Easter Devotional

A Stripped-Down Easter

Beloved, we find ourselves apart from each other on this glorious day of celebration. We find ourselves seemingly misplaced, away from the new dresses, the egg hunts, and the big family meals. We find ourselves isolated from the usual trappings of this festive day. But Beloved we find ourselves well equipped with everything we need to praise our God who drew near in love, lived a perfect life in steadfastness and righteousness, died in mercy and grace, then rose from the grave in victory! For we have God with us no matter where we are, and we have his love that binds us together as brothers and sisters. We know we are together in worship even if we are not together in person. Thus, beloved, we can achieve the purpose and purest intent of Easter Sunday, Praising God!

                The word Easter has an interesting history that is disputed in certain regards. However, most linguists agree on a few steps in the process. The English word Easter comes from the German word for East, which comes from the Latin word for Dawn! So, Easter essentially means dawn, the bright start of something new. A day to remember the new life and the new creation we receive in the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  A celebration held fittingly on Sunday, the first day of New Creation. Christian tradition, for the most part, holds regular services on Sunday the first day of the week instead of Saturday the final day or traditional Sabbath. This is because the church is born out of this new creation that is ours in Christ. Every Sunday meeting signifies the declaration of New Creation!

                Most of our favorite Easter traditions point us toward this idea of New Creation as well. The Easter egg hunt, much like the word Easter has a disputed origin. However, the tradition itself is widely held to come from the egg being a symbol of new life. Combine that with the egg breaking open much like a tomb to reveal a joyous surprise and you can see where even this tradition is a nod to the resurrection.  The bunny likewise is seen as a symbol of fertility or new life in many cultures though some other countries find their eggs being delivered by other animals like a cuckoo or fox.  Even the family meals are a natural step from the tradition of celebrating Jesus as the ultimate Passover lamb.

SMALL GROUP QUESTION: WHEN YOU HEAR THE WORD EASTER WHAT IS THE FIRST TRADITION THAT COMES TO MIND?

                This year we find ourselves with a stripped-down Easter. Social distancing procedure has severed this day from traditions like buying new dress clothes, hiding Easter eggs, and large family meals. However, beloved, I suggest that through this Pandemic God may be leading his bride toward the truest expression of Easter. Worshipping Him for He is worthy. He is worthy of a day set aside just to marvel at how he triumphed over death itself and beckoned us into that victory. He is worthy of a day set aside just to appreciate how in the midst of a global pandemic death is now gain for his beloved, so fear has no grip on us. He is worthy of a day set aside just to bring him praise.  Beloved, I suggest to you that an Easter without big plans to rush off to after service may be the stripped-down Easter we need to thank God.

                Beloved, I also suggest that not only is God giving us the Easter we need this year, but He is giving us two Easters! For once this pandemic is behind us, and He has delivered us safely again, He will be faithful to yet again lead us into a new life. A new life with changed habits and social norms. A new life with a greater appreciation for fellowship and the well-being of our neighbors. A new life, refined by fire, purified by an extraordinary Lenten journey, and brought back into perspective by sacrifice.

 SMALL GROUP QUESTION: How do you think this season of life sheltered in place, will change your perspective going forward? Have you seen any changes already?

                Our first Sunday back together will be a glorious day of fellowship. However, our task for today is worshipping God in a spirit of thanksgiving in the midst of this stripped-down Easter. Our task is celebrating a story that is not centered on us as the delivered, but on God as the deliverer. So, beloved, we will unpack three passages of praise centered around the resurrection together and at the end, we will have a handful of worship songs. For even when we are inconvenienced by less than ideal circumstances God is more than enough reason to rejoice!  Our first passage is Romans 6: 8-14

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

 

Praise be to God that sin is no longer our master, that sin no longer reigns over us, nor does the law. Scripture tells us that the law only serves to point out our sin to us, for we lack the capacity to uphold it. No longer do the rules stand in opposition to us and show us how unsuccessful we are. The law has been fulfilled by our new master. Fulfilled perfectly and his perfection has been gifted to us so there is no condemnation in Christ! There is no shame, no competition, no measuring ourselves against each other. For the desires of pride were trampled by Christ when he defeated the grave.

Beloved, we find ourselves today under grace! Our very existence is based on undeserved favor from a loving God. The joy of it is that we cannot do anything to earn it. Nor can our track record be thrown back in our face to discredit us. All our missteps and perversions were poured out on Christ on the cross, and He won the victory! Take a minute to pray a prayer of thanksgiving that we have been freed from a cruel and abusive master and now joyful serve one who is more loving than we deserve. Praise be to God!

SMALL GROUP QUESTION: In what ways has God delivered you from the prideful trap of competition and comparison?

Our next passage is 1 Corinthians 15:53-57. This what the word of the Lord says:

For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”  - “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

This passage comes from the Apostle Paul discussing resurrection with the church in Corinth since some amongst them did not believe in a resurrection. It is important to note that scripture definitively claims that all three persons of the Trinity were involved in raising Jesus from the dead. (God The Father – Acts2:32-33, Romans 6:4, Galatians 1:1, God The Son – John 2:19, 10:18, God The Spirit – Romans 8:11, 1 Peter 3:18, God – Acts 2:24, 10:40, 13:30). Beloved, we do not just hold to a belief that Christ rose, but that because of his resurrection we are resurrected too. Both spiritually in our new birth and physically at the second coming.

            Though it is normal Christian language to say that death is defeated, do we really marvel at what that means? The forces of evil and corruption in this world have no leverage on us, their threats of violence and murder are empty. For we have been clothed in immortality. This is not to say that we cannot die, this point is especially important during current events. But what is means is that our eternal life with God has already begun! Death, America's second great fear (behind public speaking) is swallowed up in victory. Take a moment to pray a prayer of thanksgiving that through the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ we have a new life freed from the fear of violence and death.

SMALL GROUP QUESTION: WHAT FEARS HAS GOD DELIVERED YOU FROM?

Our final passage for today is the benediction that closes the book of Hebrews. This is what the word of the Lord says:

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. – Heb. 13:20-21

Praise be to God that He is the great Shepheard and equips us with everything good for doing his will. Beloved today we not only celebrate God for ushering in this new life, but we rejoice in Him for equipping us. For this, not just a restart, not just having everything forgiven and starting over. The resurrection isn’t filing for spiritual bankruptcy.  Our new life is one that is filled with the power and equipping of God. Jesus didn’t die that we might get a mulligan or a re-do. He defeated death that we might be reconciled to Him, that we might be returned to a right standing that pre-dates our birth. Returned to a better standing then we started off with. Justified by Christ, empowered and equipped to participate in others finding this new life. Take a moment to pray a prayer of thanksgiving that God has redeemed you and equipped you.

SMALL GROUP QUESTION: HOW HAS GOD EQUIPPED YOU TO DO WHAT IS PLEASING TO HIM?

In closing beloved, Easter is a time full of many great traditions, many of which point us toward new birth and new creation. However, Easter is ultimately about praising God. A day set aside to show gratitude and due honor to the only one who deserves it. With this in mind below is not just one song of reflection but four worship songs. When we gather together via zoom we will sing hymns and take communion. But I implore you whether contemporary worship music is your thing or not, to sing along for the glory of the God who is worth it. And may the benediction of Hebrews ring true for you Beloved.

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-mXeA0G_xKc – Christ is Risen by Matt Maher

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lFiFEjElKMw – Death Was Arrested by North Point

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9enR-kRkycI – Resurrecting by Elevation Worship

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1s4UblPViiI – Glorious Day by Kristian Stanfill