In the audio podcast of this service, the Scripture Reading starts at 19 min 45 secs:
The Sermon starts at 21 min 40 secs:
What Use is Easter?
Pastor Todd Buurstra
What if you stood in Bridgewater Commons to ask passersby about life’s purpose? Here comes a bald man with a big belly, Sir, what’s the purpose of life? Ah, I guess partying on the weekends? Here comes a harried mom lugging two shopping bags and pushing a stroller: Ma’am, what’s the purpose of life? Ah, I guess providing for my family and getting my kids through school. And lastly, one of our youth group kids who led the service last week in a Love is the Movement t-shirt, What is the purpose of life? Ah, serving God and helping others, right? Each of these purposes could be ranked from lowest to highest: Drinking, providing, and serving. How does Easter give life purpose?
Mary is sitting there in the cemetery yard with her head in her hands. Weeping as if she lost the will to live. And Jesus appears with an Easter purpose for her, though at first she can’t quite place his voice. But after he calls her name she hears her purpose
Why is Easter the key to life’s purpose? Because God raised Jesus from the dead to reign in Heaven now and forever, and from that vantage point Jesus sees life’s purpose and your purpose perfectly. Just like our t-shirt clad youth declared, God has a tailor made version of: serving God and helping others for each of us. But what and how?
First, how? It begins with that country classic, Jesus Take the Wheel… I’m not a big country music fan, but I always love the mama in jail, lover left, and dog riding shotgun in the pick-up truck stories. You may remember Carrie Underwood’s big hit where a stressed out mother slides in the snow and crashes emotionally. Using the metaphor of a car she gives Jesus the wheel of her life–the first step to life’s purpose.
I distinctly remember waking up from a nap one Sunday afternoon at 16 and immediately making one of the biggest decisions of my life. I don’t know why but in that first split second of wakefulness I gave the steering wheel of my life to Jesus. I just sat up in bed and thought, I am going to grow closer to God from now on. That was it. But from that split-second decision came purpose that I never imagined.
N. T. Wright, my reading companion for this Easter series, applies Jesus’ lordship to the church:… Now he says that what got the church in the Middle Ages off purpose is that they didn’t give Jesus the wheel. Since nature abhors a vacuum the pope, bishops and priests stepped in to declare: THE CHURCH SAYS, and in that vacuum this became the literal body and blood so by withholding it the priest controlled your access to God, and in that vacuum Mary almost outranked Jesus. Same happens today when church people argue over the color of the carpet, or the type of music in the service, or coffee cups in the pew rather than where Jesus directs: the poor, hungry and lost out there
Sometimes as individuals and churches, like Mary, we can’t recognize Jesus even if he stands right next to us. But Jesus tries to get our attention by calling our name, Mary! And after we surrender to him as Rabbi! we get the specifics of our calling.
So surrender is the how of our calling, obedience is the what. You want to know what God’s calling is in your life? Ask: what is our risen and ascended Lord doing? N. T. Wright answers this way,… Then, how has God gifted me to help that mission?
A caution here: calling apart from Jesus can be slippery. I was channel surfing a where I came upon a reality show that mentioned the word “calling.” I was intrigued so I paused on the channel. Turns out a young woman had thought she found her calling as a… are you ready for this?… stripper. I’m not sure how stripping renews our world.
So how do we participate in what God is doing in this world? We offer our daily work (our vocation, our calling) to serve Jesus and help others.
- Students learn about God’s world in a way that honors God.
- Parents parent in God’s love.
- Brick layers shelter God’s children.
- Business people make the world more prosperous.
- Lawyers try to make the world more just.
- Social workers try to make it more fair.
- Pastors try to make it more loving.
- Retirees make time for others.
But here’s the key. Plumbers need God’s spirit just as much as pastors to do their jobs. For it may be even more important to plumb for Jesus than to preach because the plumber makes more contact with non-believers. Now I know that preaching intensifies my prayer life because Sunday mornings I have the clearest sermon prayers—Help! So what if on the way to work this week you asked Jesus, Lord, help me live out my calling? Then notice how the Spirit nudges you to work, talk and behave that honor Jesus.
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