A week ago Wednesday, on March 14, I was getting ready to leave early the next morning to drive to Alberta, along with Susan and some of our children, for my nephew’s wedding. And one of the things that I really needed to do before I left was to deposit a cheque in the bank. So I tried to go onto the bank app that I usually use for such things and my password wouldn’t work, even after several tries. Then I tried to log on through my laptop, but that didn’t work and I got a message saying that I should phone a certain phone number. I checked online and saw that my local branch was still open, so I drove over there and arrived a few minutes before they were going to close. To my surprise, the teller could not even get into my account and he advised me to phone the Fraud Department of my bank. I tried doing that but they had closed for the day about 2 hours earlier.
Then one of the customer service reps came out of her office and offered to help. She phoned the Fraud Department, but they did not answer her call either. She went online and was able to take a look around and see what was going on in my account and things looked normal. I was feeling somewhat anxious and confused. I was in a bit of a dilemma, but I did not know why.
Finally, after double-checking my ID and several other things, the Customer Service Rep said, “I am going to unlock your account. I have taken your deposits several times.” She knew me and she was both able and motivated to make things right for me, and so she did.
This is something that all of us need. All of need someone who knows us, and who is both able and motivated to make things right for us. Though most of us can perpetuate a façade of keeping things together, for all of us there is an undercurrent of brokenness beneath that façade. Deep down, at the centre of our being, though we try to hide it, all of us are broken people. And, in spite of our best efforts, that brokenness surfaces from time to time in unexpected ways.
Last Thursday morning, I was going for a run early in the morning when I encountered a young man wandering aimlessly in the middle of the street. I asked him if he was okay and he said, “Not really.” Then he told me that he thought that his girlfriend committed suicide the night before. She sent him a picture on her cut wrists on Instagram and ever since he was not able to get a hold of her. How does have any hope in the midst of a situation like that? Well, if you believe, like Stephen Hawking did, that the brain is a computer that will stop working when its components fail, and that there is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers, that such things are nothing more than a fairy story for people who are afraid of the dark, then there is no hope.
But God has given us a different story, a better story, which gives us hope regardless of the situations we find ourselves in. In God’s Great Story, He created everything good, so that all things functioned according to God’s design and in harmony with God and each other. Then all of Creation was corrupted when our first parents disobeyed God and we have been struggling with sin, death and brokenness ever since. But even in the darkest moment of human history, God gave a promise that He would send a Saviour that would redeem the world and restore all of creation to its original goodness in the end.
And today marks the beginning of Holy Week, that time when we remember Jesus’ triumphant journey into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, reflect on His journey to the cross for us on Good Friday, and then celebrate with exuberance Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Sunday.
And the reason that we celebrate on Easter Sunday is not only because Jesus has won forgiveness for all our sins, which He has, and not only because Jesus has defeated death for us, which He has. The really big reason that we celebrate on Easter is because Jesus’ resurrection proves that God’s plan of restoring all of creation has already begun. By rising from the dead, Jesus has ushered in a new creation, a new dimension of reality, a new realm of being, which is permeating throughout the old creation like yeast permeates throughout a large bowl of dough, as one by one, people trust in this amazing Good News that Jesus is making us all and all things new.
When we trust that Jesus is our Saviour, He brings us into this new realm of being and makes us new creations on the inside, even though our outside is passing away. And we know that one day Jesus is going to back to this world to make us and all things right. That just as Jesus rose from the dead with His old physical body restored and renewed as a resurrection body that will last forever, so also Jesus will raise us from the dead one day and our old physical body will be restored and renewed as a resurrection body that will be good and whole and it will function as it should. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Rev. 21:3-4)
The value of a great story does not depend on its ability to give hope. It depends on whether it is true or not. Of all the major faiths in the world, only Christianity rests entirely on whether a single event happened in history or not. That single event is the resurrection of Jesus. As the apostle Paul wrote to the Church in Corinth: And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. (1 Cor. 15:17-18)
But we believe that God’s Grand Story is true and we believe it because we believe that the resurrection of Jesus actually happened. Earlier in his letter to the Church in Corinth, Paul wrote:
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. (1 Cor. 15:3-8)
What Paul is saying to his readers is check this out for yourself. Ask some of the people who actually saw Jesus after He rose from the dead because many of them were still alive at the time Paul wrote this.
And I say the same thing to you: check things out for yourself. Of course, those original witnesses are no longer alive, but there are people in our own time who have done a rigorous investigation into the truth of whether Jesus’ resurrection happened or not. I am referring to people like Gary Habermas, who wrote the book “The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus,” and Lee Strobel, who wrote “The Case for Christ.” Check things out for yourself and see what the evidence says. Then decide for yourself if you think that God’s Grand Story is true or not. And if you become part of God’s New Creation yeast that is infecting the dough of this dying world, then you will have hope, even in the midst of the most hopeless situations, because Jesus has promised us that He is making all things new. As Paul wrote in a later letter to the Corinthian Church: Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. (2 Cor. 4:16)
March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, was a day that was filled with reminders of God’s Restorative work. First, in the morning, through the waters of Holy Baptism, Jesus began His new creation work in my grand-niece, Stella. Then in the afternoon, my nephew, Travis, married his fiancé, Molly, in an old, country church that had not been used for many, many years. There was no heat and no power. But there was lots of people and lots of love. And something very special happened in that run down old building as a bride was united with her husband. It became a holy moment in a holy place, something that those of us who were present will likely never forget.
Today, Jesus has a holy moment in a holy place for you. He is the Lamb who was slain for the redemption and restoration of the whole world. He is inviting you to trust that He will carry you through whatever challenge you face and not only save you, but also restore you. Anywhere you are can be the holy place where this happens. Anytime can be the holy moment when your story is joined to God’s Great Story. God’s Story is a story of hope, not only for us but also for the whole world. As we rest in Jesus and let Him live His life through us, He will help us to bring that hope to the world around us. Amen.
(This message was shared at Walnut Grove Lutheran Church in Langley BC on March 25, 2018. It is based on Revelation 21:1-8 & 22:1-7. For pictures of Molly and Travis’s wedding by Marsha Peacock Photography, click here.)