. And then in deep shame, I covered my mouth and I said, I sound like my parents. And so in order to try to fix the problem, I introduce my son to Freebird, as any good father would, and after about three minutes, he goes, okay, we get it. And I go, well, there's a guitar solo coming up. You're going to hate it. You can at least ten minutes just settle in here while we drive to Madras. Okay, you can make it. It's the same idea, right? It's when the crooners were singing. Oh, it's when southern rock was hitting. It's when the punk scene. This is when hip hop was real and right, and it was the true thing. And we have this in our own lives of faith. A lot of times we want to go find Jesus where we found him once before, or where we were sure that he would be in our life of faith, instead of a journey forward, becomes this perpetual desire to go backward into some kind of feeling or stage that we had with Jesus once upon a time. And this is not discipleship. Instead, the resurrected Jesus rarely meets us where he used to be, but he always meets us along the way here and now. If you've been a believer in Jesus for some time, you might have those nostalgic memories. And when we experience trouble or loss or grief, you simply just try to grip on to that old thing. If you've lost confidence that the future could possibly be better than the past, here's the news. Jesus greets us in our new places. I want to be like Mary and the other Mary, courageous enough to go to difficult places of faith and encounter Jesus along the way. Now, it'd be tempting for me to stop the message right there and say, see? Be courageous and brave and faithful and loving, and you'll find Jesus where you're at. And again, I want to live that way. But the greatest thing about Jesus is that he's bigger than that. He's bigger than me checking all the boxes so that I can finally have this experience that I've been seeking after. And then I can meet God where I know that he is. Jesus interacts with another person who does not share courage and bravery and faith. His name is Thomas, and he's in John. In chapter 20, it says, one of the disciples Thomas, nicknamed the Twin, was not with the others when Jesus came. So Jesus had appeared to these other disciples, but Thomas was not among that group. Then after this, they told him, we've seen the Lord. But he replied, I won't believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands. Put my fingers into them and place my hand into the wound at his side. Now, if you are looking at your actual bibles right now, the top of this section of scripture would say, doubting Thomas. By the way, all we know is that Thomas doubted one time, just once, and by the way, he doubted that someone came back from the dead. I just want to give Thomas a big hug. Poor guy. Then he's got all these friends that.

Speaker B: Are like, have you seen Jesus?

Speaker A: He's like, no. No, I haven't. Have you? Of course you have. It makes sense that you would doubt. It's the sensible response in this moment. It says, eight days later, after the disciples have encountered him, they were together again. So Thomas has been talking with the disciples for over a week about what they've seen, and he is suspicious. And it says at this time that Thomas was sitting with them. The doors were locked, but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. And so Thomas, who had experienced this disillusionment and frustration and maybe even anger, if he was anything like me.

Speaker C: Who.

Speaker A: Didn'T want to hope again, have you ever had your hope deferred or ruined or crushed? What happens to us after our hope is crushed in such a way? As we get older? It's very easy to say, that's it. Instead of hoping, I'm choosing to never hope again, because all hope does is it ruins my experience. It accelerates my expectations to a place that I'm confident this life can never actually deliver on. So I'm not going to hope again. I'm not going to wonder again. I'm not going to be excited again. And instead of living this true, full life that I believe that Jesus offers up to us, we escape into the shell of cynicism and frustration, because at the very least, we won't ever be let down ever again. Thomas doesn't want to be let down. Doubt is easier than faith in this situation, and I understand why. But then Jesus stands among them and he says, peace be with you. And he said to Thomas, put your finger here and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side and don't be faithless any longer. Believe, my lord, my God. Thomas exclaimed. And then Jesus told him, you believe because you've seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me. So we think the story is about the two Marys and Thomas. But of course, the story is about the love of Jesus. It'd be easy to be Jesus in this situation and hear word that Thomas has been doubting and say, well, tell Thomas to go talk to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, tell him to go learn from some of these other people. And then maybe if his faith increases a little bit, maybe if he finds himself in a more humble place, I'll come and I'll visit him personally. But until then, he can just wait. No, of course, Jesus doesn't do that. He doesn't compare the two people. He doesn't just look at one and say, your faith is going to reward you with this arrival of me. And for you, you're gonna have to spend the rest of your life in disbelief and frustration and doubt. He doesn't wait for the perfect result or the person to manifest themselves in his presence in the appropriate way. Instead, Jesus, because he loves the world, because he loves everyone. The doubtful and the courageous, the brave and the fearful, he wants to be with all of them.

Speaker C: Me.

