I suppose many of you are here in anticipation of the Easter Story . . . the story of the resurrection of Jesus; but, unfortunately, that is not going to happen. You probably noticed that something was up when our scripture reading this morning came from Paul’s epistle to the Colossians and not from one of the gospels . . . it isn’t your typical Easter scripture reading. And, I suppose, if we are going to be honest with ourselves, it shouldn’t be. After all, we—the followers of Jesus—know how the story ends. We know how Jesus triumphants over death . . . how the women and disciples discover the empty tomb . . . how the disciples encounter them in an empty room. We know all of that . . . we know that Jesus wins . . . we know the Easter Story . . . we have heard it hundreds of times.
We followers of Jesus have been pretty good about patting ourselves on the back on this victory . . . as we should . . . after all, with Jesus’ victory we, too, are victorious . . . we win too. It feels pretty good to be on the winning side . . . and, it feels good to gather on an annual basis to recognize and celebrate this fact; but, what does this victory really mean for us? How does this victory change us and our lives? As you know a gift is not a gift until it is opened, acknowledged, and used . . . in this case the gift given to us is new life . . . not an empty tomb.
The Apostle Paul, as usual, is addressing an new church plant that is running into problems . . . in this particular case it is the congregation in Colosse. And, as usual, it is a letter that basically tells the people to knock it off and start living up to the gift of new life given to them through Jesus. The typical problem is that these congregations, including the one in Colosse, is too busy living every life but the life they have been given in the Risen Jesus . . . thus there is a lot of fighting. So, Paul tells them to knock it off and get back to the business of living life in Jesus.
In our reading this morning, the apostle tells the people that there is no reason to keep sacrificing Jesus over and over again on the cross and waiting for another resurrection . . . Jesus got it right the first time. Getting it right the first time meant that they, too, have the gift of new life. There is no need to repeat it over and over again, they already have it. There is also no reason to throw down a whole bunch of dogmatic rules and hoops for people to follow and jump through in order to receive, they already have it. Jesus’ victory over death—his resurrection—was executed perfectly . . . the gift was delivered . . . new life was given. To which the apostle calls to the people to start living this new life.
Start living this new life . . . the question is, I imagine, is where in the world did I place that life? If we are truly serious about this new resurrected life, then let’s do it. Let’s start living it. But, first, we need to find where we put it.
We human beings are pretty complicated folks. We are sort of like those Rossian matryoshka dolls—those nesting dolls . . . those wooden dolls of decreasing sixe that are placed one inside of the other. Our lives are layered like that, and depending upon the time and place, the situation, and who we are with is which doll we happen to display for the world. There is the “work” doll . . . the “spouse” doll . . . the doll that represents us when we are at play . . . and, there is even the doll that represents us in our spiritual or religious or even faithful lives. Our lives are layers of roles that we all play . . . and, somewhere in all of those layers—in all of those dolls—is our new life in Jesus. We’ve just got to find it, embrace it, and live it. It is ours for the taking . . . all we have to do is live it as if we believe it.
The Easter Story tells us that there is newness through Jesus. With that newness we change . . . we no longer have to struggle with how things are going to finish when we get to the end. We know, we won . . . we have life, new life! We are free to be who God created us to be and to follow the example of love and life manifested in Jesus. This is new life . . . and, I imagine that it is the “life” you have brought out this morning . . . or you are at least considering it. It is okay to do that here, among our fellow sojourners, because none of us is going to laugh or ridicule about this new life. But, how long will any of us leave that new life out for the rest of the world to see? A year? A month? A week? A day? Or, just a couple of hours. How long will we live this new life before we become uncomfortable and put it away once again?
The Apostle Paul is actually echoing the word of Jesus in this letter to the Colossians . . . he is echoing the one word of Easter . . . and, that word is “choose”. Jesus wants us to choose life . . . new life. Jesus wants us to quite living our lives like a Matryoshka doll and to start living our new lives as God created us to be . . . that is the one the Jesus went through all of this for. That is the one Jesus loves and accepts just as it was created to be. Nothing else matters . . . when we choose to live this new life as God created us to be, we are embraced, accepted, and loved. There is nothing else we need to do other than to start living this gift of new life.
I realize that this is easier said than done . . . heavens know that I have difficulty in my own life in living the new life. I am not always who God created me to be . . . I layer myself up . . . and, I lose where I placed this gift of new life from time to time. I get caught up in what others want . . . what society wants . . . and, now I hear the words of the Apostle Paul on Easter morning telling me to knock it off! Knock it off and get back to the business of living the gift . . . of walking with Jesus . . . of living life like the one I claim to follow . . . of loving—loving God and others.
And, I realize that I can only do this if I choose to do it . . . to turn myself and my life over to Jesus.
I do not think that any of us really has to look too hard for the gift of new life that we celebrate this Easter day. I think that we all know exactly where we have put it . . . I think we know because we understand how valuable that gift of new life is . . . how special that gift of new life is. Paul tells us to embrace it and live it. Jesus tells us to choose. The annual celebration of Easter probably best serves us as a reminder . . . we won. We won and we ought to start living life like we won.
May you find the strength to stand before the empty tomb this day to embrace the gift of new life . . . life as God created you to be . . . life in following Jesus. May you acknowledge the gift and live it . . . not only today but all the days of your life. Amen.