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Monday, April 25, 2011

Lifeblood: from Exodus to Easter (1 Peter 1.17-21, Luke 24.2-23)

Sermon by: Robert Austell
April 17, 2011
Some Music Used 
Prelude: "This Joyful Eastertide" (Ferguson)
Hymn of Praise: "Thine is the Glory" (MACCABEUS)
Children's Handbells: "Gethsemane" (arr. Stults)
Worship Team: "You Never Turned Away" (Proctor)
Choir and Jazz Trio: "Agnus Dei, from 'A Little Jazz Mass'" (Chilcott)
Hymn of Praise: "Christ the Lord is Risen Today" (EASTER HYMN)
Worship Choir: "Stay with Us" (Hoyland)
Song of Praise: "Come, People of the Risen King" (Getty/Townend)
Worship Choir : "God's Son Has Made Me Free" (Grieg)
Offering of Music - worship team and choir: "Behold Our God" (Baird, Altrogge)
Song of Sending: "Let God Arise" (Tomlin, Cash, Reeves)
Postlude: "Toccata on 'Christ Jesus Lay in Death's Strong Bands'" (Diemer)

Easter Music Mix (edited to approx. 10 min.)
follows list above excluding prelude/postlude

Lifeblood: from Exodus to Easter
Text: 1 Peter 1:17-21; Luke 24:2-23

(download) **Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes - search for "Good Shepherd Sermons or Robert Austell"**

A blessed Easter to you! In today’s service you have heard the re-telling of the Passion of Jesus in scripture and music. It is a bit unusual to back up to the betrayal, suffering, and death on Easter Sunday; typically we dwell on those somber things during Holy Week and it’s all celebration on Easter morning. But Easter morning is the culmination of all that has gone on before, and we wanted to remember what has led up to this joyful declaration that “Christ is risen!”

We wanted to remember because remembering God’s story and God’s faithfulness has been one of the recurring themes in recent weeks as we’ve worked through the epic Exodus story of plagues, Passover, and deliverance from slavery and death. In that story, too, we see a culmination in the Passover event; God has delivered and redeemed the Hebrew people from slavery and death to new life and promise. We’ve also seen that the Exodus story itself finds its complete culmination in Jesus, and in fact here on Easter morning.

So this Easter is all about the back-story: God’s past faithfulness pointing us to God’s present and future faithfulness; God’s one-time epic redemption in Exodus pointing to God’s once-and-for-all cosmic redemption on the cross; and God’s ancient, abiding covenant promise of a future and a home and overflowing blessing seen in the Resurrection of Jesus.

Today we will connect God’s story from Exodus to Easter, announcing the Good News that all this is not just ancient history, but God’s loving gift for all who believe, even today, even now.

The Exodus Story is Our Story

The main text for this morning is the one you just heard from 1 Peter, though I certainly am drawing on all that you’ve heard, including the one from Revelation. But Peter combines both the Exodus story and the Easter story into just a few verses. Let’s focus first on verses 18-19:
…you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. (1 Peter 1:18-19)
This choice of imagery and language leaped off the page at me after having spent some 10-12 weeks in the Exodus story. That Exodus story describes God’s people, enslaved for generations by the choices of their forefathers, who had no way out – no redemption. Peter begins this letter (1 Peter 1:1-8) contrasting silver and gold which tarnish and salvation that does not (nor is it at risk of theft like silver and gold). But I am also reminded of the silver and gold of the Egyptians, which are present but are anything but redemption for the enslaved Hebrew people. Rather, the silver and gold of the Egyptians are a symbol of both the pagan gods and the enslavement of the Hebrews. Later in Exodus, that same silver and gold, plundered from the Egyptians, becomes the basis for the golden calf, another false god created which cannot save.

In contrast, Peter describes the means of God’s redemption, both in Exodus and on the cross. It is the life-blood of a mediating sacrifice. In the case of the Hebrew people in Exodus, it was an unblemished and spotless lamb, sacrificed and prepared for Passover, and its blood applied to the doorposts and lintel of their homes to fashion an altar and atoning sacrifice to God for their lives. Peter uses that same description and imagery to describe what was accomplished by Jesus on the cross: his life-blood given as a mediating and atoning sacrifice for our lives, that God’s judgment might pass over us and onto Jesus himself.

The Exodus story and the Good Friday story are our story. Like the enslaved and bound-up Hebrew people of old, we are caught up in a slavery from which we cannot deliver ourselves. That slavery is a slavery to sin, disobedience, selfishness, idolatry, self-rule; however you want to describe it, a life that is not given to God is given ultimately to death. That’s how the Bible describes the human condition; that’s what needs “redeeming.” And only God can accomplish that. Not gold or silver, power or influence, intellect or strength; only God.

The Easter Story is Our Story

But Peter goes on to say that the Easter story is also our story. He writes of Jesus:
For he was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you, who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. (1 Peter 1:20-21)
I appreciate Peter’s focus here, in several ways. First, this death and resurrection were not a last-minute or backup plan, but was God’s plan from “before the foundation of the world.” We likewise saw that God has a purpose for His people, Israel, one that was announced to Abraham years before. And it would not be thwarted or undone by human sin, disobedience, earthly power, slavery, or even the direct opposition of Pharaoh.

We also see that Peter, who has just highlighted the surpassing value of the cross as the means of God’s redemption does not stop there (at Good Friday). So often we stop there, at belief in Jesus dying on the cross. And it is the redemptive act that saved us! It is the eternal Passover event that set us free from slavery and death.

But listen to what Peter says next! This God, in whom we believe, is the one who “raised [Jesus] from the dead and gave him glory.” That’s Easter! God raised Jesus from the dead. God’s story is not just deliverance FROM death, it is redemption TO life. The Passover night was not the end of the Exodus story, but a new beginning for God’s people as He led them to the Promised Land.

Salvation through belief in Jesus’ saving death on the cross is not just the end of sin and death; his Easter resurrection is the beginning of a new life in Christ. Scripture is full of that language – rebirth, a new start, a new life, a second birth, being born again.

And here’s the last part of verse 21. That Resurrection is the basis of our faith and hope. Belief in the cross is largely a backward-looking thing. And there’s nothing wrong with that; it is commended and required! But that’s God’s past faithfulness. It was promised and it has ongoing implications and benefits for those who believe, but it is past. It is done; it is finished; it is accomplished!

But Easter resurrection – that is all that God has in store for us, for you, day by day, moment by moment, and for eternity. Faith and hope are present and forward-looking. Rooted in God’s past faithfulness, they are expressions of trust in God for today and tomorrow – that God is and will be faithful! God has a purpose for your life and invites you to discipleship, to a life of following after Jesus.

That’s why the Easter story is also your story and my story. Jesus didn’t just die for your sin; he was raised for your life and the living of it.

So the invitation that runs from Exodus to Easter, throughout all the Bible, is the same invitation Jesus spoke during his earthly ministry. And that is the same invitation I would speak today, to come, believe, and follow:
Come, whoever you are and wherever you’ve been – God knows and God wants you;

Believe, for God has ever been faithful and the blood of the Lamb has been shed to make things right with you;

Follow, for God has raised Jesus and there is new life and a new start, a new future with God and for God.

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