By Fredrik Sidenvall
Translated by Bror Erickson
This sermonette was originally published in Kyrka och Folk.
Holy week began this last Sunday. Once again you stand before the opportunity to live within the great drama of Easter. Of course, living within means more than decorating your house with various ornaments and eating traditional foods. Yes, it even means more than that you attend a few worship services. Here, to live within means a spiritual journey through time where your life is woven together with the children of Israel in Egypt, with the disciples in the upper room, with Judas in the temple, with Jesus in Gethsemane, with Peter in the high priest’s courtyard, Simon carrying the cross, with the Savior on the cross, with Mary and John at the foot of the cross, with Joseph of Arimathea at the shroud, the women at the empty grave, with the disciples on the road to Emmaus.
This trip through time and space also extends beyond the limits of personality. It doesn’t merely mean that you should travel there to see and experience things like a tourist. Rather, it is more that you, your person and your life, are present and participate with the people whom God’s word puts before you. You are there amidst God’s enslaved children who are torn between the security in their monotonous and oppressed life and the call to break out on the great adventure home in freedom. You are among the disciples whom Jesus treats as family, whose feet he washes, whose hunger he feeds with his own self. You are among those who sleep, who fail, deny, and betray. You and your blood red sins are there beneath Jesus’ scourged skin, ripped by thorns and pierced by spikes and suffering the wrath of God’s judgment on the cross. Your tears blend with the tears of those who cry at the foot of the cross and tenderly shroud the Savior’s cold corpse.
Now you can ask as Mary once did: How shall this happen? I am not so religious or spiritual that I can manage that much empathy. No, that is true. If it is up to you, then your Easter will be a superficial history. But the answer you receive is the same as that which Mary received: The Holy Spirit shall come upon you and power from on high shall overshadow you! The Holy Spirit dwells in God’s word and makes it a living and powerful word, a word that creates and moves across boundaries, transforms, binds together, and renews.
These lines are written not so that you should increase your efforts, but that your expectations should grow. When you celebrate the divine service this Easter and use God’s word at home, then an awesome thing can happen to your life: the here and now can be woven together with that which happened then. But it is not only so that you can now be carried to the Easter back then, but the whole dynamic of Easter can now be present in your life and your reality today through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus can then grab hold of your rebellious will, despair, and unbelief with his pierced hands and take all of this with him into death. The Savior can shroud all of you in a robe made white as snow in his blood. Louder than the blood of Abel, it cries to heaven: “It is finished!” To you who sit alone and afflicted behind walls of fear, the hostile world’s most extreme front, Jesus comes to you and says, “It is I! Be not afraid!”
And as he once took the hand of Thomas into his open side, so he invites you to plug the USB cable of your life into his heart, so that his life that is stronger than death, stronger than anything, will stream into you. It births you anew, and you come to know that you are justified before God in Jesus. You are never without God, and never without hope in the world.
Easter, my friend, is not something that you should observe, but something the Lord causes to happen to you.
Fredrik Sidenvall, pastor in the Church of Sweden, serves as principal for the Lutheran High School of Gothenburg, where he lives with his wife Anna. He is editor for the weekly Lutheran magazine Kyrka och Folk (Church and Nation) and co-founder of the North European Lutheran Academy.
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