Speaker A: No exceptions. The kindness of Jesus is what he doesn't wait for us to wrestle our fears and doubt alone. He comes to us in the middle of our fear right now, in the middle of risky hope, and in the middle of doubt and unbelief. The good news of the story is that God has come to be with us. No matter what condition you find your soul or your body or your mind in today, the resurrection speaks to us through and beyond all of these dysfunctions and imperfections that we have. This is not to find protection from trouble or to cocoon ourselves away, far away from the vulnerable place where we might be disappointed. Instead, we stand in the company of so many who for centuries have been convinced that even in the darkest moments and most hopeless circumstances, God is on the move to make and everything right. As winter gives way to spring, we're reminded that beauty bursts out of dead places. Okay, so God's with me. God loves specifically me. But why do I find it so difficult to see him or experience him? And my answer to you, as a professional preacher is I have no idea how you see God all the time. I find the task extremely difficult. Sometimes I do better than others. It reminds me of a story that CS Lewis wrote. He wrote many, many, many books, but he wrote this one called a Horse and his boy. It was a part of a collection of books called the Chronicles of Narnia. Maybe you've heard of the lion, the Witch in the WaRdrobe, and the voyage of the dawn treader and the silver Chair. And in this book, there's a boy named Shasta who's an orphan, and he makes friends with this horse. And this Horse tells him that there's this beautiful place called NaRnia that he would like to get back to and take Shasta with him. And along the way, they encounter a lot of problems, a lot of wildlife, including lions. And in the middle of the journey, from a great mist, there's this voice, and it's the voice of Aslan, who is the God character in this story. And Shasta doesn't know it at the time, but ASlan is himself a lion. And so the voice speaks to him, and Shasta says, look, I want to go on this journey, and I want to find my way to the promised land, right to Narnia. But, man, there's so many lions. And they moved us this way and that way, and I'm not sure we can actually arrive at our place. I feel alone. We feel lost. And Aslan speaks back to him from the mist and says, I was the lion. I was the lion that forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. And I was the lion who gave the horses new strength of fear for the last mile that should reach King Loon in time. I was the lion who did not. You do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay a child near death, so that it came to shore, where a man sat wakeful at night to receive you and to save you. God is all around us. We can't make sense of every move or every word that we encounter. But I hope today that we can trust that he's with us and he loves us. I got to go on a walk to Scotland. I didn't walk to Scotland. I flew and then walked. Tell us about how you walked across the Atlantic. And I was going for kind of. Some kind of experience, a spiritual journey of sorts. I didn't know what to expect, but I thought it would be restful and peaceful and reawaken my soul. And what I found about one or 2 miles in is that I felt lonely. I felt ashamed of many things that have happened in my life. I felt frustrated with God. I felt overwhelmed. And the thoughts were flying in quickly, all the shame and guilt. And at first I was like, I gotta get past these things. I gotta run through them as quickly as possible. Have you ever done this? You've reached a difficult point in your life, and you say, if we could just get through it. If we can just get through it. If we can just get past it. And so I did that. I'm on this beautiful walk in Scotland. I'm going. If I can just go faster, maybe I should get through with this. Walk as quickly as possible, and then I'll feel better. And of course, the solution was not to increase my speed. It was to slow down. I wonder if sometimes we miss. We don't remember that Jesus is with us because we're in such a hurry. There's too many goals to accomplish. There's too much money to make. There's too much wrongs to be righted. I wonder if Jesus today, on the day of resurrection, is encouraging us to simply walk on the journey and believe that he is with us and meets us there. The solution isn't to speed up, but it's to stop and to remember that we are truly and deeply, unrelentingly loved. Let's pray. Father God, we receive you again today as our Lord and savior. Lord, I pray that all of us, no matter if we are doubtful or frustrated or angry or courageous and faithful, no matter where we find ourselves or how we describe ourselves, I pray that we would know that you love us, God. We want to hope again. We want to believe again, soften our hardened hearts, brighten our darkened days, that we would remember that you are the lion that is and leads us to our savior. In Jesus great and holy name, we pray. Amen. Amen. Would you stand with me as we worship one more time?

Speaker C: My savior bled for me. My Jesus set me free. Look at the ones that give me life gracefully from inside. No greater sacrifice. What he's done and what he's done. All the glory and beyond it to the sun. My sins are forgiven. My future is heaven. Oh, I praise God. Sing for the freedom he has won. Even death is dead and died his life has overcome. Speak, say the name of am. All the glory and the honor I can. My future, my raise. I what you, what he does.

Speaker D: Hallelujah. You are worthy to receive God. Every bit of praise and worship we bring to you as you who defeated death, the light of the world, conquering all darkness, and as you, Lord, who promised us in the very last lines of the book of Matthew, your closing words to us were, I will be with you always, even to the end of the age. Would that be for us, God, our anchor of hope and life? Whether we identify with Mary or Thomas or all the others, Lord, in between, your promise is to be with us always. Thank you, Jesus. Amen. If you would stand with me, we pray a blessing called a benediction at the end of every service. To start, I'm going to pray a blessing over you and if you're willing if you just stand with your hands open in front of you in a posture to receive I'll pray this blessing over you and then the next slide we will pray out loud together. I pray that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his spirit so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all of the saints what is the breadth and the length and the height and the depth and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. And then will you pray this out loud with me in your greatest Easter celebration? Voices now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think according to the power at work within us. To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. God bless you. Happy Easter.