The Resurrection Of Our Lord
April 21, 2019
“Against All Odds”
Rev. John R. Larson Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
25 years ago one of the greatest movies of all time (according to one of my son’s) came out. Dumb and Dumber starring Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels have them on the road going from a city back east to Aspen, Colorado, all to find a true love for Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey). Lloyd, who had a job, for a while, as a taxi driver meets Mary Swanson, a stunningly beautiful, wealthy, distinguished woman and he takes her to the airport. He is swept off his feet by her and when she leaves her briefcase in the airport he is going to return it to her, at all costs. He finds out that she is on the way to Aspen, so Harry and Lloyd in their dog-mobile are on their way there, as well.
As he goes through this pursuit, Lloyd is wondering “What are the chances that a guy like him and a girl like her” would end up together? He is given the harsh response, “Oh, about one chance in a million.” But after hearing those words, a big grin comes over his face and he says, “So, you’re telling me, there’s still a chance!!”
I’ve titled this Easter sermon, “Against All Odds.” A month, or so ago, the Powerball lottery was up to about $750,000,000.00. The winning ticket was sold in New Berlin, Wisconsin. It is there that Arvin and Athenia Michel’s son, Greg, is a pastor. The ticket was sold just about a mile from his church. (I think I’ve noticed Arvin and Athenia with some new clothes recently.) There were quite a few advertisements about the lottery as it got over 300 million dollars on its way to 750 million. But do you know what the odds are for actually winning? One in 185 million. So, you’re telling me there’s still a chance!!
Those odds are worse than getting hit by lightning. You have a one in three million chance of being struck by lightning. Roy Sullivan holds the world record for being struck by lightning and living. Roy has been hit seven times. All his hair is gone and, I’m told, he answers to the name Matilda!!
The most important, “What are the odds” question, though, is this, “What are the odds that a man, brutally beaten and then crucified by the Roman Empire, would come back to life?” The odds are astronomical, but get this – it happened!! It really happened. That is why we are here. We are confessing that against all odds, Jesus dead on Friday, was alive on Sunday.
My goal in this sermon is this – I want us to profess Easter and to possess Easter. Easter happened. That’s profess. Easter is happening in me, that’s possess.
On March 6, six weeks ago, we were covered in ashes in the shape of a cross on Ash Wednesday. At that time we began a trip through the book of Exodus with a series titled “Let My People Go.” The Exodus, mentioned 125 times in the Old Testament, is the picture of redemption. Israel was in slavery but God had a plan for them. After having no hope through their awful situation, God brought a great deliverance.
When you start reading their story it is a story that is against all odds. They are slaves and are treated miserably by the Egyptians. But God has sent Moses to ask for their release. Moses goes to Pharaoh and demands that God’s people are let go. But Pharaoh has no thought of doing such a thing. In fact, when he hears the request he makes their requirement of making bricks even harder. Before Moses spoke to him, straw was provided for them, but now they had to go and get their own, and their quota of bricks didn’t change.
But God, by the great miracle of the Passover, brought them through the Red Sea. But when they got on the other side they didn’t have food, or water, until God gave them some by His saving hand.
Against all odds God kept on defying what should have happened. With their mouths wide open in amazement, we hear the song of Moses and his sister, Miriam, “Your right hand, O Lord, was majestic in power. Your right hand, O Lord, shattered the enemy. Who among the gods is like you, O Lord? Who is like you – majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?” (Exodus 15:6 and 11). Just previous to this they formed a duet to sing, “The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. He is my God and I will praise him, my father’s God and I will exalt him.” (Verse 2)
The last service held in this place was a pretty sad one. It ended with the closing of a tomb and the chiming of a bell – 33 times – for the life of a man, Jesus, who had died and was buried. Look at Christ and all that He endured. Opposition began early in Christ’s ministry. A number of groups decide to hate Him. They looked for ways to accuse Him. Detractors decide that He was really possessed by the devil. He’s the son of the devil, they said.
Then once arrested, Jesus is bound, accused, blindfolded and mocked. They strip Him naked. They beat Him viciously. He is crucified, publicly shamed for six hours. “Crucified, Dead, Buried” are the words that we use.
So, what are the odds that this awful account would have a happy ending? One in a million? One in three million? One in 185 million? How about this? “The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here, he has risen, just as he said.” (Mathew 28:5-6a) “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen.” (Luke 24:5b-6a) “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep…As in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” (I Corinthians 15:20, 22) What are the odds? Without the God who can do the impossible it doesn’t happen, it can’t happen. But with God – all things are possible – even the resurrection of the dead from the grave. For Jesus and for us.
The goal of this sermon is pretty simple. I want everyone here, and everyone who reads the written copy of this message, to profess Easter and to possess Easter. Easter happened to Jesus. That’s profess. Easter happened to me, that’s possess.
But sometimes profess and possess aren’t so easy. Sometimes it is like the odds are against you. Recently I spent some time with a guy in law enforcement. His accounts of what he runs into every day aren’t pretty. Some folks don’t have a chance. They come from broken families, the understanding between what is right and wrong is never spoken or lived. Bad choices follow bad choices. Maybe you know what I’m talking about. Maybe such conflict, bitterness, hate and pure evil are part of life. The odds are against you.
Maybe, you’ve experienced a devasting loss. When I told you a few weeks ago about the suicide of my nephew I had no idea how many wounds I would open. A number of you grieved with me because you have been down the same road – you had your heart break, as well. Others have suffered loses in other ways – the loss of a marriage or of a hope or of your health. The odds seem to be against you.
Sometimes the odds are against us because we have a destructive habit, a sinful way that has taken over. Gambling. Drugs. Alcohol. Pornography. Pleasure. Stuff. Self. It seems like the odds are against you.
But that is when Easter, the resurrection of Jesus from the darkness of evil and sin and death changes everything. He’s not dead. Death didn’t win. The devil and his ugly lies didn’t win. Hell didn’t win. Jesus won. He rose and He lives and He comes to possess us with every gift from God Himself. He promises a full life now and the fulfillment of life in heaven for all who confess Jesus as Savior and Lord.
Every Tuesday morning Joyce Gallagher, a former member of our church, calls. 8:00 on the button. I asked Joyce this week about her plans for Easter and she told me that her plans for Easter are different this year. Her family wasn’t able to get together for Valentine’s Day a few months ago, so this year they are combining Easter and Valentine’s and they were going to do it on Good Friday!! What a combination!! As a cheapskate I like it because you save a lot of money on the gifts and the chocolate. But as a Christian I can see all of them coming together. You have the love that Valentine’s expresses and the hope and victory that Easter brings, and you bring those two together on the greatest day of sacrifice – Good Friday. Valentine’s, Easter, Good Friday – the newest of the combination holidays.
Against all odds, Israel made it out of Egypt. Better yet, against all odds, Jesus Christ rose from death. We profess the truth of Easter with every ounce of our being. And we possess Easter with every fiber that God has given us. The risen Christ possesses us.
If everything seems against you, Jesus, risen, victorious, present, living, is with you. Profess the truth of Easter and possess it for all eternity. Amen!!