Old Brick Reformed Church, Organized 1699

490 Route 520 • P.O. Box 153 • Marlboro, NJ 07746

Office Phone: (732) 946-8860 • Office Fax: (732) 946-9254

Secretary's Email: secretary@oldbrickchurch.orgInfo

Sunday Worship: Cancelled Until Further Notice

Pastor Kaden's Sermon Notes for Sunday April 26th

Easter Cancelled?

I wonder if you happened to see it? It was a few weeks before Easter. A civic organization in a local community was holding, what they called, an Easter breakfast on a Saturday morning in March. They posted a sign on the community bulletin board that read: "Easter Breakfast, Saturday, March 14, 8-11 a.m."

That was before coronavirus reared its ugly head and made its nasty intrusion into our world. Someone from the organization sponsoring the breakfast went and changed the sign. They removed the words Saturday, as well as the date and time, and added the word, Cancelled, at the bottom of the sign. Not really paying attention to the message that was left, the person went away. What was left, of course, were the words: Easter Cancelled.

Easter Cancelled? Can you imagine?

After the governing board of Old Brick Reformed Church made the decision that, as mandated by Governor Murphy of New Jersey, that all places of worship had to close for Easter, we complied, however, reluctantly. None of us could imagine what it was going to be like not attending worship on Easter Sunday morning. Each one of us had attended Easter Sunday worship as far back as we could remember.

As Easter Sunday approached, I thought, this will be the first Easter Sunday in nearly 45 years I won't be in the pulpit on Easter Sunday morning. Easter has always been a "very special" Sunday in the places I have served. I used to love getting up really early on Easter Sunday, before the sun rose, to lead Easter Dawn worship in my former congregation. As the sun began to rise and shimmered over the water in the reservoir and worshipers sang: Jesus Christ is Risen Today, man was that ever stirring. And in the worship service of every church I have served, to listen as the chancel choir sang some stirring Resurrection anthem or to hear a Bell or Cherub choir sing praises to the risen Lord, is a real thrill that truly lifts your spirit.

It was, however, not to be this year. Oh yes, there were numerous worship services that were "live streamed" and they were wonderful. But, sitting at home in front of your computer is not like being in the pulpit gathered with a congregation in a sanctuary celebrating the resurrection of Christ. I really missed the fellowship. I am guessing every Christian did too.

But Easter Cancelled? That's just not so and it never will be.

Pilate tried to cancel any threat of Easter. You remember what he did, of course. After listening to the religious leaders, the chief priests and Pharisees who told him, "Sir, we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, 'After three days I will rise again. So, give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first."

"Take a guard," Pilate answered, "Go make the tomb as secure as you know how." So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard. - Matthew 27: 62-66

A Roman seal, if anyone broke that seal violating the Roman authority they would be put to death. Guards, Roman soldiers stationed outside the tomb to prevent anyone from tampering with the tomb. Every human precaution was taken to prevent Easter from occurring, but nothing could cancel Easter. God raises his son, Jesus Christ, from the dead.

Easter Cancelled? No chance! Christ is Risen! Hallelujah! Christ is Risen, indeed! Hallelujah!

And think about what it all means for us. The Apostle Paul presents a marvelous case for the resurrection in 1 Corinthians chapter 15. You should read it. And, you should take your time doing so. Read it slowly and carefully. Ponder his thoughts perhaps over a few days. There's so much included in that chapter, to get a handle on all Paul is saying there, it will take you a while. Nonetheless, it's worth every second you spend investigating it.

Let me highlight a few things for you that really stands out to me in this chapter. Paul makes the suggestion to his readers that, if the resurrection didn’t happen then, of course, Christ has not been raised. Makes sense, right? But, if that were true, what happened to Jesus body? Everyone who wanted to make sure the resurrection never happened would surely have produced Jesus body to disprove the disciples' claim that Jesus had risen from the dead. But they didn't, they couldn't, because Christ had been raised.

Paul also suggests, if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is our faith. That makes perfect sense too, right? Tell me, how many sermons have you listened to during your lifetime? How many? Hundreds, thousands? And, who did you listen to, what preachers? Did God ever "speak to you" through any of those messages? Did the sermon ever penetrate your spirit and soul, touching your heart and stirring you to deeper faith and love for Christ? Of course, you have experienced such moments. We all have, and why? It's because Christ has been raised from the dead and the Holy Spirit uses preachers to proclaim God's Word and declare to the broken world that Christ is alive and new life awaits those who entrust their lives to him.

And, says Paul, if Christ was not raised, we'd all be "false witnesses", (simply put, we'd all be liars). We'd be announcing to the world that Christ was raised while knowing full well that what we're declaring is something that isn't true. And, do you think Jesus' disciples would have run the risk of being arrested and put to death by the Romans if they knew they were standing up declaring a lie? There's no chance. Remember, these guys ran away at the first sign of danger when Jesus was arrested and were hiding in a locked room before Easter morning. Yet, following the appearances and ascension of the risen Christ, the followers of Christ are out in the streets proclaiming the good news of Christ's resurrection.

Paul adds, "if Christ has not been raised...you are still in your sins." Yes, everyone would continue to admit Jesus was crucified on the cross, but the cross would remain an instrument of suffering and brutal death, not what it now represents for Christians, a sign of forgiveness and redemption. On the cross, Christ bore our sins and by his death, his broken body and shed blood, he bore all our sins, took the penalty of our sins so that we could experience God's forgiveness.

And, all who have "fallen asleep (have died) in Christ", are lost says Paul. If Christ has not been raised the glorious hope of eternal life, victory and triumph over death and the grave, is just a hoax. Oh, how our hearts are filled with joy when the earthly life of a loved one has ended that we know, because of their faith, their spirit is now with the Lord in glory. Without the resurrection of Christ that would simply not be possible. "But," says Paul, "Christ has indeed been raised from the dead..." He is risen. He is alive! Jesus is alive, just think of it! What hope, assurance, and joy is ours because of Easter.

And because He is risen from the dead we can sing and shout with the hymn writer:

Rejoice, rejoice, O Christian, lift up your voice and sing,
eternal hallelujahs to Jesus Christ the King!

The hope of all who seek him, the help of all who find;
none other is loving, so good and kind.

He lives, he lives, Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me
along life's narrow way.

He lives, he lives, salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know he lives
He lives within my heart.

Coronavirus may have forced the doors of congregations to close on Easter day, but coronavirus couldn't cancel Easter because the living Lord Jesus is alive and lives within our hearts!

HE IS RISEN! THANKS BE TO GOD!

Yours in Christ,

Pastor George Kaden

Reformed Church
In America
RCA The Reformed Church in America is a fellowship of congregations called by God and empowered by the Holy Spirit to be the very presence of Jesus Christ in the world.

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