Sermon for Easter Day

Text: Matthew 28:5,6
The angel spoke to the women. "You must not be afraid," he said. "I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has been raised, just as he said. Come here and see the place where he was lying.

Black holes

Have you ever heard of a "black hole"? If you have ever watched movies or TV programs about travelling in outer space, like the TV series ‘Star Trek’ you will know what a black hole is. Roughly speaking, it is a spot in the vastness of space which astronomers believe is like a giant vacuum or whirlpool sucking everything around it in the hole. To my non-scientific mind it has something to do with the explosion of a star, the dust and gas that remain, gravitation and much more, form what is called a "black hole" – black because light cannot penetrate it and a hole because it acts like a giant cosmic vacuum cleaner. Using Newton’s laws black holes were first theorised in the 1790s but it wasn't until 1994 the Hubble Space Telescope discovered a massive supersized black hole fortunately a long way from our own galaxy. That’s about as far as my knowledge of the phenomenon we call "black holes" goes.

I have read somewhere that there is black hole in our galaxy, the Milky Way. What if scientists said that it was not beyond the realm of impossibility that one day our sun and everything around it would be sucked into this "black hole" and everything will be gone?

Does that kind of idea bother you? How do you feel about it?

For one thing it explains a lot of things to me. Now I know where all my socks go – the ones that go into the washing machine and never come out again.
For those of you who are always looking for a pen or car keys, I know where they have gone – into the black hole.
This explains the mysterious disappearance of spectacles and cases here in this church. They are never seen again. Maybe we have a black hole right over this building because it seems we have pairs of glasses that no one owns – maybe they were sucked into the black hole and dumped here.
But seriously how does this idea of a "black hole" that could sweep us all away make you feel?
If we are all going to be swept away what would be the point of planning the future and sweating over the present?
If this is what the future holds for us does that leave you with a feeling of hopelessness, helplessness and that everything is outside of our control?

Someday we will all be sucked into the "black hole" we call death. How does that thought make you feel? I admit sometimes that thought fills me with dread. There are all those things I want to do and places I want to visit before I die. I want to live life, enjoy life and get as much as I want out of it.

You see, when God made us he programmed us to live forever and that is still built into us. Only now we think of living forever in this life. Even people who know nothing about God have this yearning to live forever and search for the ‘spring of eternal youth’. These days this takes the form of diets, programmes, plastic surgery and transplants. Death fills us with fear of the unknown; we want to stay here in the familiar and with our loved ones.

But on the other hand, I do feel ok about dying because then my yearning for eternal life will really and truly be realised. God programmed us for eternal life, and even though we have sinned and hardly deserve that kind of reward, he has made it possible that our longing for life that never ends to be fulfilled.

It is possible to be in a "black hole" long before death. The women who made their way to the tomb on Easter morning must have felt as if they were in some kind of "black hole". And what about the disciples hiding behind locked doors.
They had invested their lives in following Jesus.
They had believed with all their hearts that Jesus was the promised Messiah.
They had left homes and families to follow him.
Then suddenly they were sucked into this "black hole" of fear, uncertainty about the future as they asked themselves, "Will I be next? Will they come after me too? What about tomorrow – with Jesus gone what will I do now, where will I go?"

Are you feeling as if you have been sucked into a "black hole" at this moment? Maybe this "black hole’ includes grief for a loved one,
anxiety over a work situation or what is happening in your family.
Maybe it is a "black hole" of depression and stress and you feel there is nothing you can do to change what is happening.
Maybe it’s the "black hole" of sickness and pain.
Maybe it’s the "black hole" of guilt and failure.
Remember a "black hole" doesn’t allow light to penetrate it. All you can see is darkness and uncertainty. If you don’t feel like this at the moment you can bet that at some time a "black hole" experience will suck you in and you won’t be able to see the light at the end of tunnel.

"Black holes" are inevitable and mostly we don’t have any control over when and why they happen – not unlike the "black holes" in space.

"Black holes" are symbols of hopelessness and the message of Easter tells us that there is something beyond those "black holes". Whether those "black holes" are right here and now or sometime in the future – Easter tells us there is hope, there is a living Saviour and friend who will helps us when we feel as if we have been sucked into the deepest darkness.

It was barely daylight when the women who went to Jesus’ tomb; there was an earthquake and the stone was rolled away from the entrance to the tomb. We know how terrifying an earthquake is – fear and dread must have raced through their minds. Then an angel came down from heaven and sat on the stone. His clothes were like lightning. The guards at the tomb were so terrified they fell to the ground, trembling, unable to move. This must have felt like one of those "black holes" that sucked out whatever energy the women had left after seeing their Saviour die in such a horrible way. They must have thought, "What else can go wrong. How much more can we endure?"

They hear a voice. "You must not be afraid. I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has been raised, just as he said. Come here and see the place where he was lying." They looked into that black hole in the rock and saw the light. The angel was right. Jesus wasn’t there but they were so happy as they ran back to tell the disciples. On the way they met Jesus and that increased their joy beyond anything they could have dreamt of after such a black start to their day.

You see, the risen Jesus makes all the difference. In the blackest of "black holes" where there is a relentless struggle to stop being sucked in and where there seems to be no light, no future, no joy or peace, there we find the risen Jesus. He has not been defeated by the blackness of evil, sin, Satan and death. He is victorious over everything that would want to suck the life out of us and has passed that victory on to us. As we are united with him in baptism and Holy Communion and through his Words of love and promise we too are more than conquerors because of what Christ has done for us through his dying and rising. Nothing can stand between us and Jesus and his love for us.

At this point we can’t help but think of Paul’s words that remind us that there is no "black hole" that Jesus cannot reach into and rescue us. He says, "I am certain that nothing can separate me from his love: neither death nor life, neither angels nor other heavenly rulers and powers, neither the world above nor the world below (and we can add here whatever "black hole" that threatens our happiness and peace) – there is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38-39).

Whether we are talking about the trouble that causes us to be afraid and anxious right now in this life, or the time when we will take our last breath, or the day when this world will cease to exist, Easter tells us that there is nothing to fear. We have a risen Saviour who promises
to never leave us,
to always love us,
to always brighten our darkest paths,
to guide us from death to eternal life in heaven.
Nothing can overcome us and take us to places where Jesus has not already been or that Jesus has not already overcome.

As I said earlier "black holes" will arise in outer space and we have no say in when and where that happens. "Black holes" will also suck us up and block out the light but there is one light that is more powerful than the blackest hole – that’s Jesus Christ. Even when we are in the middle of something deep and dark, our risen Saviour will always be there with us. When we face the day we must leave this life Jesus will place his hand on us and reassures us with these words, "Don't be afraid! I am the first and the last.  I am the living one! I was dead, but now I am alive forever and ever. I have authority over death and the world of the dead" (Revelation 1:8). And we can include here Jesus’ authority over every “black hole” that wants to threaten our peace and security.

Jesus gives each of us an invitation to trust his love and presence.  When we walk through the darkest places, we need fear no evil for the risen Christ is right there with us.

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
24th April 2011

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