SERMON TITLE: “Resurrection Faith”
SERMON TEXT: John 20:1-18
PREACHER: Rev. Kim James
OCCASION: April 17, 2022 (Easter) at First UMC
On Thursday, I read a news article about some Russian citizens who have been punished for speaking out against the war in Ukraine. Those who have tried to raise public awareness have been subjected to arrest, detention, and fines. The Russian government has been trying to suppress and contain any messages other than their official version of events. Like the ancient authorities tried to silence Jesus by crucifying him and sealing him in a tomb, the Putin administration is hoping to lock up and close off any communications of peace and sympathy toward the Ukrainians.
One of the persons the Putin government tried to silence was a Russian Orthodox priest who spoke to his tiny congregation “about the pain he felt over people” dying in Ukraine. Somehow the authorities found out, and they fined him 35,000 rubles. The officials hoped that this punishment would silence the priest’s message. Ironically, however, the news of his maltreatment has instead “spread his message far beyond the dozen or so people who initially heard his sermon . . . ‘It’s impossible to call it anything other than the providence of God,’” the priest reported. Because of the government’s reaction, “’The words that I said reached a much larger number of people.’”1
Like Jesus on Easter morning, the truth can’t be contained. Over and over again, God always finds a way to open the grave and restore life. It certainly isn’t easy to see in the midst of bombing and crucifixion. In the days and hours before the stone is rolled away from the tomb, a period of trauma and doubt is understandable. There will be a time of grieving and despair. There may be an interval in which it seems like God is not present or listening. For a while, it may even seem like the powers of darkness and evil are winning the battle. But, deep inside that dark tomb, God is at work, preparing a miracle.
On this Easter morning, I invite you to look with me at the story in John 20. Like Jesus’ first followers, let’s see how we today can find assurance and strength in this resurrection faith.