A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 12th April 2009 by the Rev. Phyllis Wong. The scripture readings that day were Psalm 118:1-2, 14:24, Act 10:34-43 and Mark 16:1-8.
Triune God, on this Easter Sunday we give you thanks for your amazing love to all humankind. May the Holy Spirit inspire the one who speaks and all who listen to understand the truth and mystery of Jesus’ resurrection and salvation. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
In line with the theme of our young people’s drama today, my message on this Easter Sunday is ---- Take up the Cross and follow Jesus Christ.
What is this Cross all about?
This Cross is all about Jesus Christ. The Cross represents Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God, being sent to the world by God, our Holy creator. Jesus Christ comes to this world as light, to bring the good news of PEACE to the world. (Act 10:36)
There Are Other Important Elements Revealed In The Cross Of Christ:
1 It is a Cross of life-giving. We can see how Jesus heal the sick, suffered and sacrificed his life for all humanity.
2 It is a Cross of judgment. God has appointed Jesus Christ to judge the living and the dead in his love and justice. He will reward the good and punish the evil.
3 It is a Cross of forgiveness, whoever believes in Jesus, his or her sins will be forgiven. Sins are the separation of relationship, a state of alienation from God, from other people, from the nature and from ourselves.
4 It is a Cross of love. Jesus Christ who died for us to save the whole humanity has demonstrated his unconditional love to all of us. (Roman 5:8) ‘God has shown us how much he loves us – it was while we were sinners that Christ died for us!’
5 It is a cross of hope. When there is love, there is hope.
6 It is a Cross of the Risen Christ. The Cross will give us no promise if Jesus did not arise. Only the resurrection of Jesus can give us life and hope.
During the first two centuries of Christianity, the cross depicts a purposely painful and gruesome method of public execution. The Cross has been a symbol of humiliation and punishment. The image of the cross is terrible and awful. However, with the resurrection of Jesus from death, the cross has become the symbol of salvation that brings peace, hope and joy. The resurrection of Jesus Christ has demonstrated that the power of life overcomes the power of death.
In the days when Jesus rose up from the tomb, his close friends and followers were amazed and terrified for the experience was too dramatic and extraordinary. When we read the narratives in Mark 16: 1-8, we can see that the initial response of the women who were close to Jesus and love him so much, were ‘distressed and terrified’. The power of resurrection with the full presence of Jesus Christ however helped those who believed to overcome fear and have inner peace at the end.
When we read Matthew, Luke and John, we will know that the women eventually spread the message of Jesus’ resurrection to his disciples. The disciples, being strengthened and encouraged in Jesus resurrection, became committed followers and the community of faith to be Jesus’ witness. The power of resurrection has given them the power to overcome the fear of loss of life. The disciples of the early church were willing to witness the good news of Jesus Christ even when being threatened with torture and death!
The resurrection of Jesus is an indication of life transformation. This is the transformation from fear to peace, from death to life, from despair to hope, from sadness to gladness.
The power of resurrection must be based on a change of paradigm. That is a change of mind set according not to human perception or conventional understanding. Resurrection requires us to take a new lens to look at the new happenings from God’s eyes. When we take a new angle with faith in God, imagine the new possibilities, and move beyond conventional understanding, we will be able to comprehend the mystery of resurrection.
What differences will we make when we take up the cross and follow Jesus Christ?
1 We will know that God is our God and we are human creatures. We need God’s provision and we need the forgiveness of sins from Jesus. We need to rebuild relationship with God, others and ourselves. This is what Jesus calls reconciliation. (2 Cor 5:19-20)
2 We learn and try our efforts to turn enemies to friends. This is what Jesus has taught us ‘to love our enemies’. (Matt 5:44)
3 We will make efforts to lead a life of sharing and giving, rather than focusing on our own desires and self gratification. ‘To love our neighbors as ourselves’ (Mark 12:31)
In sum, there will be more love, peace and justice in the world.
If we claim to be Christians and followers of Christ, in this Easter we need to remember our risen Lord Jesus has reminded us to take up his Cross. The resurrection of Jesus has given us insights. It is to take up the cross in a transforming manner to share the good news of life, peace, hope and joy with others.
The message of taking up the cross for Christ, to witness his redeeming love and power is timely today. It is in time of the global economic crisis, violence and wars, poverty and exploitation around the world, people need the good news to lead a life with hope and encouragement base on God’s redeeming love and justice.
Church as body of Christ, when celebrate the rebirth of Jesus Christ, we are reminded of our roles and responsibility of being God’s witness to share God’s good news of peace with people who are living in fear and inadequacy.
A Cross To Share
The cross I have in my hand now is a Christmas present from Tara. This was made in El Salvador, a country in Central America. This is a special cross. First, at the centre it is not a man with a suffering look. Instead it is a woman with an open gesture. The cross is made of wood, very light wood. The cross is very colorful. The pictures indicate lives of different engagements, which include a teaching setting, a preaching setting, and a farm setting. It symbolizes the incarnation of Jesus Christ in the world. His participation is in every aspect of people’s lives. When we say we take up the cross, the most basic thing is to participate in different human activities according to the calling from God in our own life setting. Besides, it is not necessary Jesus stands right at the Cross, it could be anyone who are willing to take up the Cross. It can be a man from a city, a woman from a farm. It could be anyone of different background. This cross is very colorful. It implies we can add colors and joy to people’s life by sharing with them God’s redeeming power and love.
The service and witness to God is full of challenges. The power of death and evil is always there awaiting us. We need to be prepared for bearing the pains that may arise. Remember, “no pain no gain”. The good news is our risen Lord Christ Jesus has gone through all suffering, pain and even death. His victory over death has given us the power of life to overcome difficulties, temptations and evils.
The resurrection was not only a historical event. It is the heart of the Christian faith—God raised Jesus from death. The resurrection is a saving act of God.
God sent Jesus Christ to the world to love, to heal and to forgive. Jesus lived and died to buy our pardon. The empty tomb has proved our Savior lives. Our God is not God of death, but God of life. Our Lord Jesus Christ has risen from death. His resurrection gives us hope. It is hope with joy and new possibilities. Remember that God is our creator, source of life and source of everything. From the Word of God and deeds of God through Jesus Christ, we know that God lives and lead our way to eternity. Because of this, we have no fear to face tomorrow. We have no fear to lead a new life of giving, to lead an enriching life of hope, joy and peace. And because of the love of God, we could eventually dare to take the Cross of Jesus Christ and become a faithful witness of Jesus, to love and to serve the world, especially those who are in need.
Easter is a time to celebrate Jesus Christ who has risen from the death. It is a time of great joy. This joy of resurrection is relevant to us only when we believe in Jesus Christ, repent and ask for forgiveness. The peace of resurrection is relevant to us only when we commit ourselves to follow Jesus’ footstep to bring the good news of peace to the world of chaos. The rebirth of resurrection is relevant to us only when we bear the Cross with and for Jesus by leading a life of giving. When we give up life, we will gain lives as promised by our Lord Jesus Christ. (Matthew 16: 24-25)
May our God of Life keep you and bless you in God’s eternal love, peace, and hope.