The St. John’s Pulpit
St. John’s Baptist Church 300 Hawthorne Lane Charlotte, NC 28204 704.333.5428 www.stjohnsbaptistchurch.org
LIVING IN GOD’S LIGHT WITH YOUR LACK OF UNDERSTANDING
Gospel of John 20:1-10
Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019
by Senior Minister, Rev. Dennis W. Foust, PhD
Welcome to just another Sunday. Many people do not know why Christians gather every Sunday to express our worship unto God. We gather on Sundays for our weekly celebration of God raising Jesus from the tomb. Some people do not understand this fact. They think we gather once a year to celebrate the empty tomb of Jesus. Actually, we celebrate God’s raising of Jesus from death and the grave each Sunday.
As you deal with the pressures and challenges of life, you also experience gifts of grace and surprises of joy. The weekly news cycles bring stories that burden you and stories that warm your heart. And, in the midst of living, we have learned that we need a mini-Easter every seven days to express our worship to The Giver of Life; to offer our gratitude and find spiritual renewal. I am gladdened by your presence today – on this, just another Sunday. Of course, on this Sunday, we celebrate the event that calls us together each Sunday. The Truth of God we celebrate on this day transforms each and every day of our lives.
Although polls tell us a majority of Americans believe God raised Jesus from death and the grave, there is also a pronounced increase in the number of persons who are irreligious – some call them ‘nones.’ These are persons who, when asked about their religious affiliation, reply – ‘none.’ I offer to you that this is more of a commentary on today’s Church and religious institutions than it is on these non-religious people. Some of these persons have been de-churched; hurt or burned by religious legalism. Honestly, if I were not a person of congregational faith listening to all the reports about church fights, condemnations, racism, prejudice, judgementalism, clergy abuse, bickering, pronouncements of whom a person can or cannot love in a committed relationship, fighting over doctrinal interpretations that simply do not matter and the sick marriage between right-winged political power and fundamentalist evangelicals, I wouldn’t be religious either.
But, here’s the message to emphasize: On this morning, we celebrate the event that gives God’s Church our message and our mission. We have committed our lives to this message of hope and life and light that we call resurrection. As followers of Jesus, as learners of his message and carriers of his mission, we must renew ourselves to take this message to people all around us. There is a life, a hope and a light that can never be extinguished.
Where do you see evidence of Jesus’ resurrection changing today’s world?
Do you fully understand how Jesus’ resurrection impacts your daily life?
If not, don’t be concerned; I have never met a person who fully understands this message.
Like everyone else, you are living in God’s Light with your lack of understanding.
You are given about 15 stories of Jesus appearing to people AFTER the resurrection.
Yet, there is no story of Jesus focusing on getting even with those who plotted his death.
After his resurrection, Jesus concentrated on helping his followers find a new way of life.
Those first followers of Jesus were like you – they were trying to understand;
their consciousness was shaped by culture;
their expectations were set within the boundaries of their experience; and
they did not fully understand how God raising Jesus from death changed their lives.
So, I fully understand that you do not fully understand God raising Jesus from death.
I fully understand that you do not fully understand how God uses you to impact the world
with God’s Light as the scattered Church.
This proves it is possible to be involved in something spiritually transformational,
new life pulsating with the energy of eternity without realizing what is
At the age of 13, I became employed by trustees of Pleasant Hope Baptist Church Cemetery.
Early on Saturday mornings, I took the mower from the parsonage garage up cemetery hill
to what SEEMED to be about two-thousand acres of grass and graves.
With a push mower and hand trimmers, I mowed & manicured more than 800 tombstones.
I just thought I was mowing a large cemetery;
Actually, I was involved in something spiritually transformational without
realizing what was happening. The pulsating Spirit of God was at work and
I didn’t understand until years later how that first job gave shape and form to my life.
A cemetery is a good place to think; to think about the brevity and meaning of life;
to think about important choices, commitments and significant relationships.
Each tombstone had that familiar dash between the dates of birth and death.
Most people do not choose their birthing day or dying day, but they can largely choose what
they do with the days in between ——- what is done with the dash.
A cemetery is a good place to think.
Some dashes on that rural hillside traced back to the 1830s;
and some were more recent, including some people I had known.
The tombstones named infants, children, teenagers and adults of various ages.
Some of those individuals had offered influence and a few had wasted their lives.
On occasion, I turned off the mower and sat in the shade while someone came to pay
respects and reflect on how the life of a person buried there had enriched their own.
I now understand that in the serenity and stillness of that cemetery, eternity was pulsating.
God was spiritually transforming me and I thought I was only tending graves.
Today’s scripture tells how spiritual transformation began in a grave-tending person.
Mary Magdalene approached the tomb where Jesus’ body had been buried.
She was overcome with grief without realizing God had already overcome her grief!
She was tending the details of Friday’s death where God was bringing forth new life.
Gradually, she sensed this new life of eternity pulsating within her spirit and in the world.
John’s Gospel tells us, “Early on the first day of the week, while it was
still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb.”
