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One more time: Risen Indeed!

It was good to have the opportunity to preach on the Sunday after Easter.

In some churches the Easter season can be over and done with by Easter Monday.

I like the idea of lingering meaningfully with Easter until Pentecost and beyond. The 19th Century Birmingham preacher RW Dale had such a profound experience of the power of the Easter message, that he decided that for the remaining years of his ministry he would start every service with a Resurrection hymn.

Every Sunday is a Lord’s Day because every Sunday is a celebration that Christ has been raised from the dead.

Have you noticed that even during Lent the Sundays are not counted in the 40 days, but each Sunday is viewed as a “little Easter,” which forms a trailer for the main event.

I took as my text the opening verses from 1 Corinthians 15 that include what must be some of the most important words in the New Testament:

“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” (I Corinthians 15:3–4).

We would be hard pushed to find a crisper definiton of the heart of the gospel story than that.

The remarkable thing about these words is that they are written within thirty years of the events of the first Easter by a man who had been a sworn enemy of Christ and the gospel.

This form of words demonstrate that clear memorable statements of faith were being formed and circulated at a very early stage. Paul could say with confidence:

“This is what we preach, and this is what you believed” (1 Corinthians 15:11)

It is easy to see echoes of Paul’s words in the Apostles’ Creed:

“(Christ) suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again.”

Paul is keen to keep these vital truths in the memories of his hearers. Paul’s enthusiastic persistence reminds me of how Augustine begins one of his Easter sermons:

“It’s right that you should be reminded of what you hear regularly every year. Just as it’s not enough, you see, for what is written to be read only once, it’s not enough either for what is not understood to be explained only once. Those of you therefore, who have kept in mind what you heard and understood, and remember it well, must listen patiently, while others too, who have perhaps forgotten are being instructed, or those who possibly haven’t heard are hearing for the first time.”

(Augustine Sermon 229K Preached on the Thursday after Easter)

Augustine knows how to read a room and address people at the varying stages of their response to the gospel.

Those words about hearing about the resurrection for the first time got me thinking.

Perhaps, if I could regularly recapture the wonder of discovering this news for the first time, my preaching would be more compelling?

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

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