Staring Down Death Itself
This one is for preachers and for those who love and pray for them.
If you are like most preachers I know, you have spent significant time recently staring at the books on your shelves, the bird on the branch out your window, or the guy with the funny hat across from you in the coffee shop, trying your best to come up with a way to approach the Easter sermon—again. Easter is one of those important days when the expectations of “new” and “vibrant,” of “dynamic” and “inspiring” come flocking in the door in record numbers, all in their newest and best attire, and the core message—the stuff you have to work with—remains the same. It can seem daunting.
Sometime between Palm Sunday bedtime and the start of the next day, in a charming upscale brick home in a semi-affluent suburban neighborhood in Louisville, an event took place that has rocked the metro area. For reasons only God may ever know, a husband and father shot his children (ages 5 and 3) while they slept in their beds, shot his wife in the basement of their home, and set the house on fire before turning the gun on himself. Smoke activated the security system and the emergency responders discovered the horrific scene. From all we know they were the kind of young family you’d be thrilled to see move into the house next door and join your congregation. For all you know they could be sitting in your congregation this coming Sunday.
I can’t begin to imagine what the extended family is going through or, for that matter, what their church family is going through. Maybe you can—maybe you can’t. There may have been nothing their family, their friends, or even their priest could have done to prevent this. Evil can invade without a “tell.” There certainly is nothing better or worse about this one story than about the hundreds of other heinous things that have happened and will happen to people around the world this Holy Week. From the streets of Brussels to the hidden alleys of every urban center, to lairs of terrorists and beyond, the wrath of the Evil One continues to find a playground in the Lord’s creation—for now. But it will not be so forever! Your people need to know this—to hear the gospel with power and passion. This is why this Sunday—this Week—matters so much.
You may never know who is sitting in your congregation this Sunday desperately needing to hear about a living Lord who took upon himself all the sin and evil of the world, conquering Death and Hell, because of his inestimable love for you—and me—and them. You know the Story. You have the authority of your call and Christ’s commission. You have the power of the Holy Spirit to stare down Death itself…
“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.