Text Colossians 3:1-4
What are the symbols or icons that come to mind when you think of Easter? Last week I typed the word “Easter” in Google images to find a picture for the bulletin cover only to find page after page after page of bunnies and eggs and baby chicks. I’ve never understood the connection but I do know Easter is coming when I go into the gas station and see a display of Cadbury eggs. For others it may be an Easter dress or Easter lilies. Well allow me to offer a suggestion for a new symbol or icon for Easter. It is the CHEESEBURGER. That’s right, the cheeseburger. Now why in the world would a cheeseburger become a symbol for Easter? I offer two reasons.
First because it is my favorite food and I always get hungry about this time in Church. But secondly, and more importantly, it has a theological significance. I came to this realization when listening to a TED talk by a rabbi. He was explaining why orthodox Jews do not have meat and dairy together in the same meal. This custom comes from an obscure law that is mentioned in both Exodus and Deuteronomy that reads, “Thou shalt not boil a kid in its mother’s milk.” (Don’t worry children, we’re talking about goats here). While over the centuries scholars have debated about the meaning of that law, Orthodox Judaism has interpreted it to mean that you do not mix meat and dairy. The rabbi said it was because the meat represents death and the milk represents life and you do not mix death and life. Life is seen as so sacred that it is a taboo to speak of it in the context of death. So no cheeseburgers for an Orthodox Jew and lets not even begin talk about bacon cheeseburgers.
But as I was listening to the rabbi’s explanation it hit me that a subject that was taboo for him has been made a non-issue for us who believe in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. We can talk about life and death at the same time because when Jesus broke out of that tomb that first Easter death was swallowed up by life. Because of the resurrection death has been transformed from an eternal prison to a gate through which we pass into the larger life. Instead of solitary confinement forever death becomes a vehicle for uniting us with all who have gone before us for all eternity. Because of the resurrection Hades cannot hold our souls, death is not longer a punishment, it is a homecoming. As the Prayer Book puts it, “we fall asleep and wake up in His likeness,” so brother, bring on the cheeseburgers!
Beth has a theory that you can tell a good cheeseburger when as you eat it you have all the good stuff start dripping down your arms. The messier the better. Well let me tell you about all the good stuff that over flows to us because of the resurrection. But before I do that allow me to make a clarification.
It is a very common but very mistaken notion that salvation is something that happens for you. Because Jesus died on the cross for you, your sins are forgiven and that’s pretty much all there is until you die and go to heaven. Salvation is like a form of insurance. You get it, stick it in a drawer and forget about it. Life goes on.
The reason I say that is a mistaken notion is because the New Testament actually teaches us that salvation is not something that is done for us, it is something that is done to us and with us. There is nothing passive about our salvation all of which flows out of the resurrection of Jesus.
Look again at the New Testament reading from Colossians. Verse 3. “For you have died and your life is hid with Christ in God.” You are co dead with Christ. Have you ever thought of your salvation that way? Paul put it this way. “I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me and the life that I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and delivered himself up for me.”
But why is it good news to be co dead? It is good news because it frees me from the tyranny of ME. All of us know folks who think that the world revolves around them and isn’t it true that usually they are miserable? It does not matter how rich or how beautiful they are, nothing is ever right or enough. It is as we are dead in Christ that we learn the joy of serving, the joy of giving, the joy of preferring others. In short we learn the joy of not being a Kardashian.
Next look at verse 1. “If you have been raised with Christ seek the things that are above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” We are not only co dead with Christ we are co raised and co ascended with Him.
One of the highest ranking TV shows is The Walking Dead. I’m not really into zombies so I don’t watch it but I submit to you that it is not just the name of a show, it is a theological statement. The Bible says that we were dead in our transgressions. So before Christ we were the walking dead. But now raised and ascended with Him we are a new people and part of a new kingdom.
If you have been paying attention to social media you have seen how folks are having absolute meltdowns about the upcoming elections. And I suppose that would make sense if your hope is in the Republicans or the Democrats. But our citizenship is in heaven and praise the Lord there are no elections in heaven. Jesus is now and always will be king. Our job is to work and pray for His kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. And we don’t need to worry because His kingdom is not in trouble.
Move to verse 4. “When Christ who is our life appears, thny you also will appear with Him in glory.” We are co dead, co risen, co ascended with Christ and in addition we will co return and be co glorified. Why does He return? Is it to pick up all those who missed the Rapture? No! He returns, as Bishop NT Wright says, to put things to right. One author said it this way. “The return of Jesus is the promise of ultimate healing and justice. All the wrongs will be made right, all the pain will end, and our joy will be made complete when Jesus comes in final victory. That hope minds the Christian community together as we await the final consummation of this divine conspiracy.” And by divine conspiracy he means God’s plan to replace the kingdoms of this world with the kingdom of Christ.
I am kind of embarrassed to admit it but when I was a kid I did not look forward to going to heaven. It wasn’t so much being afraid of dying as the thought of one eternal church service with harps and clouds. Boring! It was not until I was in college that I realized that heaven was so much more. We will be given new bodies to live in a new heaven and a new earth. It will be a place of perfect peace. Even the species will be at peace because the prophet speaks of the lion lying down with the lamb and a child playing at a cobra’s den.
Even more unfathomable is that like the first man, we will be given dominion over this new earth. You may not think of yourself as a king or a queen but that was the picture from Scripture that CS Lewis was trying to get us to see in the Chronicles of Narnia. St. Paul wrote to Timothy, “If we endure we will reign with Him.” I’m not sure what that looks like but I will bet you it is better than the job that you have now. Even now, according to Peter’s epistles, we are to see ourselves as a kingdom of priests who serve our God. This is our destiny. And because we will be united to Christ, the last Adam, there will be no fall this time. The serpent will have already been cast into hell. Co dead, co raised, co ascended, co return, co glorified, co reign. How is that for some good stuff to come rolling down your arms?
No doubt you already have your Easter dinner plans, probably a ham or a turkey or even a lamb. But on Easter Monday or Easter Tuesday or sometime during this Easter season go out and order yourself a big fat juicy cheeseburger. And before you bite into it remember that death has been swallowed up by life. And your blessing for that meal is “Alleluia, Christ is Risen!”