It was dark as she arrived.
God’s Light did not dawn within her until later.
Mary Magdalene ran from the tomb because all she could see was darkness.
Her report reflected her lack of understanding: “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb,
and we do not know where they have laid him.”
Simon Peter and John left immediately to approach the tomb; they left confused as well.
John’s Gospel summarizes, “…as yet they did not understand…”
Beloved, you are in the good company of Mary Magdalene, Simon Peter and John;
You are living in God’s Light with a lack of understanding that increases over time.
Every day, you are involved in the new life of spiritual transformation without
fully understanding what is happening!
Every day, you are living in God’s Light with a lack of understanding.
God’s resurrection of Jesus reminds you that new life is always bursting forth!
You can be busy tending the ways of death and miss God’s Light bringing new life!
God’s resurrection of Jesus challenges us to live every day –
believing in the God of hope, the God of vision, the God of new beginnings
who asks you to trust there is Light beyond what you can understand!
Although our daily news talks of murder, greed, racism, war, starvation, abuse,
abandonment, corruption, ignorance and other immoralities practiced by liberals,
progressives, conservatives and fundamentalists alike, these news cycle stories
are like Friday’s news about Jesus’ death.
But, we see the world through God’s Light revealed on Sunday; We celebrate life!
God’s resurrection of Jesus is not proven by historically tangible evidence.
God’s resurrection of Jesus is proven by historically spiritual evidence;
Jesus explained it this way:
Lives are transformed, people are made whole; stories of peace, reconciliation and
redemption are reported;
This is the kind of resurrection evidence happening in you and through you.
God’s Light brings new unexpected life – even in the presence of a lack of understanding.
Beloved, I don’t know how to live in this world as a person of
hope, vision, discipline, purpose or direction without
embracing and expressing the God of Light who transforms
lives and situations every day through the same power that
raised Jesus from death and the grave.
The resurrection of Jesus continues today!
The transformational energy of God’s resurrection power is
pulsating in every place where new spiritual life is emerging!
1.Everywhere spiritual transforming, life-giving energy is emerging, Jesus’ resurrection continues!
2.Whenever God’s Light penetrates darkness, Jesus’ resurrection continues!
3.Wherever death is not allowed to have the last word, Jesus’ resurrection continues!
4.Anywhere forgiveness is transforming conflict into peace, Jesus’ resurrection continues!
5.Wherever ignorance is being transformed into learning, Jesus’ resurrection continues!
6.Anytime money is transformed into compassion and justice, Jesus’ resurrection continues!
7.When power as dominion is transformed into humility and service, Jesus’ resurrection continues!
Consider that you were drawn here today by the God of Light despite the world’s ills and
This is the same God of Light who showed up in a sealed tomb many centuries ago!
Following the risen Jesus is like being on a tour in the Spectrum Center and noticing
more lights turn on as you keep following the leader. At times it is a 5 watt bulb and at
times it is a bright spotlight. But, if you stop walking, no more light turns on.
Like Mary, Simon Peter and John, you gradually understand more of God’s Light.
1. You see how God is still at work even when it appears as if evil is winning.
2. You experience evidence of God’s power over death, hopelessness and despair.
3. You invest your energies in Jesus’ servant spirit and see God’s Light dispel darkness.
4. You take note of how God transforms you and transforms others.
5. You nurture your personal relationship with God through prayer and you find more light.
6. You move beyond empty religion to a spiritually transcendent relationship with God.
7. You discover new life within you through a conversation with The Giver of Life.
8. You mature in your understanding that Jesus is not merely one of many ways;
Jesus is THE Way to the Truth about Life.
A missionary told of a man in Asia who was asked by his friends why he had stopped following the way of Buddha and started following the way of Jesus. The man explained, “Well, I used to try to follow both paths. But, imagine you are following the path and the path splits in two directions. You cannot follow both paths and you do not know which way to go. At the fork in the road, you see two men; one is dead, and one is alive. Which one would you ask for directions?”
Like Mary Magdalene, Simon Peter and John, you are involved in the ministry of Jesus.
Like them, you are living in the mysterious Light of God with a lack of understanding.
Follow Jesus in the light you now have, and he will guide you into more and more light.
Trust God with what you now understand, and God will guide you to more understanding.
You are involved in something spiritually transformational!
The new life of eternity is pulsating all around you!
As you deal with the news cycles based on Friday stories, you can be overcome with grief.
However, this is the day we celebrate how God has overcome our grief.
So, we go forth into the world to tell others the Good News of Sunday which is for every day:
One: Christ is risen!
All: Christ is risen indeed!
One: Christ is risen!
All: Christ is risen indeed!
One: Christ is risen!
All: Christ is risen indeed!
Giver of Life, God of limitless compassion and eternal Light,
In this world where Friday’s news of death rules the headlines,
Send us forth with the Good News of Jesus’ resurrection!
Make us into reporters of spiritual evidence that Jesus’ resurrection continues today!
Amen and AMEN!