Rise Up

This is an edited manuscript for my Easter Sunday sermon – April 5, 2015. It’s launched from Acts 10:34-43 but is set up much different than my typical preaching. Most of the themes from Peter’s message to Cornelius are present, but I don’t unpack them as I normally do. As it’s not my typical way of preaching, I found this an incredibly difficult sermon to write.

Back in college I was introduced to a song, “Jesus is the answer.” It went like this,

Jesus is the answer
for the world today.
Above him there’s no other
Jesus is the way.
Jesus is the answer
for the world today.
Above him there’s no other
Jesus is the way.

Several years after being introduced to that song, I began to see a bumper sticker around which read, “Jesus is the answer, what was the question?” Now, as far as bumper-sticker theology goes, that’s particularly snarky – yet it has a point. Do Christians actually know what question Jesus answers? Sometimes I wonder if we just think of Jesus as more of a general “answer guy” who isn’t all that concerned with questions. Yet, I believe Jesus does answer a serious question. I believe the question is, “What do we do about sin?”

By “sin” I don’t mean simply mean “the naughty things I do.” Look anyone can come up with a set of rules to try to keep “bad stuff” in check. That’s easy, back in the 19th Century Baptists even turned it into a mantra, “I don’t drink, smoke, or chew, or go with girls who do.” 1 No, when I talk about sin I mean something far deeper and darker than simple behavioral controls – sin as it describes our very nature. Sin is what leads school-children to identify someone as “different” on the playground, and then turn the pack against that different child – making their lives miserable. Sin is what drives seemingly gracious people to utter contempt for their fellow human beings when stressed 2. Sin provokes some folks to label someone who is learning-disabled as a “retard,” poor people as “takers,” and those with different color skin as sub-human. Sin is what leads nations to decide it’s better to destroy than to be forced to share. Sin is what leads people to label peace-making as “naive” and war-mongering as “wise.”

Sin is how we keep ending up dealing with the same problems over and over and over and over again. Sin needs an answer.

The answer we’ve been given, is Jesus. He suffered all the temptations we suffer, but unlike us never gave in. He experienced first hand the impact sin has on this world, but he never lashed out in hatred. In fact, far from resenting the struggles he lived through, he suffered these things willingly. We need to remember, as somber and dark as Good Friday is, Jesus’ death on the cross wasn’t a tragedy, it was victory – because when Jesus submitted to death on the cross he broke the power of death itself. When he was raised on the third day he kicked the doors of death open from the inside and began the process of making all things new – including us.

In Jesus, there is forgiveness for sin. Forgiveness for the contributions, large and small, we’ve made in making this world the mess that it is. Forgiveness for hatred, bigotry, selfishness, willful-ignorance, and even apathy. In Christ we can be forgiven, and in that forgiveness be made new. New so that Jesus’ life, the answer God has given for sin, begins to seep into this world through our lives. The beautiful thing about this forgiveness is, as Peter said to Cornelius, “God has no favorites.” This forgiveness is open to everyone who is willing to seek it. May I encourage you, if this forgiveness is something you have not ever sought in your life, start seeking it now – today. Why? Not so you can “go to heaven when you die,” I can’t think of a more selfish reason to seek after God. No, I urge you to seek forgiveness because Jesus is risen, and there is a world which aches to be illuminated with his life. God, in His infinite wisdom, has determined that we shall be the conduits of this illumination.

See, I don’t call people to Jesus because I think he’s a magic cure-all for all our problems. The truth is, having faith often causes as many difficulties as it solves, and it can be a painful thing on which to hold. I call people, I call you, to Jesus because sin needs an answer. An answer which brings hope instead of despair. In a world which suffers so much from hatred and death, life and love are desperately needed. I’m tired of turning on the news and seeing stories like the one about the massacre of university students in Africa. I’m fed up with reports, like the one from Palmyra this past week, where an autistic teen found himself the victim two separate incomprehensible assaults. I’m exhausted by systems which teach us bigotry and hatred are virtues instead of vices. But this is the world we live in, and this is the world Jesus striving to make new.

It is in this world of death and suffering and decay we Christians rise up by the power of the Holy Spirit and declare, “He is risen.” Be risen with him. For God’s sake, be risen with him. For the sake of this world for which Jesus suffered and died, be risen with him. With resurrection power, may God bring Jesus’ hope into this world, through you. Through us. Amen.


  1. I’ve never heard a mantra for girls. It’s either been lost in time, they didn’t have one, or 19th Century Baptists were a ton more progressive than folks have been led to believe (the reality is is masculine language was “universal” in the 19th Century, but it make for a mildly humorous joke. The “live” version, however, expressed this idea much differently). 
  2. We have an entire reality TV show about just such a phenomena. It’s called “Bridezilla.” 